S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl for the PC was developed by GSC Game World and published by THQ.
After much wait and tons of speculation and hype, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has finally hit the market. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was originally slated to be released a year or two ago, but do to the nature of the game the developers ran into difficulty. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was made with the intent of fusing the FPS and RPG genres into one game. So whats the big deal? Its been done before with Deus Ex and the Morrorwind Series (minus the guns). The difference? A-Life (I'll get into that later). STALKER is a great game that does a terrific job of combining and FPS with and RPG. At times it may have its flaws, but at its heart it is an excellent game that could help change the FPS genre.
- I don't want to get much into the story in STALKER, but basically you are "The Marked One". A truck that you're riding in wrecks and you wind up in an area called "The Zone". The Zone is around an old nuclear plant that fell out. You suffer from memory loss due to the crash, and the only thing you know is that you were sent to kill someone. In hopes to find out more about yourself you continue this mission, but to do so you have to do things for others to make money and earn their trust/respect. While this sounds simple enough... well its not. The story is a bit hard to follow. When you talk to people, much of the speech has to be read due to a lack of voice acting. This approach, while effective, can be rather dull. Sometimes I just don't feel like reading paragraphs of text, especially not when things are happening around me. This one time i met some guy to find out more about the person I was supposed to kill, but when i started talking to him, a pack of wild dogs attacked, so I didn't get to read the info. When we fended the attack off I went to talk to him again, only to find that was a one time thing... so wtf do i do now?
- Pros: The story is interesting, though definitely not the game's strong point. The RPG type of story is a welcome change to the normal FPS type (Aliens are attacking... save earth). Its also nice that, even though there was a main mission, the story wasn't really linear. There are many side quests to partake in, and the map is free roaming (if you can survive). The game is also long for a FPS. I'm guessing its well over 10 hours of gameplay. There are also 14 different endings (I believe), which is kinda cool if you think about it.
- Cons: The lack of voice acting was a bit annoying at times, though definitely forgivable.
- First I'm going to start with the user interface, the main menu and load screen to be exact. Now, these two things usually are pretty unimportant, but the ones in STALKER are definitely worth a mention. The main menu is surprisingly impressive. A lot of games are either content with just having a basic menu with no "flair" (if you will) or being overly complicated. STALKER's menu however is just right. It's simple, yet interesting. It's hard to make it sound exciting, but take my word for it. The load screen is also visually pleasing. This is important, because when you're waiting for something to load, you're pretty much wasting time, so the least developers can do is make it somewhat pleasing. The in game user interface (i.e. inventory) is what you would expect from a RPG. You have a slots to put your armor and weapons, and you have a weight limit, which affects your stamina. This system works well. Unlike most FPS's you can't carry every weapon you come across, because if you do, you'll be walking the whole game, which sucks if you have a pack of 10 wild dogs chasing you. You'll need to decide what kind of weapons you want to use and what ammo these weapons take. There are also other pickups that are available in the inventory such as med kits, bandages, food, vodka ^_^. The are you are in is called "The Zone". The zone is one massive world, that is pretty much free to roam if you choose. The zone is separated in sections which when crossed initiate a loading screen. While this isn't ideal, its understandable.
- Pros: Large free roaming world with a good variety of scenery. Anything from lightly forested to industrial. Changing time of day (It gets dark at night). Weather patterns. Intuitive inventory system. Beautiful menus and a nice load screen.
- Cons: The only con is sometimes the inventory can be buggy, but only kinda. If you right click on an item it brings up a menu that allows you to do something with an object (i.e. use it or drop it). Sometimes, however you have to do this more than once to get a response.
- STALKER was slated to come out a few years back, and it shows a bit in the graphics. There is nothing really revolutionary about them. They're probably on par with the graphics in Half-Life 2, maybe slightly less pretty. Don't get me wrong, they're by no means ugly. They just lack that extra polish. Due to the fact that I can't play the game with dynamic lighting (curse my aging rig) I can't accurately comment on how good the graphics can be with lighting effects, but I have everything else maxed, so it can't that big of a difference. The amount of viewable scenery is amazing. Unlike a lot of FPS you can see much more than just down a corridor or across a room. This has to take away from the detail of everything due to a lack of horsepower in many computers (such an mine). Character models and geometry are smooth and their animations are decent. There aren't many decals. When you shoot something you might get some smoke and MAYBE a mark, but rarely. I'm not sure if there is blood splatter, because I haven't done much close quarter fighting yet, but I don't think there is. Body parts don't come off either : ( which isn't present in a lot of games, but would have been a nice addition (I guess this was due to software limitations). Hopefully with the coming of DX10 we'll see this become more common.
- Pros: Excellent view distance. Decent models and texturing.
- Cons: Few decals. Graphics overall are a bit dated. No blood or body parts.
- The system requirements for this game baffled me at first. When i read them I was like... So can I play this or not. The minimum requirements were like Pentium 4 2 ghz or AMD Equivalent with a Radeon 9600 and 512 Mb of ram. The recommended, however was a Core 2 Duo 6400 with a Radeon x1850 and 1 Gig of ram. This is a pretty big difference. I'm not sure why the recommended requirements are so high, but with my Athlon xp 3200 1.5 gigs of ram and 7600gs I can play with all setting maxed except the lighting (I have to use static lighting or my frame rate drops like whoa) at 1240 x 1080 res. and i get a pretty solid 60 frames/second. So if you have an older system and are wondering whether you can run this game, and if so will it look like ass.. don't worry. Most likely you'll be able to run it nicely with a decent visual experience.
- The AI in this game is one of the main features. STALKER has what they call A-life. Unlike many RPGs and FPS games where an NPC's actions are scripted, STALKER features NPC's that do their own thing. They have basic routines programmed, but they don't wait for you to act. If you sat still and did nothing, the world around you would change. For example... One mission I received was to help ward off a bandit attack on an outpost. Not a problem. I left to continue with my primary mission, only to come back a little later to find everyone in the camp dead (there were like 4 of them). This can be somewhat frustrating at times, however, because once you clear an area out, it can soon become occupied by enemies again. When you're running low on health after a tough firefight it would be nice to have somewhere to go to re-evaluate your inventory and take a breather and figure out where you have to go next. It would also be nice to have time to loot bodies, but with enemies always on the move, it can be difficult. I guess this is just part of the realism of the game, which definitely isn't a bad thing.
- The sounds in STALKER are decent. The guns sound good and the environmental effects are nice. The sounds also help let you know where things (be they friend or foe) are. You can hear wild dogs barking in the distance, letting you know to watch out, you can hear footsteps and speech. All of this will help you get a one up on your prey (or assailants). The NPC's however also use sound to find you, so watch the amount of noise you make. Another nice touch is the random speech between other stalkers. A few times when stalkers were sitting around a barrel fire one pulled out a guitar and started playing. This definitely wasn't necessary, but it added a deeper sense of realism and immersion.
- S.T.A.L.L.E.R. is difficult. The weapon accuracy in this game are fairly realistic. This means if you're shooting at someone a good ways away with an automatic rifle (set to semi auto of course), the chances of you actually hitting them are VERY slim. This combined with the number of enemies the game throws at you makes it hard to get through some areas. I'm at this one part where I have to get into a base with over 12 enemies outside (I don't know how many are inside), and no matter what I do I get raped. This can be both positive and negative. On one hand it forces you to refine your skills and increases your sense of accomplishment, but on the other it makes you want to break things.
- Pros: Excellent A.I. and A-Life. Good use of sounds, which can be creepy as hell at times (especially underground). Difficulty adds a sense of accomplishment to winning.
- Cons: Confusing system requirements. Can be a bit hard, which can cause aggression towards keyboards and monitors (its always the monitor's fault).
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is definitely unlike any FPS I've played before. The RPG elements of the game are an excellent addition, which helps break the common linearity in most FPS games to date. At times S.T.A.L.K.E.R. can be somewhat aggravating, whether it be from too many enemies to take on at once, to sloppy inventory control. These aggravations, however are few and somewhat far between. The games A-Life really shines and increases your immersion into the game. The graphics can be a bit dated, but that was to be expected. Overall S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is worth buying, especially if you like RPGs.
- And for the rating:
- Overall (not and average): 8.5
- Not the best game I've ever played, but definitely up there.
- Graphics: 7
- Definitely not the best. Not bad, but it looks like its a couple years old. Pretty cut scenes, however
- Sound: 9
- Sounds was decent and useful.
- Gameplay: 10
- Awesome concept. Great A-Life and A.I. controls were tight and the environment (with weather effects and night/day cycle) was superb.
- Replayability: 9
- 14 different ending based on choices you make in game. Would be a 10, but the game itself is so long it might discourage playing it more than 2 or 3 times.