NetGuide NZ - S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Warning: This story was published more than a year ago.
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Platforms: PC
Publisher: THQ
Developer: GSC
Rating: MA 15+ (Strong Violence)
Players: Single player.  Multiplayer Death Match via LAN/Internet – supports 32 players.
Website: www.Stalker-Videogame.com

My comrades, S.T.A.L.K.E.R has finally arrived. And as you read this, the game will probably be in its second or third week of release in New Zealand after seven or so years of waiting. So, savour it. Cherish it. How often does an experience like S.T.A.L.K.E.R find its way to your beloved PC? Not anywhere near as often as it should.

So, we can probably forgive the waiting just as long as the game delivers everything it’s hyped up to be and then some, right? Well, an hour into the game and I am already thinking this has got to be one of the best FPS games I have played in a while for the PC. We’ve had a pretty dry spot on the FPS side of things as far as PC games are concerned so us PC gamers have been literally frothing at the mouth for a good, decent FPS game to bring us out of the doldrums of mediocrity. I say S.T.A.L.K.E.R will end that suffering.

After playing the preview code a month ago, I was fairly impressed with the final release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. If you’re reading about this game for the first time, you owe it to yourself to be as educated about it as you can. S.T.A.L.K.E.R is not a game for the faint hearted although with five different difficulty levels, anyone could play it.

For serious FPS fans (like me) you should probably opt to play S.T.A.L.K.E.R on Veteran or Master level. But believe me, it’s pretty hard trying to avoid AI aiming for your head all the time. I like the challenge but I kid you not when I say it’s a challenge on Veteran level. And this is another one of S.T.A.L.K.E.R’s key strengths.

We won’t go into detail about your character in the game; suffice it to say you’re a ‘Loner’ S.T.A.L.K.E.R called the ‘Marked One’ who basically picks up missions to survive and exist. You go from one mission to another, each mission (and level) increasing in threat and difficulty. Your world is all about radiation, weapons, killing and survival. And that’s the name of the game, really. If you think that’s simplistic, well, it is and that’s why this game works.

There are role-playing elements to this game that also work extremely well. The dialogue is well scripted and obviously brings a bit of depth to the story, which helps to keep you engaged in something more than just worrying about where to pick up your next med kit. As this is a shooter, you are required to shoot things, lots of things… and not just humans.

The radiation in the environment plays an important part in the game and at some stage - especially during combat, it’s very easy to forget that not only are you fighting against other people, but you’re fighting the environment too. And not only the environment but the animals in the environment. At any one time you could be shooting your (human) enemies, watching out for any sign of radiation and as if that wasn’t enough, avoiding extremely aggressive dogs and other ‘things’ that don’t seem to have names. This is the world of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

To survive in S.T.A.L.K.E.R you need to be able to shoot at things and kill them – quickly. You also need to be able to loot bodies on the run whilst keeping your head about you at all times. You will, undoubtedly, begin to find yourself enjoying the looting. I somehow managed to acquire a morbid fascination with the type of loot I could get from different enemies that I killed. At one stage in the game, I found myself wanting to kill things just to see what loot they’d drop. And again I say to you that S.T.A.L.K.E.R is not for the faint hearted, but whatever you do - don’t forget to loot!

S.T.A.L.K.E.R is going to be the FPS PC game to beat this year. With quite a few meaty FPS titles coming out for the PC in 2007, it will be interesting to see how S.T.A.L.K.E.R stacks up against some tough competition. Although the subject matter is somewhat controversial, we doubt this will deter FPS fans at all in fact it could be the one thing that draws them to the game. With the type of gritty realism that can only be found in games that are designed for the extreme PC gamer in mind, S.T.A.L.K.E.R will help to redefine a genre that is in desperate need of something good - something great to entertain and thrill PC gamers once more. S.T.A.L.K.E.R is all that and then some.

Pros:
•  Exciting and immersive, edge of your seat game play
•  Great environments, solid yet fluid visuals and eerie background music give this game the polished touch expected
•  The development work on the environments is exceptional
Cons:
•  The only one this game will ever have - having to wait so long to play it

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