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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2007
Well after reading the review for this game by the likes of "Ganfy" and "Scott" I thought I would have to step in to provide a more balanced look at the game.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a first person shooter much like many other games you may have played, but it has quite a few things going for it that not many other games have. You play as a mysterious character known only as "The Marked One" who, along with many other people, is a "Stalker" out in Chernobyl (where things happened slightly differently in the game, the meltdown spreading radiation across the lands far and wide) looking for Artifacts which have been produced by the radioactive wash caused by the nuclear meltdown. These Stalkers are just regular joes trying to make some good money by hunting these artifacts down.

The game is very quest-oriented. Almost in RPG style, you will find many characters in the game who will offer you missions that could either be a huge part of the main story which you will have to play through to finish the game, or side quests which will earn you money and loot to do with as you please. You will travel around huge open areas as you please, either following quest markers or just mooching around to see what you can find. Exploring the virtual world of the chernobyl area is a fantastic experience and the mood created by the cumulative sound, looks and play all contribute to a great atmosphere.

You will be running around the lands of Chernobyl taking on many evils that cross your path, from dogs and boars that have been mutated by the radiation to creatures created purely out of the nuclear devastation, some of which can be quite creepy and disturbing to see. There will also be bandits running around the world, hoping to rob the Stalkers of their plunder, and they won't hesitate to attempt to kill you. You have a PDA which tracks all your quest logs, useful info and has a handy map which shows you the entire gameworld and marks all the useful locations on your map.

You also have an inventory which you must pay a little bit of attention to as if you just pick up every gun and all the ammo from every bandit and animal you defeat you will soon not be able to move. People have complained about this but it is merely a balancing act of the game, it keeps things interesting by not making the game super easy when you have 6 assault rifles to choose from and 2000 rounds or something stupid. You have to consider your weapons loadout, ammunition, health kits, artifacts and other useful items and make sure you have enough space to pick up some new stuff but you're not so light that you're going into the fray unprepared.

The shooting action in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is actually some of the most realistic and engaging shooting you will find in games. Fans of counter-strike can eat their cake as I would say that the shooting in this game is flat out far more realistic. The ballistics are fantastic, firing a low end assault rifle from any reasonable distance and you will see your bullets spread right out, your gun can jam mid-fire (which can be pretty harrowing) and there are different types of ammo to consider, and as you might expect, stopping and crouching to take a shot is key.

The visuals aren't mindblowing, the X-Ray engine provides some solid detail and some of the environments look stunning, but the character models feel a little bit behind the times. The game engine is also quite a system hog, which is a little strange as games that look a bit better will sometimes run smoother than this game, but it's really a minor detraction from what is otherwise a well worthwhile experience. The sound is really excellent, the ambient music and sound effects are fantastic, and some of the howling noises and strange sounds you will hear out in chernobyl sent shivers down my spine. Guns sound as they should, and all the Stalkers, bandits and other human folk in the game all speak russian which adds a great air of authenticity to the game.

There are a few bugs in the game, but at the time of this review they are releasing patches fairly regularly and a good amount of the bugs have been fixed. The game will require you to have a pretty recent computer if you intend to get the most out of the visuals, but it is perfectly possible to play the game on hardware a few years old.

The story is pretty good, as mentioned in some other reviews it can be a bit confusing but if you do as many quests as you can and piece them together you will get some rewarding plot lines coming out of the game. Overall the plot is a bit inconsistent but it's still good enough to keep you wondering and pushing for the goal.

Overall S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a fantastic shooter. It's creepy, entrhalling atmosphere is something that most games strive to achieve but seldom succeed. Exploring the game world is just a fantastic experience in itself, being intrigued by the things you see and find is fun in itself. Add on to that great gunplay, some RPG like elements with the questing and loot gathering, a reasonably gripping plot and you've got yourself a good game. Sure, it does have a few bugs, but these are minor detractions from the overall experience, which if you know what you're in for, is a fantastic one.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This game initially took my breath away, it has good enough graphics to look modern (though not the best) a great soundtrack, loadsa weapons, creepy monster things and a massive freeroaming gaming area. I have played hundred of FPS's and this rated up there with halflife in its initial storyline and the way i was gripped. The planning and scripting of the storyline and some of the set pieces are fantastic, without giving too much away, there is a point where you go into underground tunnels from fighting through a base topside. an the contrast is incredible, from bright free running to claustrophobic dark tunnels (complete with squeeking spinning alert lights on the cieling). Then you come to a long tunnel, and just when your at the other end, your hear a blood curdling roar, turn around to see something that looks barely human, only to be hit by somekind of psy attack that blurs your vision, very scary and atmospheric. The initial release was not without its faults though, and more annoying was the fact that the update meant you had to start the game from the beggining again, (so i just played it straight through without updating it).
However from my initial amazement at this awesome game, i started to struggle to follow the storyline, and only when the game ended, which i wasnt expecting to happen, i have found out there are 7 other endings of which i do not know, 2 of which i have found out, involve some story in the game i never even touched upon.

It isnt a straight out shooter either like halo or quake, you have to plan your attacks.

1small issue for me was there were no vehicles at ALL (other than the enemy helicopters)

Overall - A must for anyone who like FPS's. Good graphics, a decent array of weapons (and yes u are limited fallout style in what you can carry, but that just adds a touch of realism and adds to your involvment), good enemy AI, and a massive massive game. i'd give it 8/10, its original, exciting, just let down by being buggy, occassionaly repetetive (u sometimes have to run abck an forth alot), and hard to follow.

Cant wait for the creators to bring an newer better game. Because if this is there first attempt, there second should be world class!!!

P.S. at £15 you cant go wrong. You get WAY more than your monies worth here. (an dont forget to UPDATE before you start playing it)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2007
If you like first person shooters then this game may be for you. It's dark, gloomy and depressing with lots of atmos and you will need one behemoth of a pc to run it decently. The game runs very smoothly fully maxed out on my system which really and truly is a mid range system, here are my pc specs to give you some idea: AMD64 3700+ CPU running at 2.73ghz with arctic64 cooler, 2gb of pc3200 corsair ram and a geforce 7800gs bliss goes like hell 512mb graphics card, now, despite this being a very quick card in it's day and AGP it does struggle with some of the newer games such as Lost Planet but having said that it copes admirably with most of the games out at the mo and even better since I doubled my memory from 1gb to 2gb this made huge improvements to games . Stalker is a sod to run on anything less than the above spec so make sure your system is up to it before buying. All the settings maxed out makes for a very detailed game and its a visual treat, makes alot of difference to the level of detail so if your system is average and you cant run it on max settings then youre missing out. A good if not great addition to any FPS fan's collection. Not bad at all.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2008
We've all been there. You've just completed a ridiculously hard mission and you're heading back to base to get the reward, when suddenly you're ambushed. And then you realise, with your heart in your mouth and adrenaline in your veins, that you have not saved it and it would be a tragedy to have to re-do all that hard work. Anyway, to cut a long story short, you narrowly escape with your life and your remaining few shotgun shells, and breathe a huge sigh of relief when the final badguy bites the proverbial dust and you can hit SAVE.

Rewardingly tense moments like this really only tend to happen in difficult games, and to all intents and purposes, S.T.A.L.K.E.R is difficult. Gratifyingly so.

When you begin the game, you really are (as all the NPCs you meet like to remind you) a complete and utter newbie and the first time you venture out of your little camp you usually get a taste of how little you know of how to survive in the world. Packs of wild dogs follow you at a distance, waiting for you to be in a vulnerable position. Every now and then one will venture up for a look. It's at this point that a veteran would let off a few pistol shots towards them and keep his fingers crossed that they'll think better of attacking, however, you're not a veteran. Instead you wonder, feebly, if they really are as menacing as they look, and before you know it you've got every stinking mongrel this side of Chernobyl barking madly while they take turns in mauling you.

And this is where one of the most rewarding aspects of this game comes to light. The game gives a brilliantly realistic and immersive experience that you have to LEARN to adapt to. I think this is why there are so many bad reviews on here. Just so you know, the game is hard when you start out!

Weather effects are fantastic. You will be out roaming on your own, occasionally coming across groups of bedraggled stalkers (not all of whom want to rob you thankfully) when you will notice that night is closing in. The day and night cycle is actually relatively long and so doesn't seem unrealistic. But night time is not a good time to be caught out in the wilder parts of 'The Zone.' Whether it be Russian military patrols , hungry packs of dogs or something worse, you really need to get to somewhere where there are a lot of other people before you get yourself shot/eaten/something terribled.

The maps are brilliantly designed and completely believable. The tunnels look excellent and the sounds and whispers of the wind or otherwise when you are down them really set your hairs on end.

Again, I think the AI of ALL of the bad guys including animals is well thought out. Wild pigs act realistically; people act realistically. If you start fighting a group of 5 guys with mp5s and you manage to kill 4 of them, 50% of the time the last guy will either just stop shooting and hide behind a rock and hope you don't find him, or make a run for it.

Some people have mentioned that you get weighted down by items in your inventory and have to rest a lot to be able to get anywhere quickly.

This is a valid point, but then, much of the game is actually based around finding other people's secret stashes in the many hiding places of the zone. If you can't carry all your stuff but have guns you want to keep, find an out of the way hiding place and stick them in there.

Then again, the running out of stamina issue can get annoying but making sure you aren't carrying too much stuff helps this.

I have to say I have not completed the game yet but have had it for quite a long time. I still enjoy taking my time, acquiring a good bit of kit and doing side missions and spacing out the story missions. I have not found the story missions boring or confusing though. The fact that you don't know anything is the whole point of the game as you have amnesia! In that sense it's a bit similar to HL2 where you have to actively search for clues about who/where you are.

I should finish this review now, even though there are so many absolutely enchanting things about this game that I haven't mentioned. But first some advice: Don't buy this game unless you're prepared to sit down for a good few hours (especially on your first time playing it) and taking it slowly and finding out what's what.

Pros: 1. Excellent AI makes for genuinely difficult/hair raising shoot outs.
2. Believable and highly detailed wastelands to explore and traverse.
3. The most atmospheric game I've played in years.
4. Extremely rewarding when you discover it's you (the gamer) who's gained all the experience and not you're character.

Bad things: 1. Big levels mean big distances, and with no vehicles... "These boots were made for walkin'..."
2. Stamina runs out a little too quickly preventing you from running long distances.
3. Ammo is scarce but adds to tension greatly.

As for performance issues, I run this on Pentium-D 2.8ghz x1950 pro and 1GB RAM and I've got it looking perfectly acceptable with no jerkiness.

In short - buy this game if you want to be pleasantly surprised by a slow burner that's something different. (The Pros massively outweigh the cons!)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 2 April 2007
I bought this game with much trepidation...not so much as to what the quality of the gameplay would be like, more with how it would run on my aging system which hardly reaches the minimum specs specified for the game to run properly. However my fears were not realised as it flies along at a more than respectable pace. Gameplay wise I can say that i've not played a game i've enjoyed so much since Halflife 2. A Brilliantly realised world certainly helps things along. The day and night cycle is superb as is the weather conditions. Swirling wind which whips up fallen leaves to distant flashes of lightning and ominous rumbles of thunder all add the the immersive qualities within the game. The relative lack of ammunition really adds a sense that every single one of your rounds must count...switch your AK47 to full auto and your precious supply will be diminished in no time...Find a scope and attach that instead and pick your shots carefully is my advice.

So all in all I'm totally happy with this game. I've had no crashes or major bugs....infact it's a little gem and i'd highly recommend it to anyone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2008
16-Jun-08 - The 'Oblivion Lost 2.0' MOD

To go on a bit more (sorry again!) - having played the game a couple of times + added several mods - all of which were easy to apply and fun to use - I finally loaded the many (many) Mb of the 'Oblivion Lost 2.0' mod.

Without gushing - this really transforms the game from 'very good' to 'excellent' - drivable vehicles, better guns, more (many more) critters, blow-outs, a truely random/living environment amd smarter AI.

Minor niggles exist of course (it's STALKER - duh!) such as the graphics revert to (uhmm, to be polite) 'kinda okay of you don't look too hard', and a few others besides... but trust me, if you own STALKER give this patch a try - just do NOT load it before you've played the game 'normally' (twice) - this patch isn't easy - but oh-boy is it ever FUNFUNFUN!!!

(Oh, and it's freefreefree budski's...................)

...and if, as much web-comment suggests, Oblivion Lost was how the original game was supposed to be, then I can't wait for 'Clear Sky'...


In summary - just buy it - it'd be rude not to! But...

It's best to understand right up front that STALKER is not a First-Person Shoot-em-up - at least not in the classic sense - and if that's your own particular taste ala 'marmite&toast', then you may not get on with this one. If anything, it's much more a snipe-em-up.

That's not to say that there isn't a lot of shooting-em-up needed - but only as a means to an end - this is more a role playing game, and is borderline an adventure. Think of Boiling Point (only done well) and even think of Elite if you are old enough (and yes yes I know it's not set in space).

Be warned though - from loading STALKER go straight to the web and apply all of the patches - and even then expect to still have the occasional crash. And then forgive 'them' for being brave enough for producing a game that dares to be different.

Also be warned some of the Russian/English is, err, a tad hard to grasp sometimes - but just imagine it's done for effect to make it all the more immersive. Actually 'immersive' is a good description of the game overall as there's a strong sense of being somewhere that's real - a living/breath place/space.

Key to it feeling immersive is that much (most even) of what happens in the game, is not scripted - so you can't learn your way through the maps - and as a result it's sometimes genuinely frightening - eg you can hear the pack of dogs approaching, but you don't know where they are... yet... Ditto working your way back through the underground research complex (to pick up all those extra goodies you could carry last time) is borderline terrifying as you hear the assorted critters, that have recently moved in, hunting you.

The sense of being on your own is all pervasive, so don't expect 'JTaC' with their satellites etc helping you through - the people who use you do so for their own ends - you should return the favour.

The graphics are actually pretty good and the sunrise/day/sunset/night cycle works really very well - but don't expect Crysis-levels of <fill in the graphics effect of your liking> - oh, and it does rain rather a lot! The weapons have a 'real feel' to them (not that I'd actually know) - and even jam from time to time.

There are sub-tasks a plenty, albeit the controlling AI sometimes gets a bit confused as to what's been done/where's the reward - but again, it's forgivable.

To echo what Paul and Axeman say - that the patches invalidate your saves is... errr... very not good, AND you really DO have to stick at this game, but trust me, once you 'tune in' and the rewards start coming, it easily makes up for the initial 'vague naffness' of it... honest!!!!

So - if you like first person games where it's not all shooty-shoot, then STALKER is a absolute must buy at £5/£10 of your hard earned pennies, and it will amply reward the time needed to get acquainted - and time is needed.

But: Don't expect an FPS; don't leave your brain out when you play; do take time to explore (always think in 3D in any built-up area); do, much like cricket, give yourself time to play yourself 'in'; and do use F6 (quick save) very (very) often - death comes quickly in 'the zone'.

(Sorry, I did 'go on a bit'...)
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2007
I'll put the little moan first. For me, this game is a little too realistic to the point of frustrating. You die for too quickly and the AI is far too good, even on the easiest settings. If you're really into Battlefield type style of 'dying easiness' then you'll be fine, but if you're used to Unreal style 'it takes about 5 rockets to kill you' then coping will be a little tough. End of moan.

I wouldn't listen to people who say it crashes a lot. I've played Stalker on five different computers. It crashed on one, and that I believe is due to old graphics drivers (some of my old games don't run with new drivers) rather than bad programming. I've never had any crash problems with the game at all. Yes, I cannot run it on full settings to experience the full beauty of the environment, but I can still get a good feel for it. I upgrade my PC regularly when decent parts come down in price, so my next upgrade should handle Stalker quite well.

I've found a few glitches, maybe that shouldn't be there in a full release of the game, but nothing a few patches wouldn't fix I'm sure. The most annoying factor is the English - it's all in American and that comes across as being lazy and not being bothered to do translations in both English languages. There are a few gramatical errors in the written dialogues too, but half of the time, I don't really notice. I've only found one graphics glitch, were I appear to walk out of the room and into the skybox. The walls disappear and I'm still left with the corridors but surrounded by a sky, sort of like you'd see in a level editor if viewing from outside the world.

From technical to gaming aspects. I've only notched down my overall opinion of Stalker's 'funness' because the realism with dying easily from one well placed shot (which the computer AI easily does) is frustrating at times. This game has atmosphere! I point that out because few games I've played really have a decent atmosphere. At the start of the game, you work for the Trader at Cordon, doing random jobs which involves shooting a few bandits and wild dogs. The whole idea of the game is to kill Strelok, but I wont go into storyline detail because it will spoil it. After a few cut scenes, it does almost become obvious what happens with killing this random person.

But once you get out to Bar and starting doing more interesting jobs for the Barkeep, the atmosphere starts to get a little creepy. You see more mutants such as Bloodsuckers, Controllers, Zombie Stalkers and Snorks. In some locations, there is even poltergeist activity where barrels, crates and even guns are thrown at you. If you play it in the dark with a 5.1 surround sound system, you will get the full sound effect and trust me, it will scare you to death! After Fear, it's the first game to actually make me jump and curse out of being jumpy. In the indoor levels, things become very dark, a little tight and very lonely. It's not scary to the point of giving you nightmares, but it's very jumpy.

One little bad point, but that's only my opinion. The ending seems a little disappointing. Though there are several endings, depending whether you complete everything and complete the main missions or miss a few things and complete the 'false mission'. Somehow, I just thought after how the storyling progressed, and when you finally reach the centre of the zone, the ending seems a little short, confusing and maybe dull. Almost like a rushed finish. But because I enjoyed the game, especially the graphics and the atmosphere, I wont let the ending spoil my review.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2007
Yes apologies outright for the pun. Unforgivable.

I have read elsewhere that STALKER is a game you really must play in order to understand modern gaming. Do I agree? Not Sure. Let me explain.

You know by now what STALKER is - you're a lone soldier-of-fortune exploring the wastes of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. You have any amount of freedom of movement within the zone and can interact with characters as you see fit to.

Perhaps most importantly, you will have to start by Patching this game. It just doesn't work "out of the box", don't even attempt it, you'll ruin any enjoyment. Still, that's not a major issue, once patched it is a great game to get your teeth into. Others have stated that the graphics are a bit dated and, while they aren't up there with Crysis or BioShock, they're not off-putting either.

The sound effects are outstanding. The weather effects are very convincing, distant gunfire cracks with menace and some of the dark tunnel areas are genuinely frightening. Even though you have no clue what's going on, it still manages to grip you, which is an impressive achievement.

Which leads nicely on to the storyline. That's all a bit shaky to be honest. You have to "Kill Strelok", and that's about it. You never feel really compelled by unfolding drama, which is a shame. But even so, you keep playing.

I thought, at first, that the weapons system was rubbish, collision detection was naff and even at point blank with a big shotgun you'd be hard pressed to hit a barn door. However - after sticking at it things do become clear. This is the most realistic weapons handling so far seen in a game. You can't just rock up with no training and be a Jedi here in the Zone - No, you'll need to lie low, pick your shots carefully and train yourself to survive or you will die quickly.

Overall, this game feels a bit like a nastier, grubbier version of Oblivion. You have an Enormous playing area, you converse and trade with other characters who don't appear in the same place twice (the game's A-Life system deserves a special mention. While it's not quite as good as playing with or against other people online, it's not far short), you have any number of side-quests and the whole thing is over-arched by a quest which doesn't seem to really matter if you never complete it.

So Overall then, I do think that STALKER is worth buying and playing. It is a unique game. It very successfully draws you in and will keep you playing it. You can tell it's not a western game - it's "feel" is completely different to a western shooter. What I would say as a cautionary note is that you do need to be prepared to stick with it. It would be very easy to give up early on, but then it does reward you when you least expect it.

This review might seem a bit confused, but that does really reflect a game which is not sure whether it's a very good shooter, or a very good RPG. I keep coming back to it, and it keeps surprising me, and that's surely a good endorsement for any game.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2007
I puchased this game thinking it would be another scare tactics fps like F.E.A.R, i was suprrised generally by the amunt of thought and development that has obviously gone into making this game, so first of all i think the game is most definatley worth the money. as for enjoyment, i played the game without much research and struggled to progress along the true story path, this due to a bit of impatience and a few game bugs that can resulst in failed missions, never-the-less i started a fresh with a game plan and i have since been scared to death, mentally challenged, pumped with adrenaline and thouroghly amazed by it contents and im only half way through. i just cannot wait to see the dam power station in all its depressing glory.
A must by for high spec Pc gamers and fans of games that have allot of substance.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2007
Having played and finished STALKER a couple of times i can say that its one of the best and most memorable games i have played for years. It has atmosphere that most games can only dream about. The disturbing howls across anomaly filled blasted lands, the rumble of distant thunder, the minimal electro soundtrack. The deserted factories and buildings, the feeling of solitude, desertion and general weirdness is unparalled. The combat is brutal and adrenaline filled and how the AI works is staggering and occasionally frustrating. It helps to get an understanding of the game if you have read Roadside Picnic and watched Andrei Tartovskys film Stalker. The joy of listening to NPCs talking in Russian is fantastic. So i don't understand it but it lends terrific atmosphere. I can't start to explain the fear the game generates at times and how nasty the Snorks are. Yes it has its flaws and it requires a decent PC to get the lighting etc to look incredible. What also is incredible is what had to be removed from the game. Some modders have uncovered the drivable vehicle code and also where your character dreams. Further adventures in the Zone have recently been announced by GSC as this has sold loads and deservedly so. It really is a superb experience and great game. If you are a convert like me then you will know exactly what i mean. Keep an eye out for Fallout 3 from Bethesda too in the far future.
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