App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Imagine being dropped into Chernobyl and needing to find a way to survive. This is exactly what Radiation City is all about. It's a first-person survival game that is somewhat of a successor to Radiation Island. While the game sets up an intense and creepy atmosphere, the game undercuts its potential with some clunky controls, poor environment design, and strange item randomization.
Radiation City opens by showing a cinematic of your character flying in a plane over Chernobyl just moments before crash-landing in Pripyat. From there, you wake up in a field near your downed aircraft with only a slight clue as to where the other passengers you were flying with are.
With this limited information, you are then given a quest marker to begin the search for your compatriots, but that's not the only thing for you to do in this nuclear wasteland. In fact, you'll need to make sure that you're ready to survive in this strange land so that you don't starve, dehydrate, get too exposed to radiation, or get torn apart by the irradiated mutants wandering the streets of Pripyat.
Scavenge for survival
In order to survive in Radiation City, there are a number of things that you need to manage as a player. First and foremost are thirst and hunger, which are meters that constantly drain over time and can be refilled by finding things like bags of chips, wells, dried fruit, and sodas. Being that you're in a pretty hostile environment, you'll also need to outfit yourself so that you don't get exposed to too much radiation, freeze to death in the middle of the night, or get torn apart by irradiated ghouls or wolves.
Most of the things you need to cover these basic needs can be found simply by scavenging through the environment. While there are some crafting mechanics, axes, guns, food, clothing, and more are just lying around to pick up. This makes Radiation City feel more like a "scavenger hunt" survival experience where Radiation Island was much more concerned with having you hoard materials to craft all of your gear.
As much as I appreciate the move to make Radiation City a much more exploration-focused experience, there are just too many issues with the game to make any of it particularly satisfying. The game's controls in particular are super clunky and awkward, even if you use a MFi controller. The main culprit in the control department is the game's strafing maneuver, which moves at an absolute snail's pace in a way that feels wrong and just plain bad.
To make matters worse, the world in Radiation City just isn't that interesting a place to explore. It's pretty big, sure, but a lot of buildings and layouts repeat themselves, and the items that you can find inside them feel completely random. On top of this, enemies sometimes feel like they can pop out of nowhere, and it's really difficult to tell which ones you are capable of killing and which you should run from. All of these things make exploring Radiation City either boring or frustrating, which isn't great since the entire game is built around doing exactly this.
The bottom line
Radiation City is a conceptual step in the right direction as a follow up to Radiation Island, but it fails to reach its potential on almost every level. A survival game based more on looting and exploration is a great idea, but only if the looting and exploring feel good. Unfortunately for Radiation City though, wandering around the streets of Pripyat mostly feels repetitive, random, and overly clunky.