Product Type: Electronic Arts PC games
Newest Review: ... the game. As for the RPG-ing part, it's good - it's not infuriating as many RPG games are, heck, it's even enjoyable and intriguing at time... more
Dark, dangerous, and downright brilliant
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl (PC)
Member Name: Coolchris330
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl (PC)
Advantages: Creepy atmosphere, interesting surroundings, intriguinging storyline
Disadvantages: Some may find it too scary, some may not enjoy the gameplay due to its pace
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl is an action-RPG by GSC Software, and published by THQ. It is rated 16+.
STALKER is set in the year 2012, the radioactive zone around the destroyed Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant has exploded, increasing the range of radiation dramatically.
This high level of radiation has caused many occurrences inside the now extended zone. These occurrences include radioactive artefacts, so valuable and with such powers that many crave them - however, the zone has more deadly effects - many animals and humans in the area were horribly mutated, animals grew extra legs and became aggressive, humans attempting to prevent any further radioactive damage crawl around on all fours, gasmasks welded to faces by the sheer heat of the blast.
However, the benefits of the zone - the radioactive artefacts attract many, who hunt for them in search of riches. These men who come to the zones call themselves Stalkers. However, also in the zone are some militaristic rules, accompanied by patrols and tight regulation - these patrols generally attack Stalkers, and they just don't get along. Some men don't even want to be involved, and just want a place to live, instead of remaining homeless.
Your character, who remains unnamed, has amnesia (I love clichés). He doesn't remember a thing about who he is, what he used to do - or what he enjoys. He knows only one thing, desperate and unable to remember anything, he knows he must find a Stalker that goes by the name of Strelok, and kill him.
STALKER is played as a first person shooter with rather heavy RPG elements. You follow many major quest-lines, as well as a variety of side-quests in order to convince the people of the zone to tell you where to find Strelok. These questing situations range from anything from intensely easy to excruciatingly hard.
The shooting, which does make up a large portion of the game, despite not being the main focus, is actually pretty good. Guns feel weighty, and they feel precious, especially with the severe lack of ammo that plagues the zone. The only issue that I had with the shooting is that the guns feel like they should do fairly substantial damage, although in practise, especially earlier in the game, many of them do not - with beefy shotguns taking three to four shots to down a man on occasion. It's not a fault of the game, but a mere inaccuracy - it's obvious the developers did this with the intent of challenging the player and giving a sense of progression as they go through the game.
As for the RPG-ing part, it's good - it's not infuriating as many RPG games are, heck, it's even enjoyable and intriguing at times. The world of STALKER is genuinely interesting, and it (at least for me) makes you ask questions about how everything came to be. How did that person get killed? Should I be worried? Am I somewhere I shouldn't be?
Also, the level of detail built into the game world is phenomenol - it makes sure to make the game as believable as it possibly can be - it even has a PDA-like device (basically a wrist-held smartphone) that gives you a map of the area, as well as definitions and descriptions of the many anomalies, creatures and factions that you will meet throughout the game. It does a really, really good job of explaining everything to you, in a friendly, but not overprotective manner.
The main gameplay focus of STALKER is realism and survival - there are several features in STALKER that you probably won't see in any other game. These include a system where you can bleed to death if you're not careful - a hunger system and a system that determines the possibility of getting radiation sickness - however, this is not an issue because the game is very good at explaining this to you, and makes it difficult, without being incredibly daunting.
STALKER is a game released in 2007 and the graphics have aged a bit since then, sadly. There are still many features that weren't commonplace in games on release, but compared to many of the graphical features that we can achieve today, particularly on the PC, which remains the only platform you can buy STALKER for - it looks pretty dismal.
The graphics engine does, however, support multiple dynamic lights, allowing for dynamic shadows to be created from gunfire, which adds another layer of atmosphere to the game - in calmer moments as well as gunfights, such as when the Stalkers are around a fire, strumming their guitars and singing in Russian, their shadows are presented in a stretched, long glow behind them.
There are also several mods that actually improve the graphics for the Stalker games, and they do make it look particularly beautiful, or so I've heard - I haven't tried using mods with Stalker because I am very happy with the way it is at the moment, but many people will enjoy using mods like Oblivion Lost to make their graphical experience more enjoyable.
I have already mentioned about the games gun sounds sounding very triumphant and rough, and that's a good thing, even if the ingame effect doesn't really correspond very well to the sound. However, a lot of the voice acting in STALKER is a fair bit dodgy. What you've got to remember is that the studio that makes STALKER is actually a Russian studio - they may not actually have native English speakers on hand, and may have to translate their own writing, meaning that a lot of the writing and speech isn't perfect. You can, however, download a much better Russian sound pack, which, while retaining the English subtitles, changes the characters voices to the much better sounding Russian version.
I'm not critiscing their voice acting for what it is - I'm critising it in comparison to what many gamers have come to expect from the voice acting in games - especially in very story driven games and genres like this one and the role playing game genre as a whole - especially since poor voice acting can easily break immersion.
However, the music in the game is fantastically subtle, and you only hear it on occasion, with the strum of a fellow Stalkers guitar echoing through the wasteland. It can be surprisingly sombre and atmospheric.
Value for Money / Longevity
STALKER is especially cheap now, so cheap that you shouldn't even be questioning if it's worth your money - it is worth your money, go and buy it right now if you're an RPG fan - if you're not, definitely consider it. Many people say that the game is terrifying, which may put you off if you're not the greatest fan of horror, but it's not all frightening, it's just pockets of tension in an almightily beautiful experience.
Try STALKER at least, especially as the £5 that you can get it for. It should last you over fifty hours at the very least.
STALKER isn't suitable for children, so here's a rundown of the content so that you can make an informed decision on if your child should be playing
First and foremost violence - it's the biggest issue in STALKER by far, there are a fair few gunfights, but these aren't too bad, and they show minimal blood and injury at best. There are occasions when small splashes of blood remain on the walls and floors, and the bodies ragdoll, allowing you to loot them for their possessions after their death. You cannot mutilate people, alive or dead.
There are also some sequences where you are required to kill some animals, people who find this to be against their ideas may find these scenes disturbing and disrespectful, especially since they're compulsory to continue with the game. There is no emphasis on the pain of the animal, and the animals are fictional, but they closely resemble dogs and boars. There are minimal blood effects.
There are also some stronger sequences, such as when the game is showcasing what the anomalies can do to you if you get too near them - a boar like creature flies into the air in front of you, begins to suck itself into its core, rotates at an alarming pace and explodes. This sequence is very brief and is only played out once in the entire game.
Some mild to strong language is used throughout the game, although it is not especially frequent. There are some uses of "f**k" in the Russian version of the audio (in Russian, of course), but I haven't seen any translated profanities in the English version, at least not surpassing the mild ones like "damn" and "hell".
There are some frightening scenes in STALKER. Particularly in the Chernobyl power plant itself, where the actual environment is very claustrophobic and frightening to be in, especially with the ambient noises of creatures lurking in the dark. For the most part, it's because you're so immersed in your character, and because you realise that your character is dead if anything jumps out because you have low health and two remaining bullets.
Most of the horror scenes are limited to jump scenes, claustrophobic environments and scary noises, although for the most part, these scenes are not particularly prolonged. They are necessary to carry on with the game though. The game never uses 'shock' horror, such as gory images to scare the player - at least not in my experience.
The level of horror in STALKER doesn't really surpass the level of a '15' or 'PG-13' rated horror movie, as a point of reference.
STALKER is a brilliant game, and if you can play it but choose not to - you are missing out. Understandably, a lot of these elements are things that not all users want to experience, but I reckon that a child aged 13 should really be able to play this - 15 at the latest.
The graphics may be wearying and showing their age, but that doesn't affect the core gameplay experience, STALKER is still a brilliant game, and it should be treated as such. A must have for all RPG fans. I give STALKER a 5/5.
Windows 2000 SP4 or above
Intel Pentium 4 2 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 2200+
Geforce FX 5700 or ATi Radeon 9600
10GB Hard Disk Space
Copied from my Ciao account of the same name.
Summary: A great RPG that all fans of the genre should try.