ReviewsReview: S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored

Review: S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored

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When it comes to horror, I don’t mind dated and clichéd elements. In fact, I love an obvious jump scare! There is something truly thrilling about knowing you are about to be scared senseless. S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored utilises these old-school and obvious moments at its core.

Developed by Volframe and published by Art Games Studio S.A, this is a first-person puzzle horror title. It’s a suspenseful game filled with dark rooms, supernatural encounters, atmospheric audio, and challenging puzzles. Its story beautifully intertwines eerie elements to create an enthralling but unnerving adventure that tests you throughout.

S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored blends real life with the supernatural.

Chernobyl is an emotive, painful, and sorrowful subject. I always worry that using its past will be in bad taste. However, S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored tastefully touches upon the events while focusing you on its bizarre storyline.

9 months after the events of reactor 4, a team of scientists were sent in to investigate a mysterious facility. Though the rest of the area was evacuated, this top-secret location was not. The group didn’t expect any hostile activity, but they were wrong. The academics alongside paramedics must explore the unknown area looking for abandoned survivors. A straightforward expedition quickly takes a turn for the worse. Subsequently, you must explore the facility alone while trying to piece together any information you find.

Is there something in the dark?

Darkness, locked doors, and plenty of puzzles.

The action rarely deviates from its core principles. Therefore, much of the progress is reliant on the exploration of darkened, confined spaces and solving simple puzzles. Scattered around each location is an array of visual and audio clues that guide you to a solution. Walls are scribed with codes, and photos and journal entries provide you with hints. You must wander through hallways with doors magically opening and then dramatically slamming as you pass through. The classic jump scare tactics are dated, but they never got old! There was always a sense of suspense as you waited to jump feet.

These standard moments are beautifully complemented with petrifying supernatural encounters. Rooms will shift and change as you explore them. Alongside this, shadowy images will adorn the walls, or chase you as you run. These entities are the result of the S.W.A.N. program, a scientific experiment that was inhumane. Syndrome Without A Name took people from around the globe and experimented on them. The plan was to weaponise these individuals, but as usual, it backfired. These abominations that haunt you are the result of these trials and form a key horror element of the gameplay.

What experiments have taken place here?

Drip-fed mechanics. 

I’m desperately trying to skirt around the story, as I don’t want to ruin the many twists. What I can say is that, unsurprisingly, death is always around the corner. Fortunately, though, the facility offers some insight into the life of 1980s Ukraine. I loved how the plot returned to the tragic events while not making them the key focus. It was a truly respectful way of drawing you back to the cause without overdoing the matter.

Another element I adored was the use of drip-fed mechanics. With a heavy reliance on ghostly images and bizarre happenings, the developers had some creative licence. They took full advantage of this with strange medical equipment that helped to see other dimensions. Moreover, you can gather swirling ammo that helps to fight off the apparitions. It was a little odd, but the balance of a hard-hitting location combined with the absurdities of science fiction worked.

S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored is a little rough.

The developers have created a title that captures its era beautifully. Sadly, though, it is rough at the same time and this makes it appear dated. S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored utilises a grey and grainy palette to represent the industrial side of 80s Ukraine. Subsequently, it works brilliantly with the setting and theme. Each chapter was horrifically claustrophobic and running around a maze of corridors and rooms was disorientating. Its oppressive nature, combined with the spooky horrors, makes this a creepy and unnerving experience.

This is then enhanced by the haunting audio. A beautiful blend of dramatic and slower songs adds energy and fear to the wonderful imagery. The noise of your footsteps or the creak and slam of doors was petrifying. Furthermore, the click of your Geiger counter was both scary and a telltale sign that something was a miss. The audio is excellent, and this makes S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored stand out from its peers!

Will you approach it?

The controls could be better. 

The developers have done a great job of making this a user-friendly title. They have implemented a well-thought-out tutorial, and this makes it easy to master. Sadly, though, selecting items can be hit and miss. The cursor lacks accuracy and this can break up the immersive gameplay. Undoubtedly, this would be better with a mouse and keyboard! It’s not a game-breaker by any stretch, as the controller is serviceable and well mapped.

Like many titles in this genre, the replay value is limited. With a linear story and no additional content, there are few reasons to return. Fortunately, a handful of achievements demand you return to play, so it has some longevity. Luckily, your first experience is memorable, so it’s good value for money. 

S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored plays to the clichés. 

Clichéd horror won’t be for everyone, but I loved it. I jumped repeatedly and adored the strange supernatural twist. The developers have created a tasteful title that is scary as well as taxing. I enjoyed it and I recommend you to buy it here! Can you uncover the mysteries of this top-secret facility? Solve the problems, read the clues, and get out alive! 

SUMMARY

S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored is a claustrophobic horror title full of jump scares. It brilliantly blends an emotive location with science fiction madness. Solve every puzzle and explore the top-secret facility while trying to uncover the mystery.

+ Wonderful claustrophobic environments.
+ Excellent audio.
+ A nice blend of emotive locations and science fiction.
+ Great value for money.
- The controls could be better.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.
Daniel Waite
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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Review: S.W.A.N.: Chernobyl UnexploredS.W.A.N.: Chernobyl Unexplored is a claustrophobic horror title full of jump scares. It brilliantly blends an emotive location with science fiction madness. Solve every puzzle and explore the top-secret facility while trying to uncover the mystery.<br/> <br/> + Wonderful claustrophobic environments.<br/> + Excellent audio.<br/> + A nice blend of emotive locations and science fiction.<br/> + Great value for money.<br/> - The controls could be better.<br/> <br/> (Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.<br/>