S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

aka: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Cień Czarnobyla, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Oblivion Lost, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, Stalker
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(prices updated 10/2 4:44 PM )

Description official descriptions

The Ukrainian town of Chernobyl was the site of a severe nuclear accident in 1986. In an alternate timeline, following attempts to repopulate the area, another unexpected accident occurred twenty years later. By the year 2012 the area, which was dubbed "Zone", has become hazardous with mutated animals, bandits, and mysterious anomalies. These anomalies differ in their effects, but they all have one thing in common - they are deadly. Despite that, the Zone attracts scientists, explorers and scavengers (known as "stalkers") hunting for valuable artifacts. Military organizations have been formed, fighting for dominance in the Zone.

The player controls a stalker who has lost his memory in an accident. After being rescued by another stalker, he discovers himself in a village located on the outskirts of the Zone, with only a single clue: he has a note in his PDA telling him to kill an unknown person with the nickname "Strelok".

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is inspired by the science fiction novel Picnic on the Roadside (1977) by the Soviet Russian authors, the brothers Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky. The game is an open-ended first-person shooter featuring a thirty square kilometer playing area which the player is free to explore. There are also many characters the protagonist can communicate with; in this sense the game has similarities to RPGs, although there are no attributes or skills to improve. The protagonist may also develop relations with NPCs. Helping a faction will boost his reputation with it, which may result in better items for purchase or information, while attacking a member of said faction will ruin his reputation and prompt other members to attack him. Along with the main quest, the player can also complete side quests, some of which have time limits.

The player has to carefully manage the protagonist's inventory, not only because there is a carrying capacity, but also because weapons and armor degrade as they are used. The player can also use artifacts, which can be usually found near anomalies, to his benefit. Artifacts offer different kinds of bonuses, but often have negative side effects: for instance, an artifact could improve the hero's bullet resistance but also increase his radiation level.

The game features ragdoll physics, destructible surroundings, HDR lightning, dynamic weather, day and night cycles, and multiplayer for up to 32 players.

Spellings

  • 迷失地带 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

237 People (193 developers, 44 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 81% (based on 57 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 110 ratings with 6 reviews)

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a great game, which unfortunately falls short of the mark for attaining “classic” status.

The Good
Several years ago, I remember reading an article in a magazine about this game when it was in early development.

The details at the time were sketchy, but it described something about the game being focussed on individuals called Stalker’s, who were all in competition to recover rare artifacts from the most dangerous areas in a post nuclear holocaust Chernobyl, and that you would trade these valuable artifacts with merchants for better equipment, food, and so on.

The most chiefly important characteristics of the game at this point seemed to be realism - eating, drinking, sleeping, fatigue and other such factors that present themselves in day to day life. The fact you were competing with other Stalker’s in “real-time”, so to speak, built an impression in my mind of a game which would actually have a genuine kind of immediacy, unlike every other conventional shooter where a bunch of scripts simply pop up at pre defined moments, where the game doesn’t move unless you do. Moreover, it certainly left me intrigued, and the name “Stalker” would rattle around in the back of my mind for the subsequent years that would pass.

It seemed for a time that the game had become vapourware, and would remain in obscurity, and ultimately would have the same fate as the paradox which is ‘Duke Nukem Forever’. History of course dictated, the game would come to fruition, and a big part of this was due to THQ’s intervention, becoming the games’ eventual publisher.

Granted this was a mammoth project, very ambitious in terms of scale and complexity, and the developer - GSC Game World, would get a huge leg up. Of course, compromises were to be made in certain areas of the game-play which would dramatically impact the end product.

Much of the original concepts and ideas that were initially conceived have been retained, and hold true in some capacity for the most part here.

When the game actually begins, you find yourself (the protagonist) with no memory of past events, and your most significant distinguishing quality is the initials S.T.A.L.K.E.R. branded on your forearm. You are only known as the marked one, and are in essence a blank canvas, so that YOU, the player, may develop and mould the character, by the decisions, actions and choices made throughout the course of the game. Well, this is the intention at least, and here I will talk about some of the positive aspects of this.

The way in which you interact with other characters here for me was in a way reminiscent of graphic adventure games from long ago, an acceptable broad example might be, Lucas Arts’ title ‘Monkey Island’, where you carry on conversations with others by reading dialogue, (except here much of it can also be heard through voice-over actors), and subsequently you are given a multiple-choice selection of phrases to respond with.

In some instances which call for a conscious response, you select the one you feel best suits your own characteristics, or whatever you want. Much unlike the aforementioned game, there are no wrong or right answers, but you see my meaning. I suppose more apt and juxtapose examples of this particular game facet would be found in Monolith’s role-playing shooter ‘No One Lives Forever’.

As a usual conventional trait for a game with role-playing elements, you can receive important tasks or even little side jobs from characters in the game, the latter of which includes things like recovering a lost item, protecting a camp, gathering intelligence, and so on.

These jobs usually have a time limit to complete, and you are rewarded in some way if you are successful - whether it is paid in ammunition, medical supplies, artifacts, or whatever, depending on whom you are dealing with.

There is no limit to the amount of jobs you accept to take upon yourself, and a PDA is utilised to organise all of the information you take in during the game. Keeping track of everything going on can be quite daunting at first, but familiarity with the games’ interface settles this.

You will generally discover that there are two basic types of NPC in this game, the first being loners, which are neutral to all others. The second, are members of factions, which all have quite uniform beliefs, and attitudes towards other factions and groups.

The most interesting part of this side of things is, that if you decide to lean towards one faction in particular. That is, do a lot more than just one passing gesture, you will become an adopted member to that collective, and their friends, whether it is in the immediate area, or found scattered all over the game world, suddenly become your allies, and their enemies conversely become aggravated by your presence.

In truth, this proves to be a double-edged sword, on one hand, your new friends will alleviate certain parts of the game which would normally be more testing, because you will have a tactical advantage, with strength in numbers. While other instances will see you in increasingly hostile territories without assistance, which will make your life increasingly difficult.

This is one of the games’ strongest assets. That is, the ability to give all players’ a uniquely different experience. So moreover, if you were to talk to some others who had played the game, you would come to find each person would have a separate and unique tale to tell about their own Stalker exploits. Of course, this isn’t to say there are strong plot development constants in the game, because there are, but the little things make this game so enduring.

How you organise you inventory in this game is very similar to how it is handled in Ion Storm’s classic Deus Ex. Though the chief difference here is that instead of being limited by space, which is for the aforementioned game, you are instead limited by weight. How you attain all the different items is just like in the aforementioned game, you can steal, loot dead bodies, buy and trade with others, and so on.

So here, again you can carry many different weapons and items -, e.g. pistols, machine guns, foods and drink, armour vests, artifacts, and so on. But, if you carry too many things you will get completely weighed down, and will not be able to move anywhere.

You have the ability to run, which is complimented by an endurance gauge which depletes while partaking in this physically demanding pastime. The heavier loaded you are with inventory, the quicker it will exhaust your stamina, resulting in puffing and panting, and eventually take all the spring from your step.

Another facet of the game I’ll touch on is how artifacts can be utilised, other than trading them. All artifacts have special properties which will affect the wearer in a multitude of ways. You use artifacts by attaching them to your belt, and this is done in the inventory, and you have a handful of slots to put them in. While artifacts have positive and negative reactions, you can try to strike a good balance to suit every situation, e.g. some will provide protection from puncture wounds, but subsequently make you more vulnerable to anomalies.

For those long treks across the zone expanse, you could use all artifacts that have endurance enhancing properties, which will allow you to run indefinitely, provided you are travelling light.

Alternatively, you can also drink soda will give you a burst of energy which will top up your endurance gauge, which is particularly handy when you are fleeing a battle which was a bit hot to handle.

Stalker has the most advanced combat I have experienced in a shooter which isn’t strictly a veritable sim. Enemy AI is fairly advanced, where your opposition will make most of their surroundings, taking cover from fire, employing tactics such as flanking, ambushes, and so on.

The weapons in the game are very authentic in look and feel, and up the stakes in terms of realism. Guns of certain build quality can be directly affected by environmental conditions, such as dusty winds, and this will cause frequent jamming in certain firearms, which will as a result requires you to constantly reload the weapon. This is certainly something which hasn’t been touched on very often in this genre, and adds some new and interesting dynamics to the proceedings.

Other ways in which the rather unpredictable and erratic conditions of the zone, present some very interesting twists in play, for instance, you may be in a firefight with some bandits, and suddenly they could be swept into an up draught of a cyclone anomaly, which operates in a real-world fashion, and isn’t discriminating about picking up any and all movable things which get in its way, and this includes you.

This game has perhaps the most expansive world ever seen in a shooter, and the freedom of movement could be considered something akin to Crytek’s ‘Far Cry’, though to an even larger scale. In stark contrast to that lush and somewhat beautiful game world however, this is somewhat sombre, with a dominating bleak and desolate atmosphere. Though this, is most certainly the intent, however. The world is full of danger in many forms, is inherently mysterious, and draws forth different instinctive and emotional responses from the player.

Visuals are a definite high point for Stalker. The ‘X-Ray’ game engine is a technical marvel, which brings forth a genuinely astounding level of depth. Everything from dilapidated stone housing structures, gigantic industrial expanses, acres upon acres of foliage, dank and ominous marshes, - are all visually striking and suitably well realised. Environmental conditions like day turning to night, and other real-world factors convey an aura of authenticity not previously touched on in a game of this type.

The audio side of things is well catered for also, with some very atmospheric effects. Ambient sounds include hauntingly eery samples of distant screams of perils and unsettling roars of howling beasts. Other sounds like the pitter-patter of rain, thunder and lighting, gusting winds and all other incidental effects are convincing, and go to great lengths in bringing the world to life.

The Bad
Your relationships with other individuals in the game world are rather black and white, and are essentially reduced to their statuses towards you being any of the three states I mentioned earlier - neutral, friends of foes. Sadly, you cannot ask friends for assistance, or command them in any rudimentary way whatsoever. They will always simply adhere to their own individual scripts. The illusion that the NPC’s freely go about their business does in fact convince to an extent, but limiting factors’ slip through the cracks, and you can’t be oblivious to the fact that there are in fact “scripts” being utilised, and reactions to your presence are simply to take no action, assist or attack you.

When you are hungry, a fork and knife icon is shown in the bottom right corner of the display, and if you don’t succumb to your hunger pangs, it very slowly depletes your vitality gauge. So in essence eating is just reduced to a little bit of tedious micro management. I’m not quite sure where I am going with this, but, um, a pork and bean’s noshing-simulator may have been interesting.

As this game’s presents a free roaming approach to accessing the game world, this presents its own problems. The thirty so kilometres of level scape has been broken into several sections, which means how you have directly affected the different individuals, environment and so on, has to be kept track of, and while the game succeeds in accomplishing this for the most part, there are some holes which can detract from your feeling of virtual reality, as it was.

The missions that appeared when you entered a new area for the first time, would suspiciously reappear every time you revisited the same area. The same could be said for jobs available that you had accepted, and whether or not you succeeded or failed, the task would be presented again regardless. On the same note, this goes for enemies you defeated, which will magically be back again to repeat the process every subsequent time you reenter the section. Some of this tediousness was however, in the games’ defence, rectified to some degree in a later patch.

Some times in this game you may hit stumps which leave you wondering as what to do next, and moreover wandering around aimlessly. For the most part this is perhaps attributable to some of the character dialogue requiring more persistence on your part than is suggested by the lax form of the conversations.

There is absolutely no transport or any kind of usable vehicle. This is sort of a cheat in itself, for if the game were so inclined, the main objectives presented could be finished in an unacceptably short time. I would have liked to see, even if only in a very minimal capacity, some kind of centralised transportation, to save you some tedium on those really long treks which can be a bit boring. For example, employing the railway trains which are apparent in the game, but are instead strictly decorative.

In terms of acceptable system requirements, Stalker is really quite demanding. I tried playing the game with my then existing Pentium 4 system with 512 meg of ram, and an AGP Geforce 6200 card, and the experience was just gruelling. Incessant pre caching of the virtual memory halts the game at every turn, which completely took the sting out of the play, and drove me to insanity. A thousand dollars later, with a dual-core system with one gigabyte of ram, and a decent PCI express video card, I managed to derive a pleasant experience.

Admittedly many elements of the game which were to bring new levels of immersion and realism forward has been substantially reduced in importance, and the game is ultimately more in the favour of shooting at things. Whether or not you will find this to be ultimately - resounding plus, off-putting, or just simply generates a feeling of indifference, depends entirely on your own viewpoint.

I personally had expectations of a more deep experience, and this is where those compromises I mentioned earlier on hurt the most. The things that were to define this game uniquely have been downplayed to what is generally accepted, rather than taking the risk of creating something that may have been truly innovative and original, and perhaps even genre defining.

The Bottom Line
Biased reflections aside, my bottom line is that I enjoyed Stalker. It makes for very compulsive gaming, and can easily consume any and all of your free time. The game world is very distinctive, with a great deal to explore and take in, and proves very easy to get lost in.

You can get as far side tracked as you like, and dodge the games’ grand scheme in favour of side missions and general exploration for absolutely ages. And I think this is the biggest part of Stalker - the freedom and expansiveness it brings forward, and not the often somewhat plodding and obvious plot developments dispersed throughout.

The role-playing side of Stalker is rather basic, and never reaches the level of complexity brought forward by earlier first-person perspective outing - Deus Ex, which I still feel to this day is the most complete package in this regard.

Stalker is an entertaining game, which has a unique atmosphere, and some original touches, but I don’t think can be considered a classic in my opinion, because it just isn’t consistently strong enough in all areas.

This is GSC Game World’s biggest title to date, and certainly shows a lot of promise, so I think future entries expanding on this universe should go from strength to strength, and Stalker will remain a title to keep an eye on for the years to come.

Windows · by Nick Drew (397) · 2007

This one creates history!

The Good
Nobody would really expect S.T.A.L.K.E.R. to be such good as it really is! Everyone, including myself, was charmed by the post apocalyptic element it boasted, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is much much more in reality! At a first glance it looks like a shooter and in its heart it is. But it's a different kind of shooter from what we've been mostly playing so far. GSC Game World is known to have produced a couple of, let's say, mediocre shooter games, along their Cossacks strategy series. Nobody was really expecting S.T.A.L.K.E.R. to have such an impact, and most importantly such depth!

Following an imaginary scenario which is based and well bonded on real historical facts, namely the 1985 catastrophe caused by the nuclear fusion in one of the reactors located at Chernobyl in the (then) Soviet Union, the game lets you wander around the area of Chernobyl, looking for precious artifacts and various other items which could be sold at the local dealers in order to make profit. And that is just one of the tasks you have to achieve in order to survive. Why? Making profit will allow you to purchase more powerful weapons and protective equipment, more ammo, etc. Actually you begin the game from such a dealer where you've been brought in to his quarters totally unconscious. After the intro story you're getting out to the real world of the Zone, which is the name for the area around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor where radiation has created an anomalous world, almost alien. Now, the Zone is what gives this game a heart and blood to live. According to the imaginary scenario, the Zone is the perimeter around the fused reactor, in which radiation has caused mutation by the years to the remaining local inhabitants (human and animal) and turned them hostile to the rest of the world. This perimeter is known to be expanding day by day and of course the Ukrainian government has sealed the Zone to outsiders and the matter is regarded as top secret... sort of... Since Stalkers are those people who are ready to gamble their lives and enter the Zone in search for precious artifacts. Some others are simply looking for answers and the Zone will offer you quite too many mysteries and secrets to reveal.

As I mentioned in the beginning Stalker is a first-person shooter game, it actually involves some tactical elements, a bit of strategic thinking and some trading as well. Think of it as Elite, or X: Beyond the Frontier set on earth as an FPS. For one the actual terrain off the game is quite huge. The game is not played in a linear form but the player has the freedom to go where ever he desires to and complete missions whenever he desires to. Of course you need to take missions and accept some assignments in order to gain money and most importantly to unveil the story and the secrets of the Zone. All this freedom and non-linearity flavor the game to be more a survival simulator rather than a cold shooter. You have to learn and adapt to the Zone's rules if you want to survive.

Aside from the lively elements of the game's environment that have codes of survival that you have to follow, there are the living entities which you come across and interact with... either with your weapons, or in more friendly manners. As I said above, the Zone has it's rules, so do the various inhabitants that populate it. And quite logically, since this place although being on earth, it is alien to the majority of people, those living on the inside have formed clans, in order to help themselves in surviving the wild environment. Each clan has it's own rules and they all differ from each other in many ways, but they all try to make it through the next day alive. People on the zone are all kinds of things: military, mafia, para-military, freelance stalkers, even mutants and zombies, you name it! Make sure you know what everybody is up to and don't cross their path on the wrong hour, otherwise you're dead meat. Simple as that. The strongest and smartest survives also in the Zone.

Following that model, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a real life simulator. Whatever you do on others creates a logical and true reaction. I'll give you a short example to see how deep the guys at GSC has gone with it: It's about dusk and I wander around the village I've started off the game. I spot a military patrol walking on the southern road of the village. I also spot their assault rifles, AK47s and I'm thinking that it will be nice if I had one of those instead of my pistol. After I ambush them and a short battle I get their stuff from the dead bodies and quickly rush back to the village to sell the 2 extra AK47s I got from them. When I get out of the local merchant's cellar I hear gun shots and everybody in the village is in panic, shooting! What happened? There's a military camp nearby and as soon as they realized that their patrol was eliminated they sent an assault force to take out the village as punishment! For that, some of the local Stalkers begun shooting at me, as they acknowledged that I was the cause for the military raid on the village! Truly an authentic reaction! Amazing! Added to that is the fact that, as a human being you have limitations as well. You simply cannot carry around everything you find lying on the ground, with the hope to get all your findings back to the trade guy and summon a huge amount of profit. Whatever you carry on your back pack increases your weight, therefore lessens your stamina and makes you get tired more easily. So think twice before picking up something, cause if you're already over the limit margin chances are that you won't be able to move... and that is lethal in combat. Grab things according to your survival needs and not for profit making.

The scenery is beautifully modeled and textured with many details added and a certain amount of realism is achieved by real-time HDRI rendering. Thanks to the game's X-Ray engine the visuals will produce some major jaw-drops, only if you have a high end spec machine, but still without the full settings the game looks appealing as well. The graphics of stalker are so amazing that they truly beat any other shooter that I have seen lately. A day - night cycle is being followed and the game runs on time as well, meaning that some missions require you to complete them in a set amount of days or hours. Of course the time passes a lot quicker than real time, for example a game-time minute is 3-4 real time seconds long. Also time should be a factor to your mission approach. For example if you prefer more stealthy approaches, then the night must be your friend, but beware of the mutants as they become more active in dark.

Regarding the enemy AI, this is equally good, as the enemy takes aim and uses the surrounding scenery to hide and react differently to your actions as well as the surroundings and the climate! Hostile elements do come in many forms; they are either human, animal, mutant or the weird physical phenomena found in the Zone, widely known as 'anomalies'. You really have to be alerted at all times if you want to survive in Stalker.

Acquiring stuff for your survival and for profit, is quite logical and very realistic in STALKER. You can either steal from the bodies of your dead enemies or friendly characters, or find stuff hidden in boxes, crates and other containers. You can also find stuff based on information you acquire while scavenging dead bodies: for example if some bandit has hidden his loot on a box somewhere the coordinates of he box are uploaded to your PDA at the time you scavenge his carcass, so you can go and grab it for yourself. Finders keepers!

Talking of your PDA, everybody in the Zone carries a PDA with him at all times. PDA stores information on your missions, marks locations on your mini-map, displays an arrow as to where you must head in order to complete a mission, has info about your status and other useful things such as your diary of your Zone living days experience.

Finally on the sound front, everything is excellently sampled and done. The environment sounds are superb, it is as if you really being there. Whether you're on the open country you can hear the winds, the rain, the birds and other animals. An excellent job there! But the best comes when you get inside the X18 and X16 underground labs! I really don't want to spoil it for you, but make sure you avoid playing these levels without having a light on inside your room! You will definitely freak out from the sound effects and the thousands of other cool implementations the guys at GSC came out with to enliven our gaming experience!

Finally the voice acting is simply amazing! The characters you interact with speak English with a heavy Russian accent and flavor. Also they act excellently, for example I always laugh hearing the pissed-off commander of the military camp nearby the starting village. He really sounds like he's pissed-off with his miserable life. The rest of the world speaks in Russian. Although you might not understand a thing from what they say, it certainly immerses you to the atmosphere the game wants to portray.

The Bad
I can't really think of anything that annoyed me so much in this title, other than the fact that a very few times it gets a bit confusing as to what exactly you have to do in order to proceed, this will have you wandering around a bit.

There's no quicksave option. Thankfully there's a save option if you press escape during the play and access the save option from the menu that appears.

Another fact that bugs me personally, is whenever I clear out an area from thugs or mercenaries, they keep coming back and re-occupy the place the next time you're around. So every time you pass through these places you have to gunfight your way through again. Some times it's avoidable through stealth approaches, but as soon as you get spotted you're in trouble, especially if you're loaded with goodies for trading. Still, if you're coming home empty and looking to find a few rifles for the local trader, beating these guys down is not a bad idea.

The game has some bugs when you have the inventory screen on and you want to transfer goods to a box or to the trader for selling them, which can be found by scrolling down on your list. For example ammo that always occupies the lowest spots on your list. If you click once only a small amount gets transferred to the other container (it can also be the trader) and your list goes back to it's top, therefore you have to scroll down again and click once again to transfer another small amount and again and again. Now imagine if you have 1000 bullets on your backpack and you want to keep only 300 on you so you don't carry all of them around... In general, the inventory menu needed more work as the scrolling itself is also a bit buggy etc

The Bottom Line
Well if there's one thing that must be said about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. that would be that its release created history in the shooter game genre. It is so beautiful and appealing and much more different than the rest of the pack, that surely other companies will follow this example and evolute the genre. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is certainly a title that we'll be referring to for a long time now.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. offers more than just shooting down bad guys. It offers you the option to shoot down good guys as well, suffer the consequences of your actions and survive if you can. The game offers you more than one ending, according to how you played it and the missions that you have completed. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is the best wild life survival simulator at the moment. Compared to the enjoying gaming experience and it's appealing post apocalyptic theme, this title has a huge withstanding value and a long lasting life cycle. I have the game installed in my hard drive for 3 months now and always keep coming back for some action, even if there are other games that draw my main interest at the moment.

Certainly to play such a game, with such complexity of constraints and graphical novelty, you really need a good machine. And I really recommend an upgrade, if not just for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. more power comes always handy, especially in games. It should run smoothly on machinery with Nvidia 7600 and above and with more than 1GB of RAM.

In all, an all-round excellent production that delivers the goods in such an outstanding and enjoyable way, that you'll certainly keep this installed for a long time. Make sure you're got the power to run this though.

Windows · by SifouNaS (1309) · 2007

[v1.0] I don’t speak Russian, but I speak S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

The Good
Review Version: v1.0
Review Date: July 28, 2009.
Review Length: 10 page(s).
Game Version: v1.0
Tech Specs Used: Intel Core 2 6300 1.86 Ghz CPU, 3 GB Memory, 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT Video Card.

Difficulty Setting Used: Master.
Finished: Yes, 4 out of (rumor has it) 7 possible endings:
[1] I want the zone to disappear; [2] I want to be rich; [3] Join the C-Conscious; [4] Destroy the C-Conscious.
Last time played: June, 2009.

Preferred main weapon: Vintar BC Silent Sniper Rifle.
Preferred side arm: Big Ben (Special).
Preferred artifact: Mama’s Beads (5% bulletproof cap).
Faction supported: Tried Freedom; Freedom and Duty; and finally killed all of them. :)
Favorite Pastime: Blind dog hunting with grenades.
Most feared enemy: Bloodsuckers and anyone with a rocket launcher.
Last or highest statistics: 3486
[Stalkers killed: 2050; Mutants killed: 796; Quests completed: 697]

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Foreword
Note: This section may be skipped

First person shooters aren’t really my kind of genre. Despite having periods in my life where one of the best enjoyments before returning to the dorm was having the highest frag kill count at the end of the day, a certain encounter with a “sniper” on multiplayer games who head-shot me with a Desert Eagle pistol from way across the map made me decide that despite his excellent shooting skills, that bloke seriously needs to get a life. Ironic, since I was the one carrying the sniper rifle. :p But more importantly, it seems that I should get a life too. Or so I thought. :)

Frankly, if I knew what this game was about, I probably wouldn’t get it in the first place. I was “fooled” by the incorrect genre listing on MobyGames that this game is an RPG [correction pending]. So, I bought on the premise that I’m getting a game where I shoot things and develop my character so I can shoot more things. ;p

Apparently S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has reached a certain amount of fame among the would-be-gaming nerds and has even been rumored to be nominated for the most prestigious award in our nerd slang: a classic. Surely such a rumor must be confirmed, if only to dismiss the possibility that this game is yet another marketing hype. But then again, apparently the Russians developed this game, and as far as Eastern Europe (or Asia according to MobyGames, see forums for further details :p) is concerned, they don’t have enough cash flow to fund such a marketing scheme, additionally also not enough dumb adolescents to actually believe it even if they did. :p But then again, the publisher is THQ.

Introduction Guide
Note: This section may also be skipped

If you haven’t played the game and would like to know what it’s about, here a rough summary on what to expect. It’s a First-Person Shooter (FPS), which means that you shoot things from an angle where you cannot see yourself (i.e. First-Person). As a shooter, you can expect certain standard issue weaponry from N.A.T.O. or the Warsaw Pact. Sci-fi weapons exist (though few), and other specially upgraded weapons. Besides shooting things, gameplay usually consists on finishing the main quests, or if the player so chooses, finishing sub-quests (for money, or other item rewards) offered by various Non-Player Characters (NPCs).

And in case you’re wonder, yes, the game has sniper rifles. Whoopee!

The venue is set in the area surrounding the remnants of Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 2011. The plot contains fictional elements of the “what-if” variants in regard to life forms being effected by highly contaminated radioactive waste, to the point where their genes are altered, ultimately turning them into monster-like mutants. It may contain a mild horror theme, but then again, I’m a wuss when it comes to dark corridors with strange noises. :p

The fallout of Chernobyl created a contaminated area immediately quarantined by the military. Anomalies started to emerge in the “Zone,” as well as valuable “artifacts” (items with somewhat magical-like properties, created by the anomalies) sought by the scientific community. Although under quarantine, due to roaming mutants, contamination and whatever secret projects rumored to be conducted in the Zone, many fool-hardy individuals, dubbed as stalkers, brave the zone to obtain these artifacts and sell them to the highest bidder.

Some of these stalkers later became organized into factions. Some factions may be befriended (by completing quests), thus offering additional quests or weapons/items for sale. Each NPC is a member of a particular faction. Killing an NPC will decrease the friendliness of the mentioned faction. Reputation ranges from Friend to Enemy. The “enemy reputation” will warrant members of the faction to shoot you on sight. Excluding the mutants, there are 6 humanoid factions: Loner, Duty, Freedom, Military, Bandits, and Monolith. Loners are technically non-faction. Killing them only makes enemies with their immediate friends within a line of sight. Duty and Freedom offer quests and hate each other’s guts. Befriending one (choice depending) may result in the other faction disliking you. The Military, Bandits and the Monolith factions are always considered enemies, and reputation towards them cannot be improved.

The science fiction (sci-fi) element of the game is anomalies and artifacts. Anomalies are er…anomalies that seem to defy the basic laws of physics. Anomalies usually can be visually seen, for example by a curious gust of wind in a certain spot, which almost looks supernatural in nature. Anomalies are dangerous, different anomalies may inflict different ways of damaging you or enemies/NPCs foolish enough to venture near it. Artifacts are er…artifacts created by anomalies. These artifacts contain properties which will affect your character. Most artifacts have bonuses with a certain price to pay for those bonuses. For example, an artifact when equipped may offer a slight resistance towards bullets, at the cost of radiation building up in you (thus, gradually damaging your health). Another different artifact-type may gradually decrease radiation, but lower your resistance towards fire. Thus, equipping several different artifacts may overall achieve maximum bonus for minimum cost. Rare artifacts however, often have no disadvantages, but rare in this game usually means there is only one or two throughout the entire game. Up to 5 artifacts may be equipped simultaneously.

Other features in the game are hunger daemons (not quite sure if you have to eat, never died of starvation before), inventory weight encumbrance, night/daytime cycling – weather included, one rifle slot plus one sidearm slot, armor, ability to carry bodies (not quite sure what for, but it’s fun regardless), ability to barter and talk with most NPCs, ability to store items, headshot kill, radioactive poisoning, and stamina (cannot run when tired). All of which, if I’m bored enough, will one day have their own MobyGames game group. :)

Endnote, the over-all goal in this game is to discover the mystery behind the Zone (besides shooting everything that moves strangely along the way).

First Impressions

Gloomy. Not really my favorite atmosphere, but then again we are talking about Chernobyl. A cheerful setting at an abandoned nuclear power plant would no doubt be inappropriate of moronic proportions. :)

Despite the grayness of it all, the gloom-atmosphere does indeed capture the imagination for person(s) residing outside the former iron curtain following its collapse. Broken down Soviet machinery, signs of economic recess, and remnants of Cold War weaponry. The only thing missing would be a drunken CIA agent in the background. :p

The beginning intro immediately captures this “idea,” a death truck filled with (obviously) dead bodies. Yep. This doesn’t look good. Especially when you figured out that you’re one of those bodies, though not very dead, despite qualifying as a Russian zombie, malnutrition and all.

So, now you’re in-game. The gloomy main menu itself gives the impression that your idea of a luxury meal is pile of stale canned meat. You’re alive, have amnesia (saw that one coming), and your only clue to your identity is to kill some Russian bloke. Sounds easy enough, how many Russians can there be in Chernobyl anyways? :p

Then it hits you. The music. Melancholy with a capital M. Yikes, if the atmosphere wasn’t depressing enough, the fantastic music would even make the most hardcore Russian zombie cry. Surprisingly, the music is mostly extraordinary every step of the way, especially when someone picks up a guitar and goes acoustic. Not the kind of feature I would expect from an FPS game, but regardless, whoever made those compositions has, without a doubt, great taste. Subjectively speaking of course.

Adventure - Russian-Style

Hello. Why do I have quests? Isn’t this supposed to be an FPS? Interesting. After talking to the first NPC, he offers quests to be completed. Hmm. This game may not turn out to be not-so-stupid after all. A lot of quests, which one to take? Maybe later. Explore first, missions second (except for the main quest). Standard rule in adventure gaming.

So, you’re a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Not quite sure what that means, but apparently it’s an equivalent to a scavenger. Makes sense. A lot of blokes here. All armed. His shot gun is longer that my pistol. That somewhat wrecks your self-esteem. Oh, well. How do I get out of this run-down village?

Amazing. First thing I noticed in the game when adventuring was the grass. All moving simultaneously as if the wind was blowing fiercely. The graphics throughout the game are surprisingly detailed, although this is more apparent in other areas such as building complexes. Well, at this point of my nagging, I’m sure you’ll get the idea, as far as atmosphere goes, this game has all of my 5 thumbs up. Thus far, you can travel around to most areas to your heart’s leisure. Certain areas are crawling with mutants, most animals are easy to kill; the humanoid versions can get quite nasty. Other places are filled with bandits or soldiers who make the game feel like an FPS again.

Many a non-linear style adventure game allows the player to travel anywhere, anytime, usually unrestricted. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is partially linear. Although the player can travel to certain areas, there really isn’t any point, as the main plot only develops by finishing assigned main quests. Although it depends on personal taste, I prefer “directed-storytelling” than a free flow story, if only to fully appreciate which direction the story teller wants the player to experience.

Shooting Things

Although the adventuring and quests part of the games, almost make the FPS elements of this game a sub-genre rather than a main-genre, don’t be fooled. The enemy artificial intelligence (AI) is pretty advanced, despite some bugs here and there. The AI pretty much knows how to maneuver and hide, sometimes even flanking. They do make use of obstacles, and usually prioritize (for those with guns) in finding cover rather than other FPS games where the AI just rushes forwards to you guns blazing.

Damage is realistic enough, depending on your armor and the weapon the enemy has, usually can hurt you pretty bad, pretty fast. So the Rambo-style of gameplay for adolescent eggheads by “shoot first”-“shoot fast”-“shoot a lot”-“aim later”, doesn’t really work very well in this game. And that's a good thing.

The Bad
After fully exploring the game, you can tell that this was one ambitious project. As far as the detailed graphics go, you can probably assume that heavy research was conducted for the game to be visually realistic. But as most ambitious projects usually end up in games, more than often, screw-ups do occur when meeting the deadline of not so patient but usually realistic publishers.

However, amazing enough, what blunders the game did have does not warrant any trashing enough to make me go berserk. So, well done, despite minor irritations here in there. A lot of irritations actually, but at least it didn’t make me want to throw out my monitor to the former Soviet Union.

Let’s get irritated.

Sub-Quest Screw-ups

Somewhat figured that this would be problematic. The sub-quests in the game is by far, the most problematic and bug-infested issue in the game. But despite the bugs, there are some features of the quests that are extremely annoying. Sub-quests have a time-limit. Usually 24 hour’s in-game time. Seems like a long while, not so when you’re busy gunning down bandits and soldiers while playing catch with mutant doggies and grenades. Time does fly fast when everywhere you go, you leave a trail of empty bullet shells, so when suddenly you realize you have only 3 hours left to finish the mission, and you haven’t even started, well, why use a time limit anyway? I’ll get it done, when it’s done. Having a “failed mission” in my statistic report does not bode well for my insides.

Other sub-quests are forced upon you without your consent. When entering certain areas, these missions require you to fend off attackers. Which is probably fine, but sometimes, to successfully complete the mission, you have to back-track off your intended course. Well, back to the majority of buggy screw-ups:

  • Some sub-quests cannot be completed regardless what you do;
  • Some sub-quests cannot be completed if you try an alternative method/sequence than the obvious one;
  • Some sub-quests seemed to have misplaced their intended objects or persons;
  • Some NPCs seem to have forgotten that I just completed the retrieve armor/weapon mission, that they are in possession of that item thus not really retrievable, yet they’re offering it again;
  • Some sub-quests require objects that are located in areas that I currently cannot enter. No warning either.
To be perfectly honest, most of the sub-quests are quite boring, if not for possible special items, or ego talking to increase your statistical score. Although, many sub-quests can be constantly repeated, this may give you something to do if you’re bored. NPC Barter Screw-Up The good news is you can barter with any NPC stalker in the game. The bad news is, they mostly have nothing or junk to trade. Not quite sure why no one wants to trade bullets. Certain bullet types are hard to find and may only be purchased at far off locations like at the Yantar science lab. Weapon Zooming Screw-Up The logic is easy enough. When you zoom in a weapon, you’d like to see the target from a closer and better perspective. Unfortunately, for weapons without a sniper scope, zooming in blocks your view, become the weapon is in the way. Unfortunately, the developers, although trying to make zooming realistic with real-life, failed to notice that firing a weapon with your hands and firing a weapon with a mouse are two different experiences. When you use a weapon in real-life, you hands can instinctually coordinate with your eyes and memorize the intended spot you want to fire. This does not apply in a virtual setting using a mouse. Firstly because you will have trouble identifying the exit point of the bullet, since there isn’t a little red dot, and for some weapons (usually side arms) it’s usually unclear where the exit point bullet is, as the gun barrel takes up a lot of space between you and the enemy. This is even worse when the weapon has a high recoil rate, constantly re-aiming to the same spot that you can’t see very well. Basically this issue ends if the ability to zoom-in is marked by a little red dot or cross-hair that should indicate the intended exit point of the bullet. It may not be realistic, but always remember that in games, gameplay comes first, realistic comes later. Weapon Delay Screw-Up When you change weapons, either to rifle or sidearm, there is a 2-3 second visual delay of you somewhat re-arming the weapon. Not much use for visual eye-candy when you’re in the middle of a gunfight. Especially irritating when you’re throwing a grenade, change the weapon, and you have to endure the 2-3 second clickety-click delay, when you only have that much time to shoot at an enemy suddenly emerging in front of you. Can’t tell you how many times I died in those 2-3 seconds. Grenade Throwing Screw-Up Well, technically it’s due to my poor throwing and aiming skills. But when you see an enemy, and the enemy meets the cross-hair, you’d think that the grenade would hit near the target and not the right-wall beside you (sometimes you wish you were left-handed :p). Get’s worse when you’re trying to throw grenades out the window. Interior decorating anyone? Blood red in currently in. :p Usual 3D Screw-Ups Still the same issues. Enemies or NPCs getting stuck in walls. Bullets penetrating walls. Walking through walls (though extremely rare, usually just the weapon is seen through the wall). Hmm. Why are the walls always problematic? Should’ve hired a better mason and more expensive bricks. :p PDA Map Screw-Up Scrolling/zooming in-out of the map leads you to areas you’d rather not go to. Scrolling forward zooms you out, scrolling backward zooms you in. Entering the map does not automatically center zoom on you, and when you roll-over you mouse over a quest-area symbol, and your player icon is too close to that quest area, you cannot view the description of the quest. Faction Screw-Up Unless you plan carefully, befriending the Freedom faction and completing their designated quests, will permanently become an annoying feature for you throughout the game. Why? Well, because if you suddenly find yourself having the Duty faction as the enemy, you won’t be able to enter the Bar town without a fight, since it’s crawling with Duty stalkers. Only did I discover later that completing quests from both factions in order to raise your reputation simultaneously can you get away with quests requiring you to murder either faction members. Inventory “not-really-a-screw-up” Feature Well, one of the first thing’s you notice is that you can only equip one rifle. Not quite sure why, since I’m carrying 2 assault rifles, one sniper rifle, one sub-machine gun, one shotgun, 2 side-arms and a lot of bullets. Rambo would be envious. So, to use a different weapon, you have to manually go into the inventory screen and replace the active rifle/sidearm. Nice to know that the game inventory doesn’t pause in single player, so much trying to change the weapon quickly. Stupid bandit popping-out of nowhere. Additionally, the encumbrance, though possibly realistic, is just darn irritating. Especially when you’re a greedy stalker like me, overburdened with Kalashnikov assault rifles to sell. Not able to run, walking obviously takes to long, and apparently you can’t hot-wire that abandoned tank either. The Chernobyl Screw-Up
Warning this section may contain possible spoilers!
Near the end-game, you finally reach Chernobyl. This is quite odd, since before entering here, there was a minor sequence where you could see this arena-like area swarming with Wild Boar mutants, anomalies, and Monolith snipers. Somehow it got skipped. Dang it. Anyway, the Chernobyl battlefield is the stuff FPS dreams are made of. Obviously, most developers have yet to realize that the most fascinating map is a big wide flat area with various minor obstacles. Not those dark damp confusing passageways…or is that just me? :p So, here we are. Military soldiers everywhere, Monolith disciples armed with snipers and rocket launchers, Military gunships flying around, either shooting you, getting blown to bits by the Monolith, or even more interesting, getting destroyed by anomalies. So what’s the problem? Three things:
    [1] Point of no return
    Well, a warning would be nice. I hate it when developers do that. Especially the first time around, I realized I just ran out of bullets (yikes, and I had 700 to begin with). :p [2] Hey, where are the others?
    If everyone is trying to reach the center of the zone, where did all the Loner, Duty, and Freedom stalkers run off to? Now we only the Military and Monolith factions around. Not that I’m really complaining, but I was expecting EVERYONE to be here. [3] Time Limit
    I really, really, really hate it when developers do that. It’s me against everyone else (choppers included), I’m a bit busy right now. Can I please kill everyone and everything in sight? I’m having the time of my life here, so why did you developers put in a %!#%!$ time limit here. Gawd, this was a severely disappointing plot design. Did I mention I really hate it when they do that?
    Throws a grenade to whomever came up with this stupid plot idea.
End-Game Plot Screw-Up
Warning this section contains spoilers!
Well, depending on your personal choices, it’s more likely you’ll end up with one of the minor Wish Granter endings. The problem with the Wish Granter endings is that you’ll probably have no idea what the overall plot was about in the first place, which obviously will make you feel severely empty with that “huh, that’s it?” sensation and look on your face when you finish the game. Additionally, entering the end-game phase, there’s this creepy Russian (I assume) voice-over in the background repeatedly saying something that sounds like this, though my hearing isn’t as what it used to be (in no particular order): Vaznragav-dyonbudi toyke-agil
Tvai-yat-zeisdis, idi-kamen-nye
Prishsloviene yavizhud tvaize lange
Tvaiyezelangi skor-itsfo-nietze, idi-kamen-nye
Puszagar lasam laviek, idi-kamen-nye
Idi-kamen-nye, tri-abri-tyosh-tosh-toza-sluzh-nuvayez
If you don’t understand Russian and additionally as there aren’t any sub-titles to help you out, then it’s basically your closest bet on what to say to Russian chicks. :p At least, dear comrade. Please tell me what idi-kameny-nye means. The most possibly satisfying ending (and takes much longer) is if you refuse to join the C-Conscious. Although the ending still sucks, the game is more satisfying if you are able to see more than 2 ending cut-scenes. Unfortunately, you probably won’t know there are multiple endings to begin with. Last but not Least After killing possibly several hundred stalkers, you have the best rifle around (personal preference), heavy armor, rare artifact, a butt-load full of bullets, and an almost perfect head-shot kill track record; you’re basically a biological Russian assault vehicle. Then you discover something lacking. There aren’t enough people to shoot at. :(

**The Bottom Line**
So, why is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. a classic? Simply because it takes the average FPS genre and pushes it to the next level. And suddenly you find an FPS that isn’t simply just about running around and shooting things. Enjoy your visit as a S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
The intelligent FPS game.
Na zdoróvye!

Windows · by Indra was here (20633) · 2009

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Discussion

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SEVA Suit cosplay Angel80 Feb 16th, 2015
Kruglov taking radiation measurement bug Angel80 Feb 15th, 2015
RPG? Patrick Bregger (290246) Aug 23rd, 2013
Patch Guide? Zovni (10504) Oct 17th, 2011
Essential mods? Late (77) Jul 29th, 2010

Trivia

1001 Video Games

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

PDA

At some point of the game, you find one PDA called "Gordon's PDA". Some people say you find it in some scientist's corpse, but it seems to be more random than that. Reading it, the owner tells how he was first in Black Mesa, then in some Russian town and then here in Ukraine. This is clearly a reference to the Half-Life series and the possibility of that series' protagonist Gordon Freeman visiting the zone as an stalker.

The funny thing is how Freeman looks like a total rookie trying to survive in the Zone, to the point that he even has to trade his crowbar for a can of food. The bottom line comes when you realizes that you have just killed Gordon Freeman (which is why you have his PDA), who hasn't been able to survive to the Zone after all.

References to the game

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl was parodied in an episode of "Die Redaktion" (The Editorial Team), a monthly comedy video produced by the German gaming magazine GameStar. It was published on the DVD of issue 08/2007.

Weapons

The survival knife that the player character (the man known as "Marked One") uses for fighting is almost certainly based on an HB-1-01, manufactured by the Russian company Izhmash. Information also contributed by 88 49, and Patrick Bregger.

Related Games

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  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. wiki
    The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. wiki (Game page on the .S.T.A.L.K.E.R. wiki, a Wikipedia style database about the .S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series (English))
  • Wikipedia
    Detailed information about the game on Wikipedia

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Mortimer.

OnLive added by firefang9212.

Additional contributors: Sciere, UV, MichaelPalin, Sicarius, lasttoblame, Cantillon, oct, Plok, FatherJack.

Game added March 28th, 2007. Last modified August 27th, 2023.