by Howie Howard
previewed on PC
After the critically acclaimed first person shooter/role playing game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and its prequel S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, GSC Game World is ready to dive into the Russian irradiated wasteland once again. Throw in a nuclear meltdown, irradiated creatures, and different factions, and you have the scenario for a classic science fiction "kill the mutated monsters" romp.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy is based on the science fiction novella, Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky and the 1979 film Stalker. A stalker is an explorer and artifact scavenger bent on performing illegal activities in an area called "The Zone". The Zone is an area that suffered a nuclear explosion, turning all the inhabitants into horribly disfigured monsters. Admittance to it is prohibited, but everyone needs to make a living, and our stalker needs to enter The Zone to ply his trade.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat starts a few days after the Shadow of Chernobyl game ends when the government discovers an open pathway to The Zone. Since the Zone is now open, the government decides to launch a military operation in order to capture the area from the factions that hold control. Unfortunately, something goes wrong and the military operation fails. This is where the player's skill as a stalker is required and you are sent into The Zone to figure out what is happening.
Putting Taxpayer Money to Work
In this new incarnation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. the player won't be allowed to join a faction as he could in the previous two games because he is a government agent. However, you can accept missions from the factions and this will gain you experience and a bevy of artifacts that are needed to advance in the game. The game's plot is again non-linear, and there are around seventy new side missions that have been added for your gaming pleasure. These new side missions are more detailed than the ones in previous S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games. In addition to this, the developers have seen fit to add an open sand box style, free play mode at the completion of the story. This has the potential to allow the fun to continue after all of the work of solving the mystery has been completed.
As you trek through the Zone at the behest of the government, expect to face many of the same monsters that were featured in previous games, as well as two new ones, the Burer and the Chimera. All enemies sport a revamped artificial intelligence. The popular system of communicating with NPCs is returning and new weapons and armor systems can be upgraded as you gain experience.
One nice addition is the day and night cycle. Some of the quests will only be available during the nighttime hours, but since this is a non-linear game you can try them during a different time of day. To add balance, the pay out from completing the mission might not be as good as if it were done at night.
As proof of its dedication, GSC Game World has sent in photographers to take real world photos of Chernobyl, the real life disaster zone that the environments are based on. This is exciting because it provides the ability to have a photo realistic game world that has never been seen by anyone other than few scientists, government officials, or the poor people caught in the blast.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat is much anticipated due to the success of the first two games in the series. Sure, the first two installments had minor bugs and problems, but from what I have seen GSC Game World is dedicated to developing the best S.T.A.L.K.E.R. sequel possible with this installment. Expect to be Stalked this November on a PC near you.