Monday, April 27, 2009

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl



This review was conducted using Oblivion Lost, a huge modification to the game which restored alot of cut and lost content. If I get something wrong from the vanilla version, then don't blame me.

What happened?

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is another one of those games that just sat in development hell for years, with the developers planning to make a quality product upon it's very, very late release.

Oh, they had a late release alright. But "quality" doesn't fit.


The story of stalker focuses around the "Zone of Alienation", located in Chernobyl. The whole premise is that after the accident happened the place turned into a genuine hell filled with bandits, mutants, wild creatures and deadly pockets of radiation. You play as the "Marked One", a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. That stands for "Scavenger, Trespasser, Adventurer, Loner, Killer, Explorer, Robber". You are one of many, as there's lots of other stalkers in the zone. Not everyone is friendly, some won't mind you, and others will gun you down on sight.

Since the whole premise of the game is focused around a giant nuclear accident, there's plenty of angry mutants which are out for blood. Alot of the designs were very clever; alot of them are genuinely pretty creepy. There's the dwarves, these stumpy little bastards who will blast you away with concentrated bursts of air. Watch for the brown coats and glowing eyes. One that I also liked was the, uh... I never actually caught it's name. It's some sort of invisible monster that appears only as a floating ball of electricity. The creature itself appears to be missing legs and just hovers around on it's awesomeness, throwing stuff at you.

Yeah, that's it.

The gameplay was where everything fell flat on it's face purely because of the difficulty. Seriously, someone had real fun messing the difficulty up.

The game could be considered a very primitive version of fallout 3, considering it's setting and ideas as well as it's style of gameplay. There's a section of stealth elements which are a fairly neat idea but they're a little too tricky to pull of successfully, as everyone just spots you and shoots you in the face. The shootouts are where it picks up a little, as the AI is actually really good. They'll take cover, aim carefully, and even try to flank you. This is a bad thing. Don't get me wrong, it's good that they have a competent AI but adding that to all the other difficulty problems is a serious issue. It really doesn't help that about 10 bullets is enough to kill you, and you'll be facing groups of 6-10 enemies at once.

There's a hunger system.


Every single bullet that hits you causes you to start bleeding which results in you constantly losing health. And it's not just bullets, anything with teeth, claws, or a weapon will cause you to start bleeding. And the bleeding doesn't stop. You have to get bandages for that and FOR CHRIST'S SAKE keep these is good supply! They're far too hard to find.

And then there's the radiation. If you don't have armor with a gasmask you're completely screwed. Gasmask armor also helps with the Anomalies, weird visual distortions that turn out to be vicious. When you put everything together you just don't have fun because of the pure difficulty of keeping everything in check.

On a different note, the sound design wasn't too shabby. The game was seriously lacking in music (no, really. I can't remember any music playing.) which is a bit sad as I always like a good tune while I'm blowing things up. As the game is focused around the whole chernobyl accident, as you can expect, it would be pretty scary. As such, you'll hear a good set of clings, clangs, and clongs to go with the spooky atmosphere. I wouldn't be surprised if a bit of foley was used as there's some fairly good sound effects when you're not exploring underground laboratories infested with angry monsters. The sound design works very well with all the other elements in the game. Except for the gameplay.

Stalker was a bit lacking in the visual department, with some blurry textures and outdated effects. Character models were simplistic and blocky. It's all governed by a somewhat dull physics engine that causes ragdolls to twist, turn, and jump about. The game's also a goddamn resource hog, with some quite ridiculous system requirements. It's pulled a bit of an unreal tournament 3 as the graphics are very configurable, though. That's a plus.

A few parts of the game are told through some pre-rendered cinematics. They don't look too bad, but I've seen better.

It's worth noting that stalker is big. Really big. The Zone is actually a really big area and it's filled with more side quests than I can count. It's mostly just tedious stuff like kill stuff over there, run from point A to point B but it's nice to have a big amount of other stuff to do. I'll be damned if I can figure out what the plot is, though. Apparently, you're supposed to kill the Strelok. Who he is, why you want to kill him is far beyond me.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl definitely didn't reach my expectations. They weren't even all that high. The sheer difficulty steers the game off course and into a ditch.

Design - 7.9 Spooky monsters and a good atmosphere make the game fairly exciting.

Graphics - 7 I've seen better, I've seen worse..

Gameplay - 5.0 The difficulty. Seriously.

Sound - 7.8 Good sound effects keep the game in check, but the lack of music is problematic.

Overall - 6.8

1 comment:

  1. Stalker is the name of a Film by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in which 2 men and a 'Stalker' travel into the 'Zone' a place where all kinds of anomalies happen after a nuclear test went wrong.
    Highly recommended viewing - Matt G