The much awaited PREQUEL of S.T.A.K.L.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl (SSOC), (yes, Prequel, how often do we have prequel these days?) S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Clear Sky (SCS) sets the player at a time before the events of S.T.A.K.L.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl.
The player assumes the role of Scar, a veteran Stalker mercenary who was injured by an energy emission while guiding a group of scientists through the Zone. Scar is rescued by Clear Sky, a secret, independent Zone faction dedicated to researching and understanding the Zone in order for humanity to better understand what kind of phenomena it is facing. After attempting to help a patrol at an outpost, a second emission occurs, where Scar survives. The leader of Clear Sky, Lebedev, informs Scar that the Zone is being disrupted by a dramatic increase in energy emissions, emanating from the Chernobyl power plant in the center of the Zone. Besides endangering all the Stalkers in the Zone, the emissions are also interacting with Scar’s body in a unique way that will eventually kill him if they continue. Lebedev theorizes the energy emissions are a sort of “immune response” by the Zone itself in response to human activity. If it continues, the zone could become highly unstable and run out of control.
Scar is tasked with finding information about any activity regarding Stalkers trying to reach the center of the zone…….
The game plays pretty much like any other first-person shooter BUT the best thing about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game series is that they really need you to survive. You need to think survival! It’s not like those other FPS where just sitting there for a while would let you recover, or how you could take many bullets before kicking the bucket.
Nope, none of that. If you’re the type that loves running around like a super-human then you can forget about playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. because that’s the beauty of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – each hit hurts a lot, and each form of injury inflicted on you could end up causing you to die. For example, radiation could simply suck your life away if the exposure was untreated. Wounds could kill you too as you bleed to death.
Then of course there’s the weight management part of the game. Don’t worry, it’s not about losing those fat on your tummy, it’s about deciding what you should be carrying. The character has a stamina bar that indicates the strength, just like how much stamina you have when you’re running. The more weight carried, the faster the stamina run out. Too heavy and you can’t move. So ultimately you have to decide what guns, how much ammo, food and medical supplies to carry as the lack of any could actually lead you to your doom.
While SSOC is about running around as a loner, SCS allows you to join factions and it’s this faction-war system that sets SCS a notch above SSOC. Factions aren’t always close-buddies in a tense world as such so think carefully about your affiliations. It’s not exactly bad to join as better equipments are available as faction becomes stronger. In SCS, your character is always aligned with Clear Sky faction but you can join other factions (such as Loners, Duty, Freedom and Bandits) in their struggle for territory control.
What I really liked about SCS, is that traders are now on almost all area of the map where there’s a camp. That’s really good news, unlike before where the traders were so far apart that you’ll have to haul goods a great distance and have many stops due to lack of stamina, just to get some moolah out of it.
And speaking of moolah (moolah = money, just in case you didn’t know), I’m sure many of you remember how SOC was like when it comes to money. Buying and selling artifacts help a lot with collecting RU but even when I finished the game, I had spent barely 5 digits of RU as I get guns and most of the ammunition from the killed people along the way. Same goes to clothing and all.
This is not the same for SCS, here in SCS – you really DO run out of money. SCS now comes with engineers and they’re available in practically every camp as well. So besides buying ammo and stuff, you get to upgrade your gears – think better guns! Like for example, reducing recoil, changing bullet size, adding accuracy and more! And unlike before where guns are just abandoned once the condition wears, this time you could get the engineer to restore it to mint condition again. Hurray!
Now let’s move on to some of the bad stuff – SCS annoyed me a lot with the lack of stamina bar, unlike the first one. The stamina bar somehow is placed inside the inventory screen. There were some changes of the interface but it’s pretty much as friendly as it is. The stamina bar however, came back the the main screen interface after patching to version 1.5.05 but the patch rendered all my saved games useless again!
I can’t believe that despite the stupid nature of this patch in SSOC, the developers have yet to learn from their mistakes. I mean this is really stupid. It’s fair enough that they can’t release a perfect game, most game developers release a patch or few later on anyway, but it’s really UNFAIR should the patch render all the saved games useless.
Well anyway, the patch was meant for the good of the game so if ever you decide to play SCS – please patch before playing and if there’s any newer patch – IGNORE IT! Just in case the saved games fail.
Graphics and Sound
The game was stunningly beautiful. MUCH better than SSOC. I was surprised that how playable the game was with the HD4670 even with the at maximum settings.
After the patch, the maximum settings wasn’t maximum settings anymore! The patch unveiled a host of new graphical improvements that made the game even better. *I’m sorry, most the screenshots were taken prior to the patch*
What I like most about SCS is that there’s really a NIGHT to it. Unlike SSOC where I finished the game with barely any use of the flashlight other than when I’m lurking in enclosed places such as facilities or sewers, SCS’s night scenes were so dark that going around without using the flashlight was literally impossible.
Despite having all the beauty and splendor of what a game should be, the developers seem to have missed out the shadow of the player itself. 🙂 It’s like I am a ghost this time, no shadow cast no matter where I walked, even if I’m standing right smack at the light source.
Network / Online Gaming
From what I tested, locally hosted games has no options for you to frag bots (I wish they do).
Online option on the other hand was really fun! The game uses Counter-Strike concept of having money and being allowed to purchase gears before entering the fray of action. I did manage to get 2 kills so far but my ping was so bad, one of the kill was with a lucky long-range pistol spam while another was me having a sub-machine gun vs a guy in a small room with a pistol…….. and it took me 3 magazine clips just to hopefully get him at the right spot! 🙁 Bad ping, baaaad!
The stupid patch causing my saved games go ‘bye-bye’. I didn’t feel like playing again after that. It’s like so much of my effort gone down the drain, so many re-tries, so much time spent on weight management. so much travelling around and all!
Other than that, SCS is what SSOC should’ve been. It’s a great game nevertheless, especially if you’re in for something that’s realistic and has more story than action. Be prepared to read a lot since the game conversation with NPC can get really lengthy.
PC Specifications Used
The computer setup used for this review.
|Processor||Intel Core2Duo E7200 Overclocked @ 3.61ghz|
|Graphic Card||ASUS ENGTX280 TOP 1GB|
|RAM||2x 2GB OCZ DDR2 PC2-8500 Reaper HPC Edition|
|Cooler||Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer Heatsink|
|Monitor||20″ Dell Ultra-sharp Wide-screen LCD|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Basic 32bit|