S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl Review
A detailed and atmospheric world with very impressive gameplay
Last time I played a game with a huge amount of potential I had great feelings about the future of the First Person Shooter genre. The game combined the shooting elements I loved with the choice and character development of an RPG. To my great disappointment the game did not kick start a revolution, it seemed as though most had just ignored it despite it’s stellar ratings. Deus Ex is the game I’m referring to and after almost 7 years the mix of genres has been drastically under utilized, only a handful of titles have been released with a similar playing style.
Enter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. from stage right, an eerie shooter set in an alternate universe around the Chernobyl area called “the zone”. The game seems to have come from an older time because even it’s very design, whereby the player is not being told exactly what to do, seems to comes from an older era. The game has fewer RPG elements when compared with Deus Ex but it does not suffer from it. You don’t need to worry about putting points in weapon classes only to have your options limited should you get a sniper rifle. Your experience is gained by your own use of weapons much like how standard shooters work. As you travel further into the zone enemies get harder and weapons found are much more dangerous. Most of the enjoyment comes from being able to choose how you want to approach quests and seeing how that choice changes the AI.
Of course the game is not a direct Deus Ex clone set in Chernobyl. The game world is far more open and you can travel between the connected levels any time you wish. The AI can also travel between these regions, this may be in order to strengthen numbers or to perform other quests as though you were not the center of the entire game world. It’s not uncommon to come back to a zone and see dead bodies strewn about, ones you did not shoot. Animals such as dogs within the zone move in packs and circle around dead Stalkers and require some different tactics to overcome.
The game’s direction does not suffer when you add this extra freedom and allow players to do side quests. There is a fairly clear path of main quests that the character follows and a PDA will regularly keep you up to date on them. This direction also includes more traditional corridor segments in underground areas. Atmosphere increases greatly during these underground sequences where there can be quite a high level of detail in the environments. If you are lucky enough to have a PC that can run it with dynamic lighting then you are in for a special treat. The whole game is lathered with atmosphere the chilling sounds in the distance, the dynamic weather and time of day system and the click of your Geiger counter as you enter an area high in radiation. Based on my experience I can only hope that games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. become commonplace. The key word I mentioned earlier is potential and despite being a great game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has so much more potential to become a masterpiece.
Our ratings for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl on PC out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)