Review: Berzerk: Recharged

Atari's Recharged series continues with a sci-fi horror classic

Nu-Atari's neon-tinged Recharged series has been something of a pleasant surprise, much like Atari's recent output in general. Berzerk, though? That's not even an Atari title! It was Stern Electronics, damn it, put some respect on that name. Much better than Gruff Devices or Austaire Appliances. But I, as in every single instance of communication I have ever attempted, digress. It's here. Berzerk: Recharged, bringing the absolutely iconic 1980 maze game to modern systems vis-a-vis its Atari VCS port - which one assumes is the reason this update exists in the first place.

And I was quite psyched. You see, Berzerk has a very stark vector-like presentation which gels very well indeed with the whole aforementioned neon-heavy Recharged vibe. At least, it should do. It seems like this wouldn't be too hard to pull off, you know? Just do Berserk, but... twin stick. And, to an extent, the developers have. The problem is - and it is a major problem - this just doesn't feel like Berzerk. It doesn't have that stark, isolate vibe.

I dislike using this as a pejorative because I have enjoyed many such games, but it's all just a bit... Flash-y. No, not flashy... Flash-y. As in, Macromedia Flash. Later Adobe Flash. You know? It has that tweening motion and soft look to it all. The deadly robots that looked so distinct now resemble advertising mascots. BLEEP BLEEP SELL THE HUMANOID INSURANCE. In fact, that's another issue - where is the cool robot voice? It's one of the defining things about the original, and while it's present here it's very lacklustre-sounding, coming across as more like an out-take from Daft Punk's "Give Life Back to Music" than the terror-inducing bullet to the ears it's supposed to be.

Look, I'll break kayfabe here, because I feel like it's important; you'll notice that all my reviews are three stars at the very lowest. I can't recall I've gone below that threshold before. Biased? Yes, somewhat; I only review things I'm interested in and think will be good, because... do you really want to read somebody's opinion when it's as banal as "I have no interest in this and I don't like it"? I really wanted to like Berzerk: Recharged, which is why I am reviewing it at all. I like Berzerk! I like the Recharged series! These things should go together well, but they haven't, and it makes me sad.

It's not terrible by any means. The core gameplay is fine, with the twin-stick gunplay you'd expect and a new "Dash" move, but you're incentivised not to use it by being given a score multiplier if you switch it off. What's the story there? Why introduce these new features and then say you can't maximise your score without them? Absolutely baffling. Player choice is a factor, yes, but when one choice is just "you score less"... it's weird. As in the original you're being chased by Evil Otto, only here he's extremely slow and easy to avoid and looks cute and cuddly for some reason. The tension and precision of the original game are gone, but the resulting pieces still could have made for a fun if throwaway shooter, and to some extent they have. The new Mission Mode lets you play through shorter bursts of the action with a definable end you'll actually see, but while the action is smooth and controls well, it's still not a patch on many of its contemporaries like Assault Android Cactus.

It's a genuine shame that Berzerk: Recharged turned out the way it did. I will admit that my love of Berzerk causes me to look more harshly on this reimagining, but even from the perspective of a total newcomer I can't imagine it grabbing anyone for long. You might like it more than I did, I don't know, but I find it to be a perfectly playable point-miss.