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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl game review

 
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl game review
 PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:33 am Reply with quote  
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  Klaw
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Joined: 29 May 2007
Posts: 1414
Location: L.E.S., N.Y.C.



I am reviewing this with the acknowledgement it isn't cyberpunk per se... in the same way Fall Out isn't truly cyberpunk... and the general consensus seems to be there is a separate heading for post-apocalyptic titles which this most definitely is. It has a bit of horror, and the primary enemy is the "Wish Granter" a sort of ubermind computer V.R. simulator attempting to control humanity... but it is lacking an overall mega-corporation, any form of information technology other than a PDA style interface... so I am sure this isn't front page material. That said, awesome game... on with the show.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.T.A.L.K.E.R.:_Shadow_of_Chernobyl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiNvTLOiOHo (promotional vid)

Based loosely on the 1972 classic sci fi novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky as well as the 1979 film Stalker (based on Roadside Picnic) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, with some references to the 2001 film Avalon by Mamoru Oshii (very loosely inspired by Stalker)... S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is set in a post-apocalyptic ZONE around a fictional Chernobyl of the future. the film and the book tell a story of a nebulous radioactive "Zone"... with a mythical center that is incredibly dangerous to get to (no one has returned) but it is rumored all your wishes are granted if you find this holy epicenter. the book suggests that this zone was created by visiting aliens... and that humans picking through this dangerous post-visitation would be similar to animals in a forest wandering upon a roadside picnic... tentatively approaching the leftover bits of food but with plastic wrappers and potential toxins and dangers around it as well. the film pitches a more mystical religious spin on this "center", and if you've seen Avalon, it modifies this story in relation to VR gaming, and the nature of reality a bit further. Ironically, after the Chernobyl incident in 1986, scientists visiting the site jokingly referred to themselves as "stalkers" and the area as the "Zone". the premise of the game is that scientists while attempting to create an A.I. singularity that could communicate on a mass scale (which needed to use the power of a rebuilt Chernobyl, bad idea right?) eventually suffers a second meltdown after building itself into a massive psionic "collective consciousness" A.I. Monolith in the center of the power plant, and the whole area goes to shit... again. Okay back to the game.



Your character is an amnesiac "stalker" (from the film, something of a guide/tracker/ranger/thief) who is trying to piece together his past, while scraping by scavaging ammo, food, weapons, artifacts and bits of information ala Road Warrior... and uses a unique blend of RPG and FPS gameplay. Although something of a shooter, it works like an RPG in that you have limited pack space, the weight of your equipment affects your speed, you get hungry, and are limited to 2 weapon slots and a few artifact belt slots for minor bonuses. It utilizes realistic weather, A.I. wild life, realistic bullet physics, stealth incorporated from such games as Thief, and in many ways is considered something of a bastardization of Deus Ex, Fall Out, and in some ways resembles Oblivion.



Primarily I get drawn into games when replayability is high, variables change dramatically upon each replay, and the atmosphere is so thick you can cut it with a knife. This describes SSoC to a T. This has barren wasteland written all over it, and the desolate irradiated environment pulses with invisible anomolies, eerie cries in the wilderness, pulsing terrain, dark morbid skies, burnt out buildings and rusting hulks of military and civilian vehicles. Weapons are unreliable so this isn't a typical shooter so really you can't "run and gun", and each upgrade you find is truly exciting because of the rarity of higher valued weapons and equipment. the A.I. is truly impressive as mutant animals act through various stages of scripting... sleeping, eating, hunting... and they hunt in packs, and even attack each other. I was sold when while carelessly wandering one area I stumbled into a sleeping den of mutant wild dogs, who proceeded to shred me.... then with the GAME OVER flashing, watched helplessly as my dead body was fought over by the pack, with one dog eventually dragging my ragdoll corpse to a bush to enjoy his mutant chow. Hehe. But was even more stunned when I got to the one area of the ZONE where a computer "Brain Scorcher"... a computer device that fries human brains and zombifies them... was teaming with stalker zombies, moaning in Russian, and shambling through foggy, grey, desolate landscape that looked like it was directly from a George Romero flick.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPbq4GsPtzA



If you're a fan of shooters this is considered a survival horror game in the same vein as Resident Evil, but it's much much more. It got it's share of negative reviews for a number of reasons... numerous glitches (many now fixed), it's delayed release (originally planned in 2000 for a 2002 release, it's very audacious plans took until 2007) and ambitious gameplay by a newly founded Ukranian developer which in the end brought much of the gaming technology to the table after it was a bit out of date. So graphically it doesn't hold up to Oblivion, it looks a bit like 2002-2003 Ghost Recon (with my favorite "flat sprite" foliage which look like 3 flat pieces of carboard put together at a crafts shop to be plants) with much better texture mapping. Needless to say, even with those things going against it, it still won awards last year for atmosphere, and I happen to think with all it's flaws it fricken rocks. Give it a try. Including some screen caps here. Cheers.






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Last edited by Klaw on Thu May 15, 2008 5:01 pm; edited 1 time in total


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 PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:02 pm Reply with quote  
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  l1zrd
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Joined: 04 Jan 2007
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Great game, I found it very hard due to the hit boxes being crazy. Either that or the weapons are incredibly inaccurate. However the story, atmosphere, and sounds are awesome!
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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:48 am Reply with quote  
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  Klaw
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Joined: 29 May 2007
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Weapons are incredibly inaccurate, the bullet physics is randomized so even with a scope, perfectly centered on the forehead of your enemy, will have bullets travel slightly off mark.... occasionally on mark. You also have to lead moving targets, you have to aim higher if you are farther away... pistols are far more inaccurate than rifles, and at distances they are borderline useless except to wake up an inattentive enemy. So you are forced to shoot more rounds to get a hit, more rounds to hit the point you are aiming at... and if they are moving... more rounds. If you are backing up from say, dogs chasing you, accuracy drops to nil so never run away and shoot, you'll die.

For FPS fans, this probably sounds like the last game they'd want to play but having played so many boring repetitive shooters, it's refreshing to play one that is challenging not because it throws a million perfect sharpshooters at you with limitless ammo, it forces you to be judicious when to fight, when to fire, and to watch your ammo reserves... or you'll have to scavenge off a dead enemy under fire.

That said, accuracy of weapons increases exponentially as you find better ones. So the hardest part of the game is really at the beginning. Anyway, I sound like I'm selling it... just it took a few plays to realize how the physics worked and once I did it made it more interesting because it forces you to be more aware of your surroundings and less reliant on quick headshots, which most FPS games train you to do. And being more aware of a creepy eerie environment only makes it all the better.
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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:59 pm Reply with quote  
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  l1zrd
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Its a definite challenge coming from playing other FPS games. I mean, I understand they have to make it challenging but dang man, 10 feet away, im crouched and I hit all around a guy, thats just terrible. I did look at a ton of mods though, and thats awesome. You can totally make the game even better with the huge amount of mods out there.
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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:11 pm Reply with quote  
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  Klaw
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Yeah I forgot to mention because of the devout following of the game, through various stages of development, it's become a very popular modded system. There's one to make the zombies more zombie-ish... the one screen cap I have in B&W is from "Save's Nuclear Winter" which is a really nice mod remapping all textures to look like infrared black and white (think Sin City) with only artifacts glowing in color.. and blood. There's one that is pitch black at night time except for your light or enemies light (so aiming is more ridiculous). YouTube has quite a few vids of various mods. Oh and some Russian hackers have a mod to allow you to use all vehicles in the game with weapons... so tanks work, jeeps, buses. It's crazy. Haven't tried many, I will after I finish it. Smile
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 PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:15 am Reply with quote  
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  l1zrd
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NICE! Perhaps I'm going to have to purchase the game outright. Cool
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 PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2008 12:23 pm Reply with quote  
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  OMNi-SHA
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Joined: 18 Apr 2008
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I liked this game a lot. Its really unplayable if you don't have a good enough system, and I agree the accuracy at the beginning is annoying as all hell. I ended up moding my game to allow you to carry about a hundred extra pounds, so I could carry a sniper riffle, assault riffle, and grenade launcher at the same time. the game really gets fun towards then end when you have the choice of siding with either faction (or just wiping them both out).


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 PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:29 am Reply with quote  
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  Stormtrooper of Death
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Joined: 23 Mar 2006
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Location: Neo-Tokyo/Eindhoven/Holland/Europe

bump, reviving an old topic;

found this nice website that tells the story of a woman that uses to ride her motorbike through the Tjernobyl forbidden zone.

http://www.kiddofspeed.com/chapter1.html

nice story. Might interest some of you who like ghost towns, or just driving motorbikes in abandoned places...
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 PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 1:26 pm Reply with quote  
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  downer
Enigma's Little Pet

Joined: 26 Jun 2009
Posts: 149
Location: USA

Very original and interesting personal website. I remember seeing a video a long time ago about the people encasing Chernobyl could only work two minutes at a time, and workers being scanned as they left daily operation. I once rode a mountain bike all through an abandoned coal transfer station and rolllerbladed through an old abandoned resort hotel. Nothing radioactive or motorized though.

the game does sound interesting with the drivable vehicles mod.


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 PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:43 am Reply with quote  
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  Klaw
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Thanks for the link Stormy, that was indeed interesting.

This guy takes some cool shots of abandoned places as well

http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/
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