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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl Review (PC)

Overview

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl Review (PC)
After nearly six years in the making, the first person thriller S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl has finally been released. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a first person shooter/role playing survival game that places you in the horrific aftermath of the nuclear disaster. At it's core S.T.A.L.K.E.R. should appeal to many FPS fans and while it does have some minor game play and storyline flaws, it does a very nice job of creating an immersive and open ended game world.

Pros

  • Unique setting and immersive game world
  • Open ended game play
  • Large variety of options, gadgets, and weapons.

Cons

  • Bugs, bugs, bugs.
  • Storyline doesn't hold together very well.
  • Even at novice level, Combat and AI can often be too challenging.

Storyline

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl is set in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine. After a fictional second explosion at Chernobyl, the land surrounding the nuclear plant has become a wasteland know as the Zone, where mutant creatures and humans roam and the laws of nature no longer apply. Taking on the role of a Stalker, you travel into the Zone in search of artifacts for trade and sale with the black market dealers and scientists who live on the fringe of the Zone.

The storyline for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is quite open ended and the game world is truly immersive. Hours can be spent going through seemingly countless side quests and missions you sometimes forget that there is actually a main objective that you'll need to accomplish in order to eventually move the story along. In the case of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. getting to the end of the game doesn't necessarily mean you've succeeded or won. In fact it could mean just the opposite, actions taken throughout the game are not independent of each other and they can have consequences that can ultimately lead to failure in the end.

In total the single player campaign, on average, should provide about 15-20 hours of game play but the length can vary widely and depend greatly on the number of side quests and actions players decided upon.

Features & Game play

From the start you can tell that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. doesn't play as many typical first person games. The game play is often mixed with action, investigation/strategy and some role playing game elements. It's this even blend of game play elements that help make S.T.A.L.K.E.R. stand out as a memorable game. The vastness of the maps and environments coupled with the multiple game paths make the replability of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. very high.

The main tools at your disposal in your career as a Stalker are the inventory system and your PDA. It's good to start learning the controls and getting use to going back and forth between the two in preparation for later in the game when the speed at which you can navigate them really matters.

The inventory system is similar to those found in games such as Neverwinter Nights and Titan Quest, you're limited in what you can carry both in terms of weight and volume. Visiting the inventory screen to swap out items is a necessity and done on a regular basis. The PDA connects you to the game world around you. It contains a navigation map that helps point you in the right direction, objective and side quest details, other Stalker profiles, and much more.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. however is far from perfect. This list of reported bugs is very long, GSC Game World has released a patch that fixes many of the major issues but most likely more will need to be released before it's a more stable game. Some of the major bugs included numerous game crashes, corrupt save/load functionality and in game buttons that function incorrectly.

Graphics & Sound

While the graphics for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. may not be on par with some other games on the market in regards to pixel shading but they are still very realistic and do a wonderful job of setting the mood and atmosphere of a post nuclear disaster area. In particular, the character models are nicely done with very detailed features and fluid life-like movements. The sound and sound effects are also very nicely done and adds that extra element to the overall feel of the game.

Bottom Line

The many bugs found in the retail release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. are concerning but many of them can not be fixed by installing the latest patch. Overall, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl takes you on wild journey with many twists and turns, which may or may not lead to success, but in the end it delivers an immersive gaming experience that is well worth replaying to discover the alternate endings and side quests.
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