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

Pc Game/Review: In other first-person shooters, forward is the one and only way lo go. Glowing switches and spawning goons and out-of-the-ordinary lighting and other less obvious goads reassure you that you’re on the right path. You can see a htm and not understand a scene, read a novel and not comprehend a chapter, and the show or the story stili goes on. Not so with games. And, as more and more players play more and more games, a *no gamer left behind” mentality emerges. Whether developers decide to lean on hgurative signposts Of to give up and graffiti their games with literal and gratuitous arrows (as Perfecl Dark Zero did on Xbox 360 and Half-Life 2: Survivor does İn Japanese arcades), hours and hours ot guinea pig input had some say in it You can imagine movies and TV shovvs focus-gtouped this way, but what about videogames that aren’t?
OK, Ukraine-made S.T.ALK.E.R. isn’t the first FPS to assume Its audience Is intelligent—far from it. Perhaps it’s the way İt is because the studio bypassed the publk part ol the test-iterate-test phase to cut costs. Or maybe it was the cultural distance between Kiev and LA. that made the difference? Or the lag in time betvveen 2001 when GSC Game World announced the title and today In 2007 when market analysts advocate FPS as a “grovvth genre’? Is it in other words, just that S.TA.LK.E.R. is similar tosome American shooters made before “everyone” became a target audience?
SLAG PILE OF FORKING PATHS
S.T.ALK.E.R. isn’t quite The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. You can’t pick a compass point and press on until you hit something interesting; invisible radiation prevents you Irom scouting a level’s perimeter and looking out over the edges, and stili S.T.ALK.E.R.’s tandscape is less movie set “Main Street” than Call of Duty’ or Half-Life’s or Ghost Recon’%. However constant the tracks, the vvidth of the course changes: Early on. an elevated railvvay impedes progress. Government men guard one road beneath a bridge and will let you through for a fee or a gunfight A tunnel vvorks. too…only it’s slop-pered with electromagnetic anomahes (the PDA file on a nearby dead man explains the environmental puzzle). And finally, a hole in the fence lets you through, if you look to find it. Even when the way isn’t triplicate, It feels more natural than another FPS’s unspooling script You’ll circle a building burglarlike, (or example, before finding a point of entry (and perhaps meet a prisoner vvho—calling from his celi vvin-dow—makes a mission offer as you pass).
Everyihing Bad Is Good For You author Steve Johnson argues that “far more than books or movies or music. games force you to make deasions […] ali the intellectual benefils of gaming derive from this fundamental virtue, because learning hovv to think is ultimately about learning to make the right decîsions: weighing evidence, analyzing situations. Consulting your long-term goals. and then decid-İng.” l’ll add that choice-rich games are often not only more intellectually engaging. but also more entertaining. Too few singfe-ptayer shooters force us to make decisions other than when to shoot and vvhat to shoot it with. SJA.LK.E.R. complicates things by adding both ‘how to get there” and “vvhom to oppose/vvhom to help.” One time—and, like Oblivion, this Is the variety of videogame that lends itself to stories that start vvith “one time”—I encountered a gang of itinerant stalkers off the highvvay. and I vvon-dered vvhat was going on. “Buy a Gauss mag-netic accelerator gun?” one asked. He wanted next to nothing for it. But önce my money vvas in his hands. he told me to beat it. t happened to have a loaded underbarrel grenade launcher, but the decision to barter and then to fight back cost me more in scarce munitions than in coin.
RADIATION SCARE
In its deep underground facilities (GSC’s ansvver to dungeons), S.T.ALK.E.R. is scarier than F.E.A.R. itself. Poltergeists fly pasL Invisible hands huri barrels as your flashlight bobs for the next noise. At times—Geiger counter crackling—I wanted to turn the game off, or at least get topside and into the light. Down here, SJA.LK.E.R. fares better if evaluated as an FPS vvith RPG trappings than as a fully fledged hybrid. You lock and load for these things. stock up on armor-piercing bullets and first-aid tins and radiation antidotes, and retool the assort-ment of artifacts In your belt (think: enchanted ıtems that slovv blood loss or limit electrocution injury at the expense of some other vulner-ability). The trouble is retuming to the shop if it turns out that your rucksack’s stuffed wrong. Although RPG-like. the game vvon’t let you click-port between key map points to cut out the hiking. Similarly, a more RPG-derived economy might’ve solved another snafu (that also leads to the least satisfying of S.T.AL.K.E.R.’s moralizing endings): lotsa money to spend and litle to spend it on. more…>

One thought on “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl”

  1. Btanches of S.TA.LK.E.R.’i family tree trace back to Austin. Texas and Deus Ex developer lon Storm, but others, those involvıng the vvay it looks, seem Ukraine-natİve. The game’s “exclu-sion zone” setting. a no-man’s-land roughly 30 square kilometers surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, is very much Mad Maxim: post-Soviet road watrİors just beyond the contain-ment dome. Bleak as the end of the wor!d {or at least life as we know it), it’s an inventton as goıgeous as yeats-old graphics overhauled for a late launch get. Wet squalls and lightning and ripping vvinds roll through. irradiated vvolves track boar through the brush, and everywhere, these weird eleetromagnetic disturbances shiver and hum and distort space.
    What’s most unusual. and perhaps most unique to GSC Game VVorld’s direetion, is the degree of delail favished on locations that not every ptayer will visit For instance, l’m finish-ing the game (again), angting for alternate endings {seven in ali). I know vvhere I’ve got to go. Instead, I decide to see if those tenements över there are hollow or if they have interiors, and it turns out that they do; block after block. basement to upper baleony, teeming with reat estate to exp!ore and treasure seekers to kili. Thİs, under boiling-point pressureand in the elosing chapter.
    Far away from even voluntary objeetives, you’ll find vandalized factories and vvoody. overgrown villages, every girder and path of planks traversable and rendered down to the rust. İn a Holf-Life, these set the stage for cli-mactic moments; here. in this much-removed “zone of alienation,” they’re home to loner gui-tarists and feral dogs.
    These days. Americans just don’t design shooters this way

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