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Stalker
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Poo Bear
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 8:48 am    Post subject: Stalker Reply with quote

Set in the aftermath of Chernobyl this is a FPS free roaming role playing game that sees the player scrambling over the radioactive remains of the wilderness surrounding the doomed reactor. The area is known as the zone and has been sealed off by the Russian army who also patrol some parts of the interior and are quite vicious. The player is one of many stalkers; wandering loners or gangs of warriors who illicitly probe the interior looking for radioactive artefacts with weird properties that can be sold to curious scientists.

Normally a good (not exceptional) game is great on actual game play, but falls short on setting, immersion, plot and characters. Stalker is the other way around. It's a 10Gig install of some wonderfully realised radioactive Chernobyl ruins that instantly immerse you in a realistically eerie setting. The game owes a great deal to its namesake film, which also doesn't quite work, but is still a disturbing and unforgettable watch:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalker_%28film%29

In the zone you can go anywhere you want at any time. You'll witness different stalker groups fighting amongst themselves or fending off the irradiated wildlife and you can join in or not. You'll come across impromptu groups of stalkers sat around camp fires, talking in Russian, drinking and occasionally having a sing song as one of them plays the guitar. The game really feels alive. Harking back to rpgs of old, you have realistic limits on what you can carry, you need to eat regularly. You aren't super human and can easily be killed, you need to take anti radiation drugs. You can't carry infinite ammo and must pick and choose fights carefully if you are to make it to your mission goal and get back alive. You'll spend a lot of time looting the dead, but must carefully select only what you need and ANIMALS DON'T CARRY AMMO!

I had such high hopes for Oblivion, which is a similar style of game, but where Stalker was fun Oblivion was a chore. What a wonderful game Stalker is! I've just finished it and may have to go back and complete all those side quests. I can't wait for the sequel. Imagine a game where your most prized possession is a bag of metal bolts!

So why isn't it exceptional?

Annoying technical issues let the game down. The zone is big, but it's split into fairly small segments with loading between them. A seamless world, even if a smaller one, would have been better. What's worse is that when you walk over a boundary you seem to end up in a different location (you cannot look back and see where you came from) which feels jarring and it's easy to get lost. You also have to get back into a mid-90s mind set, you have to "quick save" constantly and think fairly carefully about managing saves so you don't quick save 30mins into a mission you cannot complete. It's very easy to die and the auto save system isn't up to it. The developers certainly bit off more than they could chew with this wonderfully expansive game and it does crash once every hour or so even with the latest patches so again, managing your saves is critical. There isn't massive diversity in the missions, some are the dreaded escort variety. I think the core mission game play needed a few more months in the development cooker. How many games put escort missions in where it's almost impossible to keep your target alive as he blunders into one enemy after another? Imagine the irritation at making it back to base by the skin of your teeth only to drop dead while sorting through your inventory in the bar, because you accidentally sold something that was holding back radiation sickness or starved.

Anyway, don't worry about any of that, just go buy a copy now. I don't think I'll ever forget stalking (ho ho - get it?) through subterranean ruins, geiger counter clicking crazily as I dodge fluorescent pools of radioactive waste, down to my last syringe of anti radiation meds while some unholy mutated abomination claws at my heels.

$20 seems like a ridiculous price.
http://www.amazon.com/THQ-S-T-A-L-K-E-R-Shadow-of-Chernobyl/dp/B0001X5YN4/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1211878644&sr=8-1

p.s. it ran ok on my P4:3.4GHz with 7600GT, but I had to turn down quite a lot of graphical wizzbangery.

p.p.s the game also demonstrates the correct use of non-interactive cut scenes. They are short, well made and few in number. They don't explain your mission, instead they offer slightly confusing insights into the big picture and hint at what is really going on. Instead of pulling you out of the game world they immerse you deeper into it. You play on to see the next one rather than dreading their appearance.
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icarus
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Joined: 01 Mar 2004

Location: Olympia Washington



PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stalker is amazing. I downloaded the AMK mod which makes it even more realistic.

Now when I get shot The screen turns red and bucks, Sometimes I will drop my gun. When I use a medkit it uses up my stamina. This combined with the fact that all guns do more damage (one hit form an AK will wipe out half your healthbar) can lead to a deathspiral. This is Balanced by the fact that your gun are just as deadly, Making gunfights a Fast and brutal affair.

Even without mods this game is atmospheric as ****. I you can almost feel the radiation burns. And unlike FEAR this game is actually scary. You never know what this game will throw at you next.

Anyways what can be more fun that a game where you go around a nuclear wasteland drinking vodka and shooting angry Russian guys with AK 74s. Buy this game comrade!



I didn't know it was based off of a movie. Gotta check that out.
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colinvella



Joined: 15 Sep 2006
Posts: 82



PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 11:25 pm    Post subject: Some gripes... Reply with quote

Nice game but...
1) You cannot really clear an area you've visited.
2) Weight limit means you have to go back and forth carrying stuff.. not easy given (1)
3) Some items (e.g. dog tail) take ages to find.
4) The game's hard! You need to train for headshots to survive.
5) The (proper) ending mission is a bit of a let-down...
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Poo Bear
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, it certainly has rough edges, but what they were aiming for is wonderful, they just slightly missed the mark. Some of it is technical problems due to lack of time (like the instability and zone loading). Some of it is the pursuit of realism and immersion - most of the issues you mention. It's a fine line, sometimes the difficulty, weight limits, etc all help it feel like a real place, but at other times it gets in the way of it just being fun. I'm sure the next stalker will be an improvement (I hope).

It's interesting though, even when I was fully equipped with powerful items I still felt like a vulnerable lone stalker in a strange hostile environment that I didn't really understand and that could kill me in the blink of an eye. I'm sure they made it that way on purpose and I'm glad they did. I think a bit more testing would have let them tweak things to minimise the irritation factor though which is why I look forward to the sequel.
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icarus
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Joined: 01 Mar 2004

Location: Olympia Washington



PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 10:21 am    Post subject: Re: Some gripes... Reply with quote

colinvella wrote:
Nice game but...
1) You cannot really clear an area you've visited.
2) Weight limit means you have to go back and forth carrying stuff.. not easy given (1)
3) Some items (e.g. dog tail) take ages to find.
4) The game's hard! You need to train for headshots to survive.


I don't really think of that as a problem. Although I do wish you could carry a bit more.
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hair65



Joined: 13 Jul 2018
Posts: 886



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