S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky (PC)

Don your gas mask and get ready to enter The Zone in the prequel to one of last year’s most interesting first-person shooter titles.

Released early in 2007, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl proved to be one of the more interesting first-person shooters of the year. Based on the movie of the same name, you played The Marked One, a character that made his way around an alternate reality of Chernobyl’s nuclear meltdown trading and taking part of an intriguing storyline with one of several endings.

But with different ways to finish S.T.A.L.K.E.R., you always had to keep asking yourself what of the beginning? Created by the same team responsible for the first game, Clear Sky takes you back to The Zone before Shadow of Chernobyl even took place

Clear Sky has you playing as Scar, a mercenary exiting in The Zone, a game world where you’re free to explore, discover interesting animals, make friends and try to
survive a very toxic, unstable environment. While Clear Sky exists as an FPS, it has a feature-rich RPG side that, while not as rich as Oblivion, does affect how you will play out a mission and ultimately the end of the game.

The main story line can be ignored most of the time if you
simply want to explore and play the secondary missions, a tactic which will help
you in making friends. Likewise, it is very easy to fail a number of
missions but completing them will be beneficial for you in any number of ways.

For people returning the Zone, there are a number of changes. You can
now get ‘upgrades’ to weapons and your environment suits. The artifacts
are much harder to find and in many ways are a smaller part of the
game. You can also ‘fast travel’ between areas with the help of ‘a
guide’. The biggest change is the structure of the ‘Factions’, the
groups existing within the Zone. In Shadow of Chernobyl, you helped out the factions
while the STALKERS where ranked independently. Now, it is the
factions that are ranked and you are given either a friend or enemy
ranking towards each group, similar to how Grand Theft Auto treats gangs. You can also join a faction which will make a difference to how the others will treat you.

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Much like the original, though, there are many issues. A lot of the technical
issues have already been fixed and it is highly recommend you patch
the game before playing it for the first time. For many people, the
frantic way some of the early tasks are assigned to you, the way you
can just appear to ‘die’ and the seemingly impossible situations with
little help could be too much to bear. The game can feel unforgiving
and unpolished because of the sheer chaos that this sort of design exudes. On top of that, there are very long load times, sometimes with graphic glitches that may give the
appearance of a crash. Possibly the most annoying part is that the AI
seems to stop working at points. The AI will appear to be either stuck in an
animation loop or non-playable characters will all do the same thing, making for an easy and too predicable target.

However, if you can get past these issues, you will be rewarded with a
living dynamic world that changes with your actions. There is something
very satisfying when you work out just how to get past an impossible
predicament, or when you and your faction buddies help clear out an
area.

Because of all of this, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is not a title for people that just want to point and shoot. You need to spend time learning the environment and the interface, then
working out how to proceed into the Zone and which tasks to take on.
While there is one main outcome of the game, the real enjoyment is not
the ending, but the unique way you reach it.

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Developer: GSC Game World
Publisher: Red Ant
Classification: MA15+
Formats: PC
URL: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky

Written by Ray Dow

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