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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (PC) artwork

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (PC) review

"S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl has to be one of the more unique first person shooters to be released on the market. The game combines the ideas of a traditional first person shooter, with a horror survival aspect, as well as some RPG roots. After a long period of waiting, will gamers be pleased to finally be able to explore "The Zone"? "

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl has to be one of the more unique first person shooters to be released on the market. The game combines the ideas of a traditional first person shooter, with a horror survival aspect, as well as some RPG roots. After a long period of waiting, will gamers be pleased to finally be able to explore "The Zone"?

While not entirely new, S.T.A.L.K.E.R takes concepts from many different types of games and combines them, producing a unique experience in spite of the origin of these ideas. The gameplay is very RPG-styled. You travel around and talk to people for information, usually setting you on your next main story quest. There are many people who will give you main story quests, as well as side missions. It is up to the player whether or not to undertake these side missions. In fact, the main story missions can be put off until the player wishes to start them. The player has the freedom to wander about the environment and explore, though this is more dangerous then it is in most shooters and RPGs,due to the fact that it is extremely difficult to obtain better equipment and additional areas to explore without following the story.

You can earn money by completing both main and side quests, and you can use this money to purchase supplies and weapons. You can also bring in materials found off of bodies and in the wild and sell them to various dealers of merchandise. Some characters will also trade items with you, usually for money. Artifacts are objects found in and around the zone that have special powers, sometimes with a negative impact on the user as well. The artifacts were created as a result of the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl These can be sold for quite a high sum, or kept for personal use by the player.

The player can try to obtain the top stalker rank. Names of top stalkers are listed in the player's PDA, which acts as the in-game objective menu, as well as allowing the user to access PDAs found off on dead bodies and marking points on a map of The Zone.

The main storyline revolves around the nameless player character, known simply as "The Marked One". The player travels throughout the zone in an attempt to learn of his past through various means, as well as helping shrewed businessmen and other stalkers achieve their own personal agendas. The Marked One slowly begins to remember bits of pieces of his previous life, and presses on in an attempt to find out who he is, the mystery behind The Zone, and why he wants to kill a man named Strelok. How the story pans out is up to the player, and the choices made will affect the ending of the game.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl controls like many other first person shooters on the market. W,A,S and D to move forward, left, right, and back, respectively. The player can jump by pressing the space bar. Shooting is done through press the left click button on the mouse. Holding the right click in will make the player look down the sights of most guns, or look down the scope mounted on certain weapons. Weapons are chosen either with the wheel mouse, or 1-8 on the keyboard. 9 and 0 control type of fire on guns with multiple fire modes. The Y button will allow the player to change between various types of ammunitions which can be found for firearms. Reloading of the firearms is done by pressing the "R" button. The "L" button turns the flashlight on or off. Control makes the player crouch. Holding down the shift key will make the player walk instead of run. The P button is used to access the PDA menu. The "I" button brings up the inventory of the player. The F button is used to interact with objects and people. This control set up is excellent, with the exception of the fire mode change buttons. These are far way from any of the movement keys. This means that the player will usually have to take his/her hands off of either the movement keys or the mouse to change fire modes. Fire modes need to be changed often during combat, and taking one's hands off the fire or movement keys is certainly very dangerous.For those who feel overwhelmed at having this key setup, all of the controls can be switched to custom mapped keys.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R boasts one of the most impressive array of graphics as of late. Lighting and shadows in this game are extremely well used. Note that even extremely high end PCs can sometimes not handle this game while on max settings. While this is not a massive downgrade, the lighting on outdoor environments certainly takes on a much darker feel. There are minor graphical issues with rain in the game, but most of these have been fixed in matches. Explosions are extremely pleasing to look at, though they do not occur quite as often as they do in other first person shooters. The game features a large amount of fire and air distortion effects, and it appears that GSC put a lot of effort into making these quite detailed and pleasant to view. Being a first person shooter, weapon and character designs are vert detailed, as they will quite often be seen at close range. Rips and tears in clothing, fire selectors on guns and other fine details can be seen upon closer inspection. Overall, S.T.A.L.K.E.R is a very pleasant game to look at.

The sound effects in this game are very enjoyable. Once the player has access to a variety of weapons, some may find it worthwhile to waste a bullet or two just to hear the amazing sound effects. The shots are loud and satisfying, to say the least. While the human NPCs have decidedly dull voices, the wildlife and mutants have amazing audio effects. The mutants in particular are especially disturbing, making sure that you can hear them, but not see them, which is greatly disconcerting and adds to the atmosphere of the game. Weather effects are not simply eye candy, and the occasion sudden, unexpected thunder clap will have you jumping from your seat in surprise as you inch your way through a seemingly abandoned building. The faint rustling of grass and wind adds to the suspense when the environment around you is strangely quiet. Unlike the music in most FPS games, S.T.A.L.K.E.R actually uses the soundtrack to enhance the experience and create tension, rather then simply building up the music to a climax during a shootout.

This game could be played for quite a long time. The main quest should take the average player 9 hours to complete. There are also many artifacts to discover and collect. Numerous side quests are available from many characters to perform. It may also be worthwhile to spend the many hours required to explore most, if not all of the map due to the diversity, surprises, and loot that just waiting to be found.

Sadly, this is where S.T.A.L.K.E.R falls short. The multiplayer modes consist of artifact hunt, team play and free for all. The hunt is basically like the generic Capture The (Bag, Flag, Computer, Briefcase) mode seen in many other first person shooters. Players fight over an object and attempt to hold onto it. The other two are kill-fests for players to compete with and against each other. A money system is included in the multiplayer mode, but this is also nothing new. Players earn money by killing other characters, or simply picking it up off of the ground. This money can be used to buy supplies, better weapons and armor, as well as accessories for weapons. While some of these items can be useful, a few are completely useless due to the fast paced nature of multiplayer matches and the lack of strategic planning required, other then deciding when best time is to enter the fray between other players.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl is an excellent game, especially if you enjoy first person shooters or non-traditional RPGs. The multiplayer is not much different from other first person shooters, but the single player is where this game really shines.

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Community review by Probester (December 21, 2007)

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