Berzerk Recharged Review - Another Solid Revival From Atari
As cliched as it sounds, every time a new entry in Atari’s Recharged series drops I always feel like I’m putting my hand in a blind jar of chocolates. Sometimes, I get a game which I rather enjoy, like with Yars: Recharged, and other times? It’s something that doesn’t agree with me, just like Caverns of Mars: Recharged. Thankfully, Berzerk: Recharged the latest one just so happens to be one of the former. It also marks an interesting first for the series, as it’s the first game that isn’t originally by Atari, but one they’ve acquired the rights to from original creators Stern.
As is par for the course with these games, you’ll find two modes on offer – Arcade and Mission, with the first being where I feel most folks will spend most of their time playing.
Arcade Mode challenges you to survive an endless gauntlet of rooms. Within each, the idea is to clear out all the robots before moving on to the next. Each room is randomly chosen from a large pool, so what you’ll encounter from run to run will feel different. Thankfully, it’s got enough rooms to pull from that it didn’t feel all that repetitive from my time with it, which is a major boon for replayability.
As for threats? Well, you’ll be assaulted by a variety of enemy robots. Whether you’re dodging high-speed drones, blasting emplacements or working your way through hordes of lumbering robots, I found them all to offer a good sense of challenge here, increasing as you get further in.
There’s also one devious threat: Evil Otto. Where most enemies will sap a unit of your health should you collide with them (or their bullets), touching Otto marks an instant Game Over. Thankfully there’s a timer before he comes on screen, offering enough of a warning to head for an exit in case you’ve taken too long.
I’m glad running away is not your only option here – at least for dealing with the enemies, of course, thanks to the change making it a twin-stick shooter. Being able to run from enemies whilst shooting at them behind you is ever so handy, particularly as things are far more frantic than in the original game.
If you’re surrounded by bullets, you’ve also got a quick dodge which offers a small bout of immunity, though this needs to recharge between uses so it’s not too much of a crutch.
What I find also helps are the pickups. There’s a variety on offer that increases your health, or boosts your running or dodging speed. The real fun though is in the weapons. Whether it’s replacing your basic blaster with a shotgun offering spread shots, or rebounding shots, you’ve got plenty of offers that I seriously dig.
The best though is the Railgun which lets you shoot through walls! Considering the chaos some rooms offer, being able to snipe enemies from afar is really handy.
The ultimate goal though is scoring, and unsurprisingly it’s all about combos. Blasting enemies quickly will raise your multiplier, and keeping that up lets you seriously earn those points for a better spot on the leaderboards.
For as much as I enjoyed Arcade mode, it’s Mission mode which really kept my interest. This remixes the core mechanics by presenting them as a number of smaller challenges. These offer a fixed set of rooms to clear out, putting the focus on taking down enemies quickly to keep that score multiplier as high as possible for as long as possible.
Levels may require you to backtrack – though time isn’t a factor (outside of evading Evil Otto of course), being able to navigate rooms quickly is helpful, especially if you want to keep one step ahead.
Despite all that works well here, there are a few missteps that do knock things down a tad. One of those is in the controls – whilst I appreciate having 360-degree shooting, it wasn’t as precise as I’d have liked which meant hitting some targets was fiddlier than it should have been.
A similar critique applies to wall collisions – they’re not all fatal this time, so being able to scoot close by them shouldn’t get you stuck. Which can be painful when Evil Otto is breathing down your neck, and you’re panicking about getting to that exit door.
My biggest annoyance has to be around the visuals, particularly the walls. The arcade game displayed walls from an overhead view, while the player and enemies were from the side. It was odd, but it ensured that if you or an enemy touched a wall, you’d die.
In Berzerk: Recharged, the decision was made to put it all on a three-quarter view. It works, even if I struggled to rewrite my thinking to stay away. It also means enemies can be positioned where a wall could obscure them. Sure, the walls are semi-transparent so you can see them peeking about, but I felt I was running into hidden enemies a little too often. Particularly when at the bottom of the playfield.
The one thing I was sad about was the removal of the speech. This was one of the more famous elements of the arcade original, and having a 21st-century update to them here would have truly kept the vibe in play. Sure, some of the original clips wouldn’t make sense to modern audiences, but it’s why they would need that update.
Berzerk: Recharged doesn’t suffer from the design issues I’ve had with other games in the Recharged series. Its mechanics channel the original game but add enough to make it feel like a solid upgrade for modern players.
Though I have issues with its visuals and the controls not being as tight as I’d prefer, I still had fun with it, and providing you’re not expecting a 1:1 replication of the original, then I believe you’re likely to as well.
Berzerk Recharged was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by the publisher.