• S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl Review



    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 now get ready, hero. Collect artefacts and trade, grope your path and keep an eye on the rear, catch roentgens and fight 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.
    Yes this is a 3 year old game but I couldn't resist and hey, better late then never.

    Story



    I'll tell the plot in the order it was told. And yeah this review is complete with spoilers. Warning, the plot is very long, but definitely in a good way in my eyes.

    So how does this trilogy begin? Well first, here is a little bit of background information. In 1986, Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) exploded, which caused a massive thermal explosion which is now known as the Chernobyl disaster. It was the worst nuclear accident to ever occur in history. No less than 4,056 people were killed and $7 billion in property was destroyed. The surrounding area of approximately 30 kilometers were evacuated and the site remains inhabited even today. So that's a written fact in history that many of you remember. That was fact, now here comes the fiction.

    On March 4, 2006, a blinding light illuminated the sky high above the Chernobyl NPP. This incident lasted a full two hours before subsiding. Just over a month later on April 12, the skies were lit once again by a very bright light. The clouds were seen evaporating into thin air, followed by a tremendous thunder crash lasting far longer than normal. Shortly after this, a 6.9 Richter earthquake occurred. Many Ukrainian soldiers guarding the perimeter were killed instantly. This incident spawned the new Zone. This Zone is said to be a detached world, different, unique and very dangerous. Anomalous energy formations lie scattered throughout the entire 30 kilometer radius, animals and humans were mutated, some of which gained incredible abilities, and anomalous formations which became known as artifacts appeared throughout the Zone.

    At first nobody knew what happened or how the hell this happened. Everyone who was near the center of the Zone (the power plant) was killed or left to die in the harsh conditions of the Zone. These anomalies and mutants were discovered, so the Zone was cordoned off once again. Several months later, the Zone grew 5 kilometers larger killing anyone who was near the center.

    The government launched operations and investigations into the Zone. On September 28, 2009, a group of Kiev scientists created the first anomaly detector which had a 10 meter radius. A few months later, the first successful expedition in the Zone was carried out. With protective suits and these detectors, they penetrated the Zone 1 kilometer deep and returned without any severe injuries.

    Expeditions continue into 2010 when on August 17th, the first "stalkers" were discovered as well as the first artifacts and this is when emissions or blowouts were discovered. An emission or blowout is a sudden release of energy, many of which are catastrophic. Some artifacts have the power to heal, they may affect your metabolism and central nervous system, some have powerful energy or gravitational fields and properties vary from artifact to artifact, depending on the type and strength of the anomaly it was created in.

    Now what are stalkers? Stalkers are people who illegally cross into the Zone, most want to retrieve artifacts which scientists pay well for, and others just want to explore. And no, this is not what the acronym "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." refers to. But for those who are wondering, it stands for Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, Robbers. This basically describes all of the types of people in the Zone, and if you add up the numerical value of every letter in "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.", the sum is 86, which is the year when the actual Chernobyl disaster occurred.

    At this time in 2010, the Zone is full of soldiers, scientists, stalkers, mercenaries and factions. There are a few different factions in the Zone. The first faction to be created was Duty. Duty is a paramilitary organization. This faction was created in shortly after the Zone appeared. This operation consisted of high ranking officers, most notably General Voronin, General Krylov and General Tachenko. The mission was to go to the center of the Zone which was at the power plant, and blow it to hell with nuclear weapons. Unfortunately at the time nobody knew much about the Zone. They didn't know about anomalies, emissions or mutants. So they were dropped into the Zone unprotected. The result? Countless deaths in anomalies followed by a large emission. The survivors were left to die, at least that's what they thought. It so turns out that the commander of the operation, General Tachenko, destroyed their radio equipment without anyone knowing so that Duty could be formed. So Duty was formed, but Tachenko and some others were trapped in a space anomaly, where they are stuck in a loop with no known way to exit. So they all either die of thirst, kill themselves or kill each other and then themselves. But Tachenko's story isn't revealed until the third game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat.

    Duty seeks to destroy the Zone and all the mutants in it. But whenever they attack the Zone, mutants, anomalies and emissions only increase in number. Whenever people get closer to the center of the Zone, emissions increase and get more powerful. How? Well you'll find out. The ideas behind this aren't discussed until S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky, the second game in the trilogy but also the prequel to Shadow of Chernobyl. But it is known that Duty does have some government connections, most notably with the Spetsnaz.

    Another faction is formed once people start to cross into and live in the Zone. This faction, Freedom, consists of daredevils, anarchists, idealists and a few potheads. They believe in studying the Zone in a practical sense, and they don't believe in keeping secrets like Duty does. What happens when two factions have opposite beliefs? War.

    There are also your typical stalkers. You have some loners and some unified stalker groups. The Zone is never short of bandits either. Some bandits are loners while some have unified clans just like stalkers. Mercenaries also exist in the Zone. Some are just there for their own sake while others are working for people, extracting artifacts, information or assassinating people. There is one other faction too, called the Monolith. Their ideas are based on nothing but religious beliefs and Zone legends, one legend in general.

    When the Zone first appeared, the people at the center were trapped and cut off from the rest of the world, being left on their own. One survivor at the power plant saw a strange light coming from inside. He went closer to the power plant to look inside, and that's when he saw it. The Monolith. The Wish Granter. A monolithic stone capable of granting any wish, but the wish also has its consequences and they say that making a wish causes the Zone to expand by 5 kilometers, just like it did back in 2006. This is the tale of the Monolith.

    The Monolith faction is a religious cult. They declare themselves the protectors of the Monolith. They were generally non violent but one day they just marched to the center of the Zone to find the Monolith. They went right beyond the radar, presumably straight to their deaths. The center of the Zone is protected by the "Brain Scorcher" - a large area, virtually the entire Red Forest and area surrounding the center of the Zone, where your brains simply roast leaving you a walking shell also known as a zombie. In late 2011, the Monolithians return from the Brain Scorcher destroying everything in their path with high tech equipment that not even the military has their hands on, and they don't even seem to run short on soldiers. They yell crazy phrases and fight to the death. Something clearly happened to them at the center.

    What does the government think about all these people in the Zone? They don't like it. Not at all. While stalkers were ignored at first, they took action once artifacts started to appear in private hands. On February 4, 2011, the military initiates some shake down runs and in one campaign, 70 stalkers were arrested. Luckily for the stalkers, the military grunts don't like their low paychecks and they smuggle things in and out of the Zone for stalkers in exchange for cash and artifacts. These trading posts are why stalkers don't usually run short on food, water or even weapons and ammunition.

    Now lets get back to the main storyline of Shadow of Chernobyl. The game starts with a cutscene. It is a dark, stormy night and a truck is being driven at a very high speed somewhere along the outskirts of the Zone. An anomaly inconveniently comes from the sky and hits the truck, destroying it and throwing it off the road. The following morning, some stalker checks the bodies out for loot and survivors. There is one survivor. He is taken to the local trader, Sidorovich, who just happens to be the most well known trader in the Zone, having many military contacts. Upon examining this survivor, Sidorovich checks his PDA which has a message on it. It reads "KILL THE STRELOK". This survivor also has a tattoo on his arm which reads "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.". Bodies with this tattoo appear occasionally. They are transported by these so called "Death Trucks" from the center of the Zone. Nobody knows who they are or where they are going since the bodies that come from death trucks are always dead. This guy is the only survivor. Because of the tattoo on his arm, he becomes known as the "Marked One", whose role you assume.

    This is where you wake up. The first level, known as the Cordon. More specifically you're in a village full of rookie stalkers.


    Meet Sidorovich, the most well known trader in the Zone.


    So Marked One wakes up and has no recollection of... anything. He doesn't know who he is, where he is, what the Zone is or any of that. Severe amnesia at its finest. And Sidorovich enjoys one thing - money. So he uses Marked One to do some assignments for him since Marked One owes him that - Sidorovich saved his life after all. So Sidorovich explains the basics of the Zone to him and sends him off.

    You have two main quests in this game. Find out who you are and who Strelok is, and also you have to find out the true secrets of the Zone. What's at the center? What's with the Brain Scorcher? What about the Wish Granter? Your first mission is actually very important. You have to rescue a stalker called Nimble (which means clever or quick). This Nimble character actually appears in all three games and has a lot of secrets. For starters, he isn't really a rookie but I can't go into him since this game doesn't characterize him. The next one does.

    Nimble is being held captive by local bandits. He has a flash drive with information. That's all Sidorovich tells you at first. It turns out Nimble and one other guy (who you find wounded nearby) were spying on military grunts in the Agroprom Research Institute which is a few kilometers into the Zone. It turns out the grunts dug up something underground which has something to do with the center of the Zone. So you have to go get what they dug up. Sidorovich also tells you about Strelok. There are quite a few stories about him, they say he took his group right to the center of the Zone and back several times, only these tales of hero stalkers are hard to believe. Anyway, your goal is to go to Agroprom, get those military documents and bring them to the Barkeep, who is Sidorovich's pal.

    On your way to the next level Sidorovich tells you about a stalker called Fox who knows something about Strelok. Only he doesn't really know anything about Strelok. Fox and his pals almost exchanged bullets with Strelok and his pals, but Fox's brother, Seriy knows more about Strelok. He is located in the Garbage - the second level which is in between the Cordon and Agroprom. So you must go meet Seriy and save him from Bandits, only Seriy doesn't know much either. All he knows is that a stalker called Mole who is currently fighting the military in Agroprom, knows where Strelok's stash is. So you have two things going on in Agroprom - getting the documents that the military dug up in the Agroprom Underground and finding Strelok's stash so you can know what the hell is going on.

    The Garbage, the most lovely place in the Zone.


    Agroprom Research Institute


    You'll probably end up getting to the stash first since it is located in the Agroprom Underground. These tunnels run throughout the level so you can take some shortcuts down there, except there are a few mutants that at first make the place seem like hell. Anyway the stash reveals two other members of Strelok's group - Ghost and Fang. Ghost is a legend himself - they say he can sneak anywhere without being detected, and he took out the leader of some faction called Final Day or Judgement Day. As for Fang, he is a very serious guy who talks to himself. He is also a technical genius. Quite a guy. Unfortunately Fang was killed by some "scarred merc holding a Vintar" (referring to a Mercenary with scars and uses a VSS Vintorez) in the Army Warehouses. This is actually a very important detail that may not be entirely true. You'll find out more about this in my upcoming S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky review.

    After getting the documents and bringing them to the Barkeep, you find out more about Ghost. Apparently he is located a few kilometers away doing jobs for the scientists near Lake Yantar. But the documents mention a secret laboratory designated X-18 which is located much farther in the opposite direction. The documents also reveal that the Agroprom Research Institute which was supposed to study mutated vegetation (Agro = field in Latin) was actually a front for X-18. So you must go to X-18 and find some documents to see what's up. Of course getting into X-18 isn't simple but I'll skip these details.

    The Bandit base in the Dark Valley. X-18 is located under a nearby factory.


    Once you're in X-18 which is a frightening, creepy, dangerous and weird place, you find the documents and many weird experimental crap. The documents are guarded by a Pyrogeist which you must kill otherwise it will kill you. Killing it knocks you unconsciousness and you have a dream. In this dream you see the power plant, a man with an AKS-74U and a shit load of mutated rats running in his direction. He shoots at the rats, but then everything slows down, you hear a voice calling "Strelok". The man turns around slowly but before you get to see his face, you wake up.

    You can read any of the documents yourself (or at least parts of them) or let the Barkeep break it down for you in words you should be able to understand. Well it turns out X-18 was where the majority of the components for the Brain Scorcher were made, and it is also where some mutants were created such as the Poltergeists and Pyrogeists. The scientists in X-18 were killed by their experiments. Sucks for them.

    X-18, AKA hell.


    So the Brain Scorcher is a man made device meant to block the road to the center of the Zone. But you don't have the full picture you need yet, for example you can't just go and turn off the Brain Scorcher. You'll get your brains roasted or you'll get killed by Monolithians. Luckily the X-18 documents have got you covered. They mention another secret laboratory called X-16, which is located in Yantar where Ghost is. It turns out Yantar has its own, weaker Brain Scorcher.

    Yantar.


    In Yantar you get some bad news - Ghost and a scientist went into X-16. The scientist made it out and got killed by zombies or mutants, while Ghost simply never went out. So you must go in there using a device made by the scientists made to protect you from this brain melting stuff (which is psionic radiation), turn off the machine and find Ghost's body. Once you've turned off the machine and got the documents, you should find Ghost's body. It turns out that Ghost is the man in the photo on your PDA who is supposed to be Strelok. Someone made a mistake! But who and how? You'll find out. Ghost's PDA also reveals the other members in Strelok's group - Guide, who is supposed to be the first stalker to enter the Zone. They say he can take you wherever you want, through any anomaly field and even to the center. He supposedly reached the Wish Granter and wished to travel anywhere. The other member of the group is Doctor, who is also a legend. They say he reached the Wish Granter and wished to be able to heal any creature, but as a result they say he cannot distinguish mutants from normal creatures. So you should go pay these guys a visit.

    I should note that when you turn off the machine in X-16, you pass out again and you have another dream. In this dream you see a secluded swamp and an old man looking at a photo of the NPP saying "If this is so important, then why didn't you explain what you're going there for and where... where did you get this photo from?" He is saying this to a younger man walking away. Then you see a flash and suddenly you're in a cabin. A young man walks through the door holding a marvelous artifact, smiling and saying "If you only knew where I've just been and what I saw". The old man replies "One day you'll finish badly Strelok". You see another flash and then the young man walks through the door again, half dead. The old man fixes him up and then he leaves to "The North", meaning the NPP.

    Meet the Miracle Machine, AKA "Brain in a tube", the device responsible for zombifying everyone in the vicinity of the Yantar factory.


    The X-16 documents tell you that the Brain Scorcher isn't always working at full power, and it tells you more about the psionic radiation. It only affects creatures with more advanced cognitive abilities like horses, dogs and humans. Anything non-human is limited to a strong sense of fear which goes away, but humans enter a state of trance which can be reversed but it would take years of psychiatry. Too much exposure melts your brains and you'll become a zombie.

    Now with all that figured out, you have to go turn off the Brain Scorcher but you should first find out about Guide and Doctor. So you find Guide who pretends to be a rookie in order to lay low, and he tells you where to find Doctor. Doctor thought he was being followed so he was hiding in Strelok's stash. When you meet Doctor, you also encounter a large twist in the storyline.

    Doctor is the old man from the last dream, the one in X-16. He tells you that you are actually Strelok. So apparently a mistake was made - your PDA at the beginning said "KILL THE STRELOK". I guess they didn't know you are Strelok. So you'll be thinking, "wtf?" Doctor also tells you that the Wish Granter is fake. It's a machine, a hoax and an illusion. It was manufactured in a secret laboratory next to the Sarcophagus, which was built after the first disaster to contain the radiation. He said that when you and your buddies were in the center of the Zone, you actually reached the Sarcophagus and found a secret door. Fang was building a decoder to open the door since it was a fancy complicated door. You must go to the stash in Pripyat where the decoder is (and Fang's grave is in Pripyat), and you must find out the truth behind the Zone.

    The Brain Scorcher - a machine that distributes huge amounts of psionic emission used to stop people from going to the center of the Zone. The psi-radiation is distributed by the DUGA-3 radar system.


    After disabling the Scorcher, you pass out again and have another dream. In this dream you see yourself struggling to reach the Wish Granter, and then you see flashes of the other two dreams. When you wake up, you hear a voice in your head which says, "What you want is here, stalker. Come." Anyway with the road to the center open, everyone rushes to the center of the Zone. All factions, stalkers and mercenaries go to the center but the bandits don't have the stones so you won't encounter them. Pripyat becomes a war zone - Duty fights Freedom and vice versa, loners just look around for artifacts and stuff, mercenaries do the same but they're probably more aggressive and the Monolith is holding them all back. That's how powerful this one faction is. The only ones who get through Pripyat are you and the military, thanks to their helicopters and tanks.

    Pripyat.


    Pripyat Ferris Wheel.


    Once you reach the power plant, all hell breaks loose. The military is fighting the Monolith and all the military choppers are going down thanks to anomalies in the air. As for you, you sneak into the Sarcophagus and let everyone else get killed by an emission. In the Sarcophagus the Wish Granter is trying to brainwash you the entire time. You can get one of five endings here if you go to the Wish Granter. The ending you get depends on what you have accomplished, but all of these endings are bad since you disregarded finding out your past.

    Chernobyl NPP, as seen in the low quality compressed video cutscenes of the game.


    The Wish Granter.


    What you're supposed to do is forget about the Wish Granter and find the door to the secret lab. Remember that you must have the decoder to open the door - once you enter Chernobyl you cannot go back, this is the point of no return. And the Sarcophagus is actually another point of no return.

    After fighting your way through dozens of Monolithians in the secret lab, known as the Monolith Control Center, you reach a hologram. The hologram gives you the answers to your most important questions. First of all, it tells you how the Zone was formed. In 1989, Soviet scientists set up secret laboratories in the center of the Zone. X-18 was one much like X-16 and X-10 (Brain Scorcher). Other labs which you don't visit in this game include the Radiowave Institute (mentioned in the next game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky), X-19 (mentioned in this game but never found), X8 (visited in the third game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat, this was their HQ) and X7 (their current HQ).

    The goal of their experiments was to affect the Noosphere, a theoretical sphere surrounding the Earth which emerges through and is constituted by the interaction of human minds. These scientists wanted to affect the Noosphere, because doing so would affect the minds of everyone on the planet. Individuals cannot affect the Noosphere, so they created a super consciousness called the C-Consciousness. It is made up of seven volunteers who connected their minds into one super consciousness. They tried to affect the Noosphere - the hologram said they wanted to make small adjustments, removing anger, cruelty, greed and other negative factors from the planet. But they goofed up big time and the Earth hit back, spawning the Zone. They wanted to contain the Zone.

    So they created the Brain Scorcher and the other labs. They're responsible for some of the mutants and the brainwashed Monolith faction. When people entered the Brain Scorcher, they were able to acquire control over their consciousness. So this is why the Monolith faction has seemingly unlimited soldiers. Too many dumbasses still try to penetrate the center, and previous military soldiers, the Monolith faction, the Clear Sky faction (next game) and everyone else who was at the center gets brainwashed. They also boosted their numbers with emissions which could brainwash people too.

    On Strelok's last visit to the center of the Zone, an emission incapacitated him, the Clear Sky faction, Duty members and Scar, the protagonist of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky. This is all depicted in Clear Sky. Some stalkers are programmed to a specific mission. Strelok's mission was to kill himself since they screwed up, they didn't know he was Strelok. These special soldiers are transported in the Death Trucks I mentioned earlier. These soldiers are marked with the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. tattoo. They infiltrate the stalker community and carry out their objectives without realizing it.

    After the hologram explains all of this, you must make a choice. You can join the C-Consciousness, triggering the ending in which your body is put in a tube and your mind is connected to the C-Consciousness, or you can refuse to join it. If you refuse, you then go back out to the Chernobyl NPP, fight some more Monolithians moving through teleports which take you all around the NPP, and the last teleport takes you to the room where the bodies that make up the C-Consciousness are located. This is the true ending. Strelok destroys the bodies, and it actually seems as if the Zone is destroyed.



    But it isn't.


    I find the storyline to be intriguing, in fact it is the best story I've ever had the pleasure of indulging myself in out of any form of media. But there is a plot hole in the story, but nothing major. But S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky, the second game/prequel creates some more holes but I won't go into those. First of all, you actually are Strelok right? Right. So why didn't Guide recognize you? I suppose Guide never met you, he was probably just a contact with Strelok's group.

    Many characters have their own biography as well, but unfortunately they were removed from the game. You can still find them and read them if you get an extractor and extract the "gamedata\config\text\eng\stable_bio_name" file. I wonder why it was removed...

    You can talk to anyone you encounter and they'll have something to tell you. In your PDA which includes your tasks and a map, you'll find a diary section as well. This is where the storyline is slowly explained to you and you can look over any PDAs and documents you have found. You'll also find an encyclopedia which has information on the levels, factions, mutants, anomalies, artifacts and folklore which includes legends and other stories. Very immersive.

    Gameplay


    One hell of a story right? I tried to leave out the less important details but too much was important. Well this should be much more simple.

    S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl is a survival first person shooter which includes RPG elements. You must eat, weapons degrade and unfortunately you cannot do anything about this other than replace them. You get money for doing missions (and there are an unlimited amount of artifact fetch/assassination/mutant hunting missions) and for selling things. Artifacts can be rather valuable and there is a huge variety.

    You can eat bread, sausages or army rations. The more running you do the hungrier you will get. Bone appitet.


    You have drinks too but you don't need these. Energy drinks increase your stamina meter while vodka reduces radiation and of course, gets you drunk. Drink too much and you won't be able to walk straight.

    Slow down, bro.


    Health items exist too, and they're necessary. While you do heal automatically, you won't even see your health meter increasing. Several artifacts increase your healing rate, albeit very slowly. The artifacts that stop bleeding are more noticeable. You have bandages which stop bleeding and increase health slightly, standard medkits which increase your health by 1/3 and stops bleeding somewhat. Army medkits increase your health more, maybe 2/3 and they also stop lots of bleeding. Then there are scientific medkits which have the same effectiveness as the standard one, but also remove radiation. Lets not forget anti-radiation pills which work wonders.

    I'll give you 200 rubles.


    The currency in the Zone is the Russian ruble. I'm unfamiliar with the exchange rates in a year from now, sorry. But you must work hard to get money, and spend it wisely.

    There is a large selection of body armor to choose from. From a leather jacket to a top of the line military suit all the way to Exoskeletons, you'll surely find a favorite. Every faction has their own unique armor and special colors. Some armors have night vision - there are two different night vision modules. A blurry, not-so-effective green one made during the Vietnam war and a high end blue one which works very well. Armors degrade and cannot be repaired or upgraded, well not without embarrassing GSC, the creators of the game. You can actually wear 4 or 5 of certain rare artifacts, increasing your protection from that type of damage by 30% each. So four would be 120% protection while 5 will be 150% protection. So this would make that type of damage heal you and your suit. But you won't find 4 or 5 of these artifacts. Yes, that's a challenge.

    And here is my favorite, the Exoskeleton.


    Last but not least... guns! You have a very large variety from Russian and Ukrainian 9 x 18mm pistols to more Western 9 x 19mm pistols all the way up to .45 caliber pistols. There is only one submachine gun, an outdated MP5 but there are plenty of rifles to go around including those of the 5.45 x 39mm caliber, 9 x 39mm subsonic rounds, 7.62 x 54mm high performance bullets and even the 5.56 x 45mm NATO cartridges. Lets not forget shotguns - you get 12 gauge buckshot rounds, 12 gauge slugshot rounds and 12 gauge dart rounds. There are also 3 different grenade launchers (one handheld - the RG-6) and of course there is an RPG-7. There is a large variety of ammunition per caliber such as standard or armor piercing for rifles, or standard or hollow point for pistols and even more.

    Bullet characteristics and weapon performance is fairly realistic overall. Muzzle velocity varies per gun as well as accuracy, stopping power and effective range. Bullet drop is included but wind has no affect on bullet trajectory at all. There are a few attachments - a silencer which can be added to a select amount of weapons, PSO-1 scope for Russian rifles, GP-25 grenade launcher for Russian rifles, M203 grenade launcher for NATO rifles and a SUSAT 4x scope for NATO rifles. Weapons cannot be upgraded or repaired in this game.

    My preferred assault rifle.


    The HUD is standard. You get a health meter, armor condition meter and ammo counter on the bottom right, a stance indicator and endurance meter on the bottom left and a minimap on the top left. They also show you which artifacts you're wearing. You can wear up to five but most have both positive and negative effects. There is a standard 4 point crosshair which can be turned off in the console.

    The AI is very impressive. The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games have the best AI I've ever seen. The A-life is very good - mutants and humans go about living their lives. They sit down, tell stories, eat, drink, search for artifacts, kill mutants, get into gunfights or get killed. It's all random and works very well. In combat they're less retarded than any other game I've played. They know how to take cover properly. They fire and maneuver very well. They try to get relatively close but not too close to kill you, and they don't like to be in the open. They do some basic flanking tactics too.

    Mutants are fun, the less dangerous mutants like dogs will stop attacking you if you kill too many of them and some don't attack you at all. Snorks which are mutated humans that walk on all fours like to ambush you. They leap at you, many times camping around corners. After a failed leap, they try to dodge your gunfire before leaping again. The other mutants don't have noteworthy AI.



    I can't compare the gameplay to other games since I don't play any other survival FPS with RPG elements. But the change that the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games brought are very welcome, I like it. I also like the ranking system which lists the top 20 stalkers based on your stats, and there is an awesome tournament in Rostok which is worth checking out. However there are some things I'm not too crazy about, like the unlimited batteries in your flashlight and HUD (I prefer the HUD to be as non existent as possible, after all this isn't a shoot-em-up game). But overall I love the gameplay.

    Visuals and Physics


    This game uses X-Ray Engine 1.0 which supports DirectX8 and DirectX9 technologies with DX9 dynamic lighting and pretty standard shaders. This game came out in 2007 but it was being worked on since the beginning of this century. So yeah it came out the same time as Crysis which looks 2000x better, but this game is much larger, it is built on a much older engine and they went through hell to make it. There were countless old builds of this game. At least it is a cake walk to max out.

    So that's graphics, but the visuals in the game are still outstanding. There is so much atmosphere and detail in the levels. But even then the previous builds of the game (Build 1935 can actually be playable, it is the alpha stage) had much better levels overall. Those are just jaw dropping.

    Physics are like Crysis except some objects don't have enough weight applied to them and there is less destruction. The interactivity is pretty good but nothing noteworthy. moving on.

    Sound


    There is hardly any music in the game and the existing music is subtle and only there to give you a feeling of the kind of environment you're in. This is the point actually, they didn't want an epic soundtrack. They want you to focus on your surroundings and hear the wonderful sounds of the Zone such as nasty mutants, explosions, gunfire, things sneaking up behind you and that guy who stepped in an anomaly and is screaming in agony and so much pain.

    The gunshots are crisp but may not sound so well on speakers. They didn't sound very good on my old Logitech X-140 2.0 speakers, but they sound just fine on my Creative X-Fi Fatal1ty Gaming Headset. Voice acting is a good mix of Russian and accented English. No complaints.

    Multiplayer


    Yes, this game has multiplayer but it was seemingly just thrown together so it could have it. Lag is incredible - I have a 20 mb/s download speed and 5 mb/s upload speed with my internet connection, and the lag is very bad. Now most players are indeed playing from Russia and Ukraine, but I have less lag in Russian servers in Crysis and Crysis Wars.

    There are three different game modes - deathmatch, team deathmatch and artifact hunt. Artifact hunt is just capture the flag but with artifacts. It is pretty fun if you're not lagging but it isn't addicting. You rank up in matches only where you can choose a few different armors, guns and ammunition. Levels are like single player but many have cut areas since they're huge.

    Overall it is not what it could have been. I'd like to see a constant currency and ranking system that is not limited to matches, but there should be ranking options for servers so Exoskeleton dreadnoughts won't destroy that poor noob in the leather jacket. I'd also like to see some free play multiplayer and the engine just needs to be touched up for multiplayer. It is 2010 and the multiplayer is still lacking in all three games. Luckily I'm not huge on multiplayer.

    Conclusion


    S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl is a highly immersive, atmospheric and unique experience that is definitely worth giving a shot. The storyline is incredible and the gameplay is excellent. Just keep in mind that you can't just walk through the game level to level expecting to be a millionare with top notch equipment. If you want money and good equipment you have to earn it. This only adds to the experience.

    So lets get on with the rankings, with 5 being the highest.

    Story: Incredibly immersive and detailed, not to mention my personal favorite. This game has plenty of foreshadowing going on through it, a nice twist mid-way, 7 endings based on what you do throughout the game, individual stories for characters, folklore, legends and much more. Storytelling is done in a realistic manner - check your journal entries for updates and the encyclopedia in your PDA for folklore and interesting tales. 5/5.

    Visuals and Physics: Very good atmosphere with decent interactivity in the physics. Graphics are nothing amazing but the fact that it is easy to run pays off. 4/5.

    Sound: Sound effects are pretty good, voice acting seems fine and I like the subtle sounds and tones in the Zone. 4.5/5.

    Gameplay: Very good survival and RPG elements, excellent mix of horror, suspense and action. AI is great but the multiplayer is lacking. 4.5/5.

    Lasting Appeal: If you have a decent attention span then you'll probably revisit the campaign especially if you did terrible the first time through. You'll probably ignore the multiplayer. 4.5/5.

    Overall: 4.5/5 (average of all scores)

    Related Links

    This article was originally published in forum thread: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl Review started by Jester View original post

    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Kew's Avatar
      Kew -
      Nice review! I'm playing the newest one at the moment, I love the series.
    1. Joe's Avatar
      Joe -
      Great review as always Jester! Looks quite the game
    1. ChillieD0g's Avatar
      ChillieD0g -
      Since the games was kinda based on true events..si just wonder if the site that where it hppend is it opened back up to the public or not ?
    1. strudinox's Avatar
      strudinox -
      I don't think it is. Last I heard anyways.
    1. BabyBalla's Avatar
      BabyBalla -
      Quote Originally Posted by ChillieD0g View Post
      Since the games was kinda based on true events..si just wonder if the site that where it hppend is it opened back up to the public or not ?
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/ar...ists-2011.html
    1. Spartan's Avatar
      Spartan -
      Great review!
      I loved SHOC.
    1. Lhotse's Avatar
      Lhotse -
      wife: " gee hon, i was wondering where we're going for our vacation this year ? "
      husband: " i dunno dear, i'm trying to decide if we should go to Hawaii or Pripyat."
    1. Jester's Avatar
      Jester -
      The only true event is that a disaster occurred in 1986.
    1. Spartan's Avatar
      Spartan -
      I'm planning on going there :3
    1. strudinox's Avatar
      strudinox -
      Bring be back a Gauss Rifle.
    1. ChillieD0g's Avatar
      ChillieD0g -
      Quote Originally Posted by strudinox View Post
      Bring be back a Gauss Rifle.
      Could that be even a real gun or possibly not ? just curious

      Sorry if i comment too much but if it is gonna be public...they might make another game ..time will tell
    1. strudinox's Avatar
      strudinox -
      The concept of the gun is real but nothing like that exists in a hand held version.
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