previewed on PC
Aiming for Perfection
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is a prequel to the epic survival FPS, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, both of which are developed by GSC Game World Studio.
GSC had a great idea with the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as an open-ended, free-roaming first-person shooter. It also had some RPG-like elements to it, such as inventory management and stats that were affected by items such as weapons and body armour. However, as is natural for these types of games, the game had many bugs. Patches were released to cure some of the more game-killing bugs, but plenty of glitches still persist. The good news is that for Clear Sky, the X-Ray game engine has been upgraded to version 1.5, along with improvements to the A-life system and combat AI in general. These upgrades should mean less crippling bugs this time around.
Not much is known about the story other than the player takes on the role of a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (which, by the way stands for Scavenger, Trespasser, Adventurer, Loner, Killer, Explorer, and Robber) in The Zone whose goal is to kill a S.T.A.L.K.E.R by the name of Strelok.
The player may choose which out of the eight factions they wish to join and do battle against the other factions and dangerous wildlife, among other things. The player doesn't have to join any of the factions to complete the game, but joining a faction has many advantages over going solo, such as guides to take you to certain areas of The Zone so you don't have to travel all the way on foot. Probably one of the most useful advantages of joining a faction however, is the new squad-based combat system. Keep in mind you won't be able to command your allies directly. Luckily, though, what they do is dependent on you and your enemies' actions, making them extremely useful against the dangerous mutated creatures as well as armed foes, both of which are much smarter this time around.
As was mentioned above, Clear Sky takes place in The Zone. Because this is the same region that was explored in the first game, you'll get to experience some of the same areas again, albeit under different circumstances. It's been revealed that half of the areas in the game are the same locations as in the Shadow of Chernobyl, and the rest are brand new. One of the new levels is the swamp, where a vicious and invisible Marsh Bloodsucker, which is strong enough to send you and your allies sailing through the air, lives.
New engine and AI
The new game engine will now support DirectX 9 and 10, so you can get the most out of the newest top-of-the-line video cards. In addition to more detailed player models and water and special effects, all lighting is now completely dynamic. A really useful feature is the ability for you to repair and upgrade your weapons, making it unnecessary to carry around a bunch of extra weapons. Shifting the focus to the AI for a moment, enemies and allies will take cover in many ways when necessary, and can interact with the environment (which is now somewhat destructible) and the many dynamic objects included in the game. In addition to this, NPC routines change according to what time of day it is in-game, making the A-Life system that much more varied.
What about Multiplayer?
Clear Sky is confirmed to have an online multiplayer mode. Whether or not the multiplayer mode will contain vehicles is still being decided by the developers, although more than likely they will be included. There are also high hopes for an upgraded editor like the one that was included in the Shadow of Chernobyl for players to make their own multiplayer maps and (hopefully) single-player missions and scenarios.
Clear Sky has already improved so many things from the first game, that I'm excited to see what else has been revamped since then. The game has been given a release date of Q1 2008, so expect an exact date hopefully very soon. The game will ship via Steam and traditional DVD media available in stores when it's released.