Year 2012. Six years passed since the time of the Second catastrophe to have made the April events of 1986 fade.
The game is set in the Chernobyl exclusion zone which turned from a destiny-breaker place into a threat to all mankind. The Zone is reluctant to open up its mysteries and needs to be forced to do it. It is a rare hero who can reach the very heart of the Zone onto find out what danger awaits him there.
A danger which, compared to marauders and enemy groupings, all monsters and anomalies, will seem a mere preparation to the meeting with something more fatal and threatening.
But for nowâ€¦ get ready, hero. Collect artefacts and trade, grope your path and keep an eye on the rear, catch roentgens and fight â€“ only make sure you survive! And then, perhaps, if you are persistent and truly lucky, you will find out why all this had fallen on you.
Alright, it seems that the above excerpt from their official website doesn’t tell you much.
Basically it involves a 2nd (fictional) Chernobyl meltdown that happened 20 years after the first incident. And how is your character related to the incident? Well that’s what you’re supposed to find out…. Really!
The game starts off with a cut-scene showing an accident involving a truck transporting dead bodies. The truck crashed and the next day, someone discovered your living body among the scattered dead people. You woke up not remembering anything; your only clue is that you were tasked to kill someone. The rest of the story is up to you to discover.
It’s a superb game; even the introduction was made me curious on what is to be discovered along the way. I just love how the game unfolds itself naturally.
The game is objective-based, you will be given a primary task to accomplish and as you complete those tasks the story unfolds and you move on with more tasks. Besides having your primary tasks, you could get yourself involved in many quests. You get your quests by talking to NPCs (Non-Player Character) and by completing those quests, you will be rewarded with stuff like ammunitions, food, special goods and so on. Besides quests, you could checkout the dead bodies that you come along, they leave clues to stashes that hold good stuff like medication, ammunitions, weapons or even a spanking new armor to help you in surviving the harsh environments.
Speaking of environment, the game renders the scene so beautifully it actually makes you FEEL like you’re there in Ukraine and beside being beautiful, the environment is also realistic – a totally believable and immersive environment! The environment involves time so you’ll experience changes from day to night and back to day again as you play. And yes, the game renders the day and night scenes according. And as if that’s not enough, the game also involves weather, so you get to see leaves being blown by heavy winds and even lightning streaks at the horizon when there’s a storm. Even the NPCs move around the place and they could even pick fights with one another or even engage in animal hunting.
While being a great game in story and environment, the game can be quite tedious as you have to criss-cross the regions, from one end to another. Some quests requires you to visit other regions and you have to make your way back to the original region or whichever the place the quest requires you to report to. To make things worse, some quests time limit. Fortunately you can always re-initiate the quests should you fail to accomplish them within the stated time limit.
As travelling on foot was not tedious enough, your character has a carrying-weight limitation. The more he carries, the faster his energy drains, the slower he recovers. The game forces you to micro-manage your inventory as carrying too much goods would render your character immobile. Don’t worry about leaving things behind, the goods you left behind will remain there for good. 🙂 Great huh! So if your inventory is overloaded, you could leave a bunch of items some place and come back for the rest some other time – assuming you’re willing to put up with the travelling that is.
Now, back to the energy issue, your character’s energy also affects movement ability. Get exhausted and your character won’t even move! So let’s say you’re being attacked and you decide to jump around hoping to avoid being clawed, it’ll work for a while but when exhaustion kicks in – you’re SITTING DUCK! You can choose to run but that tires him faster but you’ll eventually face exhaustion. Annoying? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Realistic? Yes, which makes it quite nice.
One last thing about travelling annoyance is that the path that you cleared before may not remain cleared. So the next time you come around there could be some hostiles hanging around, this makes the game more interesting as you have to be careful the path you thread.
What about combat? The combat is tough even in Novice mode, some scenes require quite a few reload of your saved games (Yes, save before engaging in any combat!) Your guns vary in accuracy and they also recoil. Shooting targets from afar is tough, close combat is even tougher as your character is not one that could last many bullets. A few well placed shots are enough to take you down.
The AI on the other hand is cranky, one moment they can be pretty good and keep their aim on you like hawk and suddenly they could just stand in a line like dancing Y.M.C.A. 🙂 Look at the screenshot, can you believe I could actually get that close to a hostile group and take a photo of them? It’s a joke really. There was also one scene that all I did was camp at a corner of the house and with the few bullets I managed to have a pile of more than 5 dead soldiers at the entrance of the house. Pretty neat since I killed most of them with headshots.
Graphics & Sound
The game is graphically stunning. At maximum details, the game brought my graphic card to a crawl but the detail of the environment was beyond words. The game still looks nice even on the lowest possible setting. The game engine renders the scenes beautifully, the light sources affect the texture, color and shadow of each and every object. Trees and terrain when the skies are clear look different from when there’s a storm around.
I applaud the developers for putting effort into details and making it such an enjoyable experience. As mentioned in the previous section, the game involves weather leaves being blown by heavy winds and lightning streaks at the horizon. In dark scenes, you get to use flash lights and night vision goggles and yes, they were very well done as you can see in the screenshots and these aren’t even at maximum detail setting. The objects light up and cast shadows according to light sources.
Check out the comparison between the minimum, medium and maximum settings in the pictures below.
The sound was great too, crackling of fire, sound of the rain, the wind, the breeze and the storm, bullets firing and radio chatters. It’s all good.
Online / Network Gaming
The connection to various gaming servers weren’t as friendly as games like Battlefield 2142, Command & Conquer 3, Need For Speed series, Supreme Commander and many others. I tried connecting to a few servers, all I get is the game hanging there. Can’t CTRL + ALT + DEL and can’t ALT + TAB either so forced reboot it is.
LAN gaming was fine though, too bad there doesn’t seem to be any bots available so if you do start a server you’re just going to run around alone and having nothing to shoot at and just admire the details. Take it as a time to revel in the beauty of the game environment.
Despite being a game with great graphics, great physics engine and great storyline – the game is an absolute failure in quality.
During my course of playing this game, I face countless freezes itself that often requires forced reboot, rarely do I get to CTRL + ALT + DEL and can’t ALT + TAB back to desktop.
I think I’ve done at least 30 forced reboot and it takes around 3 minutes to complete the reboot and load the last saved game, which also I’ve not factored the time lost as I need to re-play the part before the game freeze. How much time wasted you say? How about the time I spent to search for a probably cause or solution? The search was fruitless anyway, it’s when you search the problems that you realize how bad is the quality of the product.
I noted that a diskette symbol appears at the lower right side of the screen each time the freeze occurs and that’s the only clue I have. The manual and the official website has no information on what the symbol meant, searching the Internet didn’t help either. After some observation, I noticed that the symbol only appears as I move my character and new objects appear on screen, so my common sense tells me that it’s loading something, could be textures or objects – whatever it was, it’s not helping me and it shouldn’t be happening this way.
I’ve tried all things that I could think of, varying the graphic details, reverted to original graphic card drivers, reverted everything to stock speed and even to have a clean install of Windows XP with SP2 – it didn’t help. In fact with a clean install of Windows XP it was even worse as I couldn’t even start the game, some how this was solved after I installed Microsoft’s .NET Framework. Nothing in the manual mentioned that I needed that.
Finally I decided to do something that I don’t think I’d be doing – play at lowest possible graphic detail. Strangely enough, from then onwards I could game a whole hour or so without any freeze. Unfortunately that doesn’t solve it completely as I still do come by freezes, only at a far less frequency. So now I’m able to play the game, at lowest possible detail despite my graphic card being more than capable of handling more details.
And as if that was not ridiculous enough, the patches will screw up your saved game. YES! You heard that right! Initially I was playing the default version and made quite some progress in the game, however the problems that occurred prompted me to look into patches. Gladly I downloaded those patches in hope that the problem would go away but instead I ended up with another problem – my saved games immediately became incompatible! Yup, restart it was.
Sure, I could install the default version and continue where I last left it but that wouldn’t be wise as Version 1.0001 patch fixes 68 problems and Version 1.0003 fixes 31 other problems. Given the choice, I deem it wiser to restart than to be left with at least 100 other problems around. Mind you Version 1.0001 patch doesn’t fix only 68 problems as point #68 says “Various other issues.”
Judging by what I love about this game, I’d easily give it a perfect 10. It’s just a pity that in my little over 20 years of gaming experience I’ve never come by a game that fails quality this badly. I’d rather have good product released late. It was so disappointing that I nearly abandoned the game and I wouldn’t hesitate to even give a 0 because of that.
I do understand that not everyone faces the same problem, the game is plagued with bugs. Buy this game at your own risk, if the game runs well with your rig then it’s probably one of the best titles to come by! Despite facing such problems and forced to run at low details, I love this game very much as I think it’s a great game with an engaging storyline and the realistic environment.
PC Specifications Used
Processor : AMD X2 3600+ @ 2.5ghz
RAM : 1GB DDR2 667
Graphic Card : Colorful X1950GT
Monitor : 20″ Dell Ultra-sharp Wide-screen LCD
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