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

Gameplay 8.0
Graphics 8.5
Sound 8.2
Value 8.0
Developer: THQ
Review Date:
April 2007
Edwin Millheim
Classification: MA15+


Shadow of Chernobyl

Game reviewed on an Alienware system

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A game that the game developers have promised for a long time, So much so that over the years we have been tantalized and teased with bits of information, art and graphics and at long last…it is here. I think the development time was something like six years…. Most times when a game takes that long to develop, you soon find it cancelled. Not so with STALKER, Rising from the darkest corner of our gamer psyche it has at last come. The big question that every review or game correspondent has of course put forth was it worth the wait? Or has it missed the boat in this now next generation gaming world? The answer is a bit convoluted to say the least…the answer is yes and no. Was it worth the wait? I would say yes, are there some issues? Yes. Does that make the game not worth adding to your gaming collection? I say no, Stalker is definitely a cool game with some balance issue and maybe some mismatched AI, but it is very much a first person shooters game.

What are some of the issues? First and foremost, sorry Vista owners! It isn't compatible with Vista yet. (but a patch may soon fix that as well as a few other annoying issues….) Well other than that there are ever so slight clipping issues where some of the mutated four legged critters ran through a boulder, there are some issues I feel with the games AI. Enemies can detect you and fire accurately at ranges far beyond from where you can fire back. Even in the dark they tend to be able to see you, true there is night vision in the game and seems like everyone has the night vision equipment. Forget sneaking up on any one, it’s almost as if they have a motion sensing ability that extends beyond what they should be able to detect.

Enemy re-spawn is just plain insane, more times than I care to count an enemy has re-spawned within a few feet of me and starts blasting away before I can even return fire. Huge groups of enemy seem to show up near you for no rhyme or reason. In game issues are also a pain in the rump, even weighted down you should be able to run or jog with full pack for more than 6 feet before you get some idiotic message telling you that you are too exhausted to move!

The quest structure and information given to the character you play is by way of PDA, open this and it gives you all sorts of information, including all the open quests you have at any given moment. This takes a bit of getting used to, in fact at first you may think it is broken completely or the game designers or writers are just half assed. Not too worry, it’s not broken, it’s just design that takes a lot of getting used to. Certain scripted events can get totally messed up during the adventure, so save often and do not depend on auto-save.

Now even with all of that, I still suggest this game. It’s concept is different enough and diverse enough to really be one blast of a game. It has a mad max feel to it, only with out the cars. Before I get much deeper into the game itself, I have to put a warning here. IF you are playing the game already…do not...I repeat…do not apply the patch. All save games before the patch become useless. The patch is mostly for multi player patch anyway and has nothing of use for single player gaming.

The world of STALKER Shadow Of Chernobyl is an apocalyptic type world, full of all kinds of dangers including radioactive areas and strange anomalies that can kill just as fast, if not faster than a bullet from an enemies gun. The Zone is a 30 kilometer radius around the ruined Chernobyl atomic power plant. Playing as a STALKER, the character travels into the ZONE to retrieve strange anomaly artifacts, these you can sell to scientists and dealers. With the money and trade the player upgrades items and also purchases items to aid them in the dangerous world. Medical kits and bandages are a must! As you advance, you can also purchase new protective suits that allows your character to get to areas that where inaccessible before.

The interesting combination of role playing and first person action shooter makes it interesting enough to carry on, even when you get frustrated from getting killed…a lot. So save often and save under another name other than auto-save! During the game play sooner or later the character has some choices to make... There are two separate factions you can choose between to join. Or, you can just totally ignore them both and just have a blast with the multitude of quests that seem to pop up. Oh and I know I do have a habit of running off on tangents sometimes in these reviews, but I really really have to point something else out here. When the player completes a quest and goes back to wherever they have to go back to, in order to get the reward, there is a rather quirky way to get the reward. It took me a bit to realize what to do. When you get to the person your supposed to get the reward from there are several choices when speaking to them. To get the reward and complete the quest, choose “I’m here about the Job.” That triggers payment for the quest/job you have just completed. While it is kind of odd to even have any money in the game, because most of what you need can be salvaged from your fallen enemies.

Onward and forward now. There have been all kinds of reports on how the game either runs really well, or really badly, depending on your system. On our Alien Area 51 7500 system there was no hiccups at all, and that’s with running everything at its highest settings. The atmosphere of the game is just top notch, If they did a road warrior mad max game, they need to get some inspiration from STALKER Shadow Of Chernobyl. The areas are pretty good size, with maps being linked together by loading areas in between. Graphics are pretty impressive with storms dropping rain in the distance before the sky opens up and the rain comes down on you all around. The winds and gusts pelt leaves and other debris around and move the trees and grass giving more immersion into this strange world. This game is a good reason to upgrade that video card now if your card does not support dynamic lighting effects, you have not rally played a game or had that sense of a survival horror film, until your out stalking across the odd landscape in the night with lightning flashing all around you. Truly impressive.

The world around is alive and active with all the oddities that the zone has spawned, downed enemies can be searched and the bodies stay where they fall for along while. One of the interesting things I have witnessed in the game was where a pack of wild dogs started eating the body and tried to drag it off! Totally cool!

The sounds of the game are pretty impressive as well. Not all of the interaction is spoken from the characters you meet. Some times they just have a few things to say before using the “ speak to them” command and this opens a window where you can ask certain questions and the answer is in text. Some of the spoken scripted things are in Russian, so it was nice to have my wife Donna translate for me. So yup, they are actually saying something. Ambient sounds such as rain, footsteps in grass or the blowing wind, all give that sense of being in the world and anything can happen at any given moment. Gun fire is very satisfying; the double barreled shot gun gives off a very pleasing boom that blasts deep from the sub woofer, while the higher caliber rounds give off just the right crack as they go off.

Review wise, your going to hear a lot of different things. The game is very much in need of a powerful machine to truly enjoy it in all of it’s splendor. Gamers with machines that have some processing issues with graphic intense games may have some issues. Fear not. Turn down the graphics and you should still be able to enjoy this interesting game. After six years and still having some game bugs to squish, one may actually wonder what the heck they where doing after all that? Creating my friend…creating. Give STALKER Shadow Of Chernobyl a try, be it in the multiplayer action or the single player…if you have the patience and the sense of adventure that drives a true Impulse Gamer… you are so there. Be warned, new patches are sure to be coming. but the game is well worth it.

Have fun, play games.

Edwin Millheim



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