S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl Review for PC

On: PC
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. blends survival horror, action and RPG elements with great success.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. blends survival horror, action and RPG elements with great success.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. blends survival horror, action and RPG elements with great success.

Survival horror games have traditionally excelled at putting you in tight spots against freakish enemies, while limiting your weapon supply to a rubbish pistol and a knife - if you're lucky you'd get a torch as well. While S.T.A.L.K.E.R. might look like a first-person shooter - albeit one in a large, free-roaming world - it's really an evolution of the classic survival horror genre. You're not confined to dimly lit hallways, but the wide open spaces provided by Chernobyl's fall-out zone, and the mutated creatures that live there prove every bit as nerve-racking.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. casts you as a nameless man who's looking for information on "the zone" - the area in which the game is set. Nuclear disasters have turned the area into a barren wilderness, filled with artefact-hunting characters and vicious mutants. The game revolves around you receiving new missions from various NPCs, allowing you to earn money, items and new info. A storyline does run throughout, but numerous side missions serve as a way to prolong the game and to add background information to the mysterious goings on.

You're given an RPG-like inventory system, complete with weight restriction and numerous non-weapon items. Should you be carrying more than you can handle, your character will be unable to move, so you're often forced to discard surplus items or trade them. Being in such close proximity to radiation (signalled by bleeps on your Geiger counter) isn't good for your health, so it's important to keep stock of the essential medicine, as well as food to keep your strength up. Things aren't taken to hardcore RPG levels but there's a definite sense that you need to do all you can to survive - looting items from corpses included.

As you wander the land in search of items and people on your objectives list (handily detailed on your PDA) you'll encounter numerous other stalkers. How they react to you depends on their hostility rating, with a simple 'green, yellow, red' system informing you of their feelings. Green quite obviously indicates safety, meaning such a character will be friendly, while red means hostility and every chance that they'll shoot you on sight.

'You'll have been playing mutant-free for a good while, only to be suddenly startled. You're always left waiting... dreading what's coming next.'

These human enemies cause you problems, but they're no different to enemies in your standard FPS. It's the mutants that really send shivers down your spine, and the fact that they crop up so rarely simply adds to the often unbearable tension. You'll see lots of mutated animals roaming the grasslands, but you know they're around and become used to them - it's the guys that leap out from nowhere that freak you out. You'll have been playing mutant-free for a good while, only to be suddenly startled. After this single event you'll be expecting an onslaught, but that's not the case. You're always left waiting... dreading what's coming next.

It's this atmosphere that'll keep you hooked as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. certainly isn't going to win any awards for its gunplay. Firing weapons is perhaps the game's biggest weakness; they feel weedy and often lack the precision of enemies who are using the exact same tools. It doesn't help that enemies seem invincible during hit animations, meaning you must wait for them to stand tall again before going in for the kill. This in turn makes large encounters incredibly tough, particularly early on when you're running around with what might as well be a spud gun. Things level out slightly as you progress, but I never felt certain that I'd come out of an encounter alive; a good thing in many people's eyes, but boy is it frustrating at times.

Many of your missions are standard "go somewhere, find someone, bring back item" affairs, but when they're something a little different they're incredible and make you feel as if the game world really is alive. Of course, for a game this ambitious, there were bound to be problems and there most certainly are. Frequent crashes to desktop are by far the biggest problems (especially when running Windows Vista) but an inventory that's a pain to use during firefights is also high on the list. Due to your weapon slots being limited, you'll frequently have to go into your inventory in order to re-arm, leaving you at the mercy of nearby enemies.

The enemies in the game are hugely varied and often extremely freaky

The enemies in the game are hugely varied and often extremely freaky

Travel will cause a few headaches too, and the game is clearly missing the drivable vehicles that were in the original design. You can run at an Olympic speed, but this can't be sustained for too long (even once you've increased your stamina), forcing you to trundle along for the most part. Add in respawning enemies, and getting from place to place becomes a real chore - especially when each of these battles was hard enough the first time. Thankfully, the anomalies (pockets of volatile space) that litter the landscape can be avoided without too much trouble (bar a few that are less than visible), but they really should have been one of the biggest threats in the game, as they are to the animals that frequently wander to their doom.

With a main campaign that takes around 10 hours, plus numerous side missions, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is one of the lengthier action games of recent times. If you do want more there's a fairly basic multiplayer component to get stuck into but, given the single-player game's ambitious ideas, this feels almost like a token gesture.

Considering S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s prolonged development it's quite astonishing that it's been released with such impressive visuals. While it doesn't have the high-polygon characters of recent hits, there's no denying that it's often a beautiful looking game. You'll need a rather beefy PC to really appreciate it, but with lighting and detail settings cranked up it's like you're playing in Oblivion's world the morning after a big night out - it looks stunning, but at the same time is completely depressing in the extreme. Add in the constant shrieks and moans of animals, and there really isn't another game like it.

It's hard to think of another game where the words "flawed masterpiece" are so apt. If you're after another Half-Life shooter then walk away from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Although it bears a slight resemblance it couldn't be more different to Valve's game, being closer to something like Deus Ex if a comparison must be made. Numerous bugs will almost definitely be fixed in the months to come, but don't let them put you off experiencing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as it currently stands. It's a survival horror game with incredible ambition, so succeeding in a few areas is still very commendable.

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DarkmanTC's Avatar
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DarkmanTC

The game isn't hard if u use some brain, cover, and shoot in the direction of the enemy. The game is great and realistic. The NPC use some tactic instead just trow them on your gun. What u guys want? U want for enemies to shoot in u for 5 min and then to say "OH. I will kill u with knife". That's for kids with 5 years or less. Get serious. Game is beyond great. Its epic. And i have played it on veteran. Its not that hard.
Posted 01:02 on 27 September 2008
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Wiggmortem

**** this game is haaard. I love everything about it but it is so goddam difficult to dispatch enemies due to the pathetic accuracy on the guns and your lack of health. It's like Counter Strike style health system where if someone gets the drop on you you're ****ed, which is fine because the play is in bursts, but over an epic length of a campaign in Stalker.

And this is on the Novice difficulty.
Posted 13:20 on 26 June 2008
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Guide

To the people who said its too hard . What do you want ? A serious sam style game ? Stalker is about realism and survival . No one in their right mind would try to single handedly assault a military outpost only having a PMm and a leather jacket . In this game its better to talk than to shoot . Diplomacy is your friend ;) . This game is the best I've played in years and I cant wait for Clear sky .
Posted 18:57 on 25 May 2008
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RaZoR_GTX

Im sorry but this game was 5 years or something in the making and i was quite dissapointed in it. The open world wasnt near as good as morrowind and oblivion. The next one better be better.
Posted 17:49 on 22 April 2008
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Jimmy

Well its no easy walk in the park but seriously, its not that difficult. Its more a matter of actually holding back and using some commonsense, when engaging enemies, Seeking cover and lining up a one shot to the head will drop nearly anyone with one click but running in with a fully automatic assault weapon ensures you mostly miss your target and waste ammo while letting everyone know where you are allbeit an exeption for storming close quarters :). i love it - a really atmospheric blast
Posted 16:22 on 22 April 2008
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guest

enemies are basically immortal, yet you are weak, far too unbalanced, weapons innacurate & innefective until you get some of the later stuff,and yet unloading a full clip into the head of spetnaz still wont put him down,what the hell?.
Posted 23:12 on 12 April 2008
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NAT

i think its a great game, i have it myself, but wish i had a better PC
Posted 16:38 on 03 October 2007
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UK_John

The comments above are from HL2 and FPS fans I am sure. I am more of a Dues Ex and System Shock sort of guy myself. This is a thinking man's shooter/RPG. It has an intelligent, mature story, does not hold you hand, and gives you intelligent enemies, both human and non-human that don't just run into you gunsights! If you get the idea of this game before purchase or even in the fist hour of play, you will say it's a classic, as many do. If you think this is another FPS where you kill everything and everyone and bodies cover the ground around you then you are wrong about this game.

I don't get it really. We get PC gamers complaining about 'dumbed-down' games, we get PC gamers worried about the future of gaming and yet we get so many gamers who don't take the time to understanding what their buying. We also have a reviewing system that doesn't take on board patching and mods. So some games, like STALKER, will forever be an 80% game, when it is already a 95% game!!!
Posted 00:00 on 27 August 2007
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Addament

I purchased the 'Collectors Radiation EditionÂ’ as I normally enjoy games of this ilk. Had also just purchased an 8800GTX video card and thought this game may give it a good work out. However, some things in life can be a grave disappointment, and this game unfortunately turned out to be just that!.
The game has very atmospheric sounds and graphics and the story line appears to be interesting. But, no matter how good the visual presentation is, if it ungainly to play then your interest soon flounders.
This game has an awful weapons/inventory interface; the process is clumsy, illogical, irritating, awkward, frustrating and inept. So much so that I gave the game up after a few chapters because the whole process was getting on my nerves.
It is a shame really, because I would of liked to of finish it, but the negatives out way any positives and there is no point wasting time on something as bad as this. Perhaps one day some bright chap may bring out a MOD to reinvent this particular aspect of the game and thus making it playable.
Anyone want to buy a special edition! One careful owner – going cheap !


Posted 20:33 on 04 June 2007
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Gus O Davis

STALKER? This game is way to difficult. Actually, no one is going to make it anywhere in this antiplayer game. The ambiance is very dark and depressing and the graphics first class. This world is stunning, dark and very complete. The problem is, your player is going nowhere because the game is TO HARD! I almost smashed this new Dell XPS with my fist onto the keyboard out of frustration with this ANTIPLAYER game. Hey, THQ! Give your players a chance!
If you must make a game so desireable and yet so difficult at least give us a godmode cheat so the vast majority of players who will never get anywhere with this mess can walk through and enjoy the stunning graphics!
Come on with the godmode code people... send one to me straight away please...
Posted 03:47 on 10 April 2007
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Edward

iT'S A HIT TO ME ALREADY! LOOKS HOT. SAFER TO RAISE THE AGE LIMIT TO 17.TOUCH THE WORLD WITH THE GAME THQ!!!
Posted 11:10 on 03 April 2007
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edwin

Looks like it's a hit already!Though, I would wander how the affected feel.Wish it reaches Africa.
Posted 11:03 on 03 April 2007

Game Stats

System Requirements
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl
8
Out of 10
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl
  • Unbearable atmosphere
  • Incredible environment
  • Stunning visuals at times
  • A number of big bugs
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 23/03/2007
Platform: PC
Developer: GSC Game World
Publisher: THQ
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 2,114 204
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