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Radiation City review - Survival is a messy business

For: iPad   Also on: iPhone
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Hard going

Product: Radiation City | Publisher: Atypical Games | Format: iPad | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
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The survival genre remains incredibly popular among gamers, but it's quite surprising that it continues to flourish on mobile.

Protracted spells of inactivity, brutal difficulty spikes, and an extraordinary amount of time and effort for even the slightest reward. These aren't your typical hit mobile game attributes.

Here we are, though, with Radiation City, which offers all of those things - and suffers from plenty of frustrating flaws to boot. Yet it's actually a very absorbing experience.

Crafty blighter

Your character's light aircraft has been downed over the city of Pripyat some 40 years on from the Chernobyl disaster. The historically aware among you will spot this places Radiation City 20 years or so in the future, which must explain all the zombies running around.

It's up to you to scavenge, fight, sneak, and craft your way towards some answers. But mainly just to survive.

This is a first person game where action is a secondary concern. If you're to last the night (and beyond) you must explore abandoned houses for food and materials. Guns are a rarity, so you must make use of crowbars and kitchen knives to fend off the alarmingly swift zombies that lurk in this world.

Better to avoid melee combat altogether, as it's a clumsy and messy affair. You'll soon realise that it's better to go the long way round or simply run away if it avoids confrontation.

What you really need to focus on is grabbing lots of stuff and figuring out what to keep in your limited inventory space. Do you keep that RPG round in the hope that you stumble across a rocket launcher, or take that empty canteen? How many soup cans do you need? Do you even have a tin opener?

A bit peckish

Your protagonist is subject to all the frailties of the human form. You frequently be told to see to your hunger and thirst. You'll get cold, pick up diseases, and sustain cuts. All these states must be addressed if you're to survive.

This can be a real pain in the opening hours, but once you get into the game's rhythm - in my case after I'd found the first encampment followed by a car - you start to feel like you're genuinely mastering your environment.

Radiation City is a real mixed bag from a technical standpoint though. Its visuals veer wildly between beautifully affecting and calamitously ugly. In general, it does mid-distance landscapes well, and indoor environments and character models awfully. The ambient soundtrack, however, is pretty much perfect.

Meanwhile the movement controls feel stiff and clumsy, while the touch-and-drag inventory is only a little better.

This is a game that makes you work for your pleasure in every way, whether you're keeping thirst at bay with a contaminated canteen, hacking at the undead with a shovel, or struggling with the game's clunky systems.

But in true survival game fashion, you'll take a disproportionate amount of satisfaction from each tiny triumph over adversity.
Radiation City review - Survival is a messy business
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 25 August 2017
A formidable if slightly janky survival game that drives you on despite its flaws
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