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

An ultra-realistic first-person shooter with role-playing elements. You have no memory of who you are or how you ended up there, but you had two things with you, a PDA that said "Kill Strelok" and a tattoo on your arm that said "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.".

Release Date:

March 2007.

Pros:

  • The graphics are absolutely top notch, even with the very low settings I use.
  • The weapons are very realistic. Each weapon holds a realistic amount of ammunition and it takes time to reload. Accuracy is also affected by movement and whether you are using the iron sights or crouched down. And of course there is different recoil depending on the weapon you are using.
  • Your health in the game is also very realistic. Depending on where you get injured and how badly, you start to bleed. Minor bleeding will heal with time but major ones will kill you if you do not bandage your wound.
  • The role-playing element plays in with the inventory system. You can only carry a certain amount of weight and you can only arm yourself with one primary weapon and one secondary weapon. So, no quick changing between seven different weapons. Weight also plays a very important role because you will be carrying things to sell. The extra money can then be used to buy better gear. Weapons also have a condition, so as you use them they degrade until they become unusable. There is no leveling up as per your standard role-playing game, but sometimes you cannot go to a certain place until you have good enough equipment.
  • There is weather and day/night cycles which gives different lighting depending on the time. As time passes you must also eat or else you will go hungry. All these add to the realism of the game. Time also keeps going when you are looting bodies, checking your inventory and looking at your PDA, so be careful where you do things. A bandit might sneak up on you while you are checking out your inventory.
  • The AI is excellent. The human enemies know how to run and hide and even try to out flank you. The mutant animals' AI are also excellent, they do not always attack, sometimes they just run away. Basically the animals act like animals. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has the best AI out of all the first-person shooters I have played.
  • The game is moddable and there are a lot of mods for it. Check out the external links for some sites with mods.
  • The story is top notch with multiple endings.
  • Someone said "S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is Oblivion with guns" I totally agree. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has an open gameplay structure just like Oblivion. You can choose to complete the story tasks or complete some side tasks. Some of the side tasks are generic and randomly generated, while others are one off.
  • The sounds are also amazing. Everything sounds amazing and gives a very good atmosphere to the game. One time I heard thunder in the distance and I thought it was real. Only when I removed my headphones did I realise it was from the game. The voice acting is also good although they do not lip sync the speech.
  • If you have surround sound, you are in for a bigger treat. This was the fourth game I tried out when I first bought the Logitech G35 headset. The surround sound experience is awesome with S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. When playing the game, I could actually locate gun fire, dogs barking and people talking just based on the sounds.
  • The little multiplayer that I played was very enjoyable. The weapons are just as realistic and death comes just as easily as in single player. Similar to Counter-Strike though you have to buy better weapons with the money you get from scoring.

Cons:

  • The game crashes to desktop every now and then. It has happened to me in single player and multi-player. Seems pretty random. The patches reduce the number of crashes, but they still happen.

Other Points:

  • Because of the realism, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow Of Chernobyl is a very difficult game to play. Death comes very quickly when you are not careful.
  • There are somethings that are not realistic. One is that food and medical kits will restore your health. Luckily the game was implemented this way. It is already difficult enough with bleeding to death when you do not have bandages. The other unrealistic thing is that when you get radiation poisoning you can fix it with vodka or anti-radiation drugs. Once again, this implementation makes it easier to survive in the game.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. involves a lot of walking from point A to point B over vast distances, so the action is not constant. Unless you are in a real hot spot, you will spend most of your time just travelling and only a bit of time in gun fights. There is no fast travel system like in Oblivion. I decided not to consider this a con because S.T.A.L.K.E.R. stresses realism, although it would have been nice to fast travel the boring bits.

Biases:

  • Reviewed version 1.0006 of the game.
  • I really liked Serious Sam, all the Doom games and Quake 2.
  • I also really liked Alien Vs Predator, Soldier of Fortune 2, Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear and Call Of Duty 4.
  • I also liked Star Wars Battlefront 2.
  • I also liked Battlefield 1942, Delta Force and Spec Ops 2.
  • I have only played 1 vs 1 multiplayer and only in artifact hunt mode. Artifact hunt is similar to capture the flag except there is only ONE artifact that appears and it appears on different places on the map.
  • I have completed the single player story campaign to get three endings.

DRM:

  • CD-Key must be entered on installation.
  • The disc must be in the drive to play the game.

Patches:

  • Make sure to install the patches BEFORE seriously playing the single player campaign as the save games from the old version are not compatible with the new version.
  • 1.0005 - Fixes quite a few bugs including making the Quickload work.
  • 1.0006 - Multiplayer fixes only, bugs and to stop cheating hacks. Save games from 1.0005 will work with 1.0006. This patch must be installed after the 1.0005 patch.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box):

  • Microsoft Windows XP (Service Pack 2)/Microsoft Winodws 2000 SP4
  • Intel Pentium 4 2Ghz/AMD XP 2200+
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 10 GB available hard drive space
  • 128 MB DirectX 9c compatible card/ nVIDIA GeForce 5700/ATI Radeon 9600
  • DirectX 9 compatible sound card
  • LAN/ Internet connection with Cable/DSL speeds for multiplayer
  • Keyboard, Mouse

Computer Played On:

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Logitech G35 headset and/or Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Altec Lansing ACS41 speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips:

  • Add -nointro to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. shortcut to skip the THQ/GSC/Asus/nVidia intro videos. NOTE: this also skips the new game story introduction so probably best to only use this after you have seen the story introduction. It does not seem to affect other mid-game cutscenes though.
  • Add -noprefetch to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. shortcut to make save games load faster. The prefetch method is supposed to stop the game from loading data while you are playing, but the game stutters anyway. Adding this flag does not seem to degrade or improve in game performance.
  • I found the above tips from TweakGuides.com.
  • Some of the stash info says the stash is hidden in the cellar of a building. After searching for a very long time, I find the stash in the attic of the building. My understanding of the word cellar is that it is in the basement. Either something got lost in translation, or I really do not know what cellar means.

Recommended Mods:

  • Real Gun Names Mod. Replaces the original game's gun names with their real life counter parts.
  • Smart Mod Manager - A nice little application for loading and unloading all your S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mods.
  • Oblivion Lost - An excellent mod that improves a lot on the plain vanilla S.T.A.L.K.E.R. More weapons. More monsters including zombies. More realistic AI. Sneaking up on enemies is easier now as they do not hear or see you as easily if you are hiding. You can also get friendly stalkers to help you out. Night time is now pitch black unless the moon is out. Realism has been increased, food and bandages do not heal you anymore and all wounds must be bandaged or you will bleed to death. It is also more difficult to get money as selling things will not get you as much money. You can also repair weapons and armour. The game is much more difficult with this mod. Oblivion Lost also has real weapon names so the other mod above is not needed.
  • Make sure you complete the plain unmodded S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl before playing the Oblivion Lost mod, as the mod removes the proper ending to give complete free play.
  • Priboi Story - An excellent mod with new storyline. It also has a lot of the new stuff like in Oblivion Lost, including real gun names.

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