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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: GSC World


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PC Preview - 'S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl'

by The Cookie Snatcher on June 3, 2004 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl will provide players with extremely dynamic gameplay of fast and tough combats, where players are to oppose dangerous and wise enemies, a large set of multifarious weaponry, possibility to control various machinery, incredible detailing and game world interactivity, story-driven single player with original team gameplay, a well-balanced multiplayer with numerous modes: DeathMatch, CTF, Cooperative, various team games and much more.

Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: GSC Game World
Release Date: September 28, 2004

Flashing, multi-colored lights. Booming techno. Random, bizarrely appropriate social interaction. Morgan Web. Elaborate game demo kiosks. Rum and coke. Beer. Coke and gin. An open bar. Newcomers. Veterans. Fancy hors d’oeuvres. Spontaneous live telecasts. Waitresses that professionally fake enthusiasm. Bartenders that don’t refuse to serve you based upon your current alcohol consumption. Colleagues that look out for your beer and make a valid effort to keep your cup full. Chain-link fences, for no reason. Oh, and something about PC games, or something.

I’m at my first pre-e3 party where THQ is showcasing, among other things, two upcoming PC games entitled S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and War Hammer 40K: Dawn of War. I am a visitor here. But it doesn’t take long to warm up to the panoramic ass kicking that THQ is currently delivering via advanced sensory overload tactics. It won’t be long now before Mark (WP’s PC editor) asks if I want to leave or stay. If I leave it will mean the end of my ‘rotating orb’ experience, as it has come to be known. But if I stay then I’ll be forfeiting my only ride back to the motel. Luckily, I was drunk enough to continue staring into ‘the spiraling shape.’ Thomas (all-around WP contributor), fresh from Konami’s pre-e3 shindig, was hanging tough with a blood alcohol level that would kill a donkey, but was eventually convinced to call it a night. So with most of the WP staff riding home with Mark, the remaining three, as we came to be known, nobly stayed in their stead in order so that we could bring our readers a preview of the games on display at THQ’s pre-e3 party. Thank god for press kits.

One of the games being shown at this event was S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a survival FPS that attempts to capitalize on the tragic events of 1986 when a nuclear explosion took out Reactor Four at Chernobyl and infected the surrounding area with extreme amounts of deadly radiation. Yes, the devastating incident claimed by some to be foreign sabotage, resulting in the “breakdown of the USSR economy and the collapse of the soviet socialist government*.”, is now the central theme for a PC shooter. The game’s developer is, appropriately enough, comprised of Ukrainians.

Developer GSC Gameworld is based out of Kiev, Ukraine – a scant two hundred miles from Chernobyl. Formed in 1995, the developer started out creating edutainment and encyclopedia software for the Ukrainian and Russian markets before turning their sights to gaming. Known mostly for their popular Cossacks series of real-time strategy titles, they are now trying their hand at the FPS genre.

The story in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl takes place in 2010, 4 years after a massive explosion shattered Chernobyl. Ground zero came to be known as the ‘Exclusion Zone’ and was officially sealed off by the military to keep people out, but mostly to quell the possibility of public backlash over the hazards the radiation posed on the surrounding areas. Now, four years after the event, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s populate the dangerous territory in the hopes of finding sought after artifacts and anomalous formations that certain organizations desperately want to further the fruition of their undisclosed intentions. You play the part of a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. whose greed spurned an experience that will ultimately reveal Chernobyl’s darkest secret.

The game looks to be very promising both in terms of graphics and gameplay. It will feature non-linear exploration across a game world of nearly 30 square kilometers (80% of which is said to be closely modeled after the actual area) and support up to 32 players. The AI system at work in Shadow of Chernobyl promises to feature all sorts of hyper intelligent sub-routines -- such as a unique behavior assigned for each and every life form in the game; the potential for weather and environmental effects (such as day/night, wind, rain, etc) to drastically alter creature behavior; and a highly developed ‘life simulation’ system. Just how well all these dynamics will come together when the game is actually released is hard to say, but you must admit that GSC has some intriguing aspirations.

Over 25 different kinds of weapons and upgrades will be available in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl. Along with an assortment of standard guns (the gameplay footage we were shown had the player pimping a pistol and a heavy duty assault rifle). You’ll also get to play with some other, more interesting methods of destruction such as gravitational and psychotropic weapons. Not to mention the ability to harness telepathy and telekinesis. How, exactly, GSC is planning on implementing mental powers is at this point still not clear.

You’ll be able to gear up in an assortment of different equipment ranging from standard fatigues to protective armor. What you wear is an important element of the game as the employed physics system is able to detect exactly where, for example, a bullet hits and then reacts accordingly. Not only will the amount of damage inflicted be dependant on where you are hit and what type of protective equipment you are wearing, but the advanced physics system of the game actually allows for bullets to rip through flesh, giving the player a graphical representation of the entry and exit points of the metal slug. The physics system also comes into play in nearly every other aspect of the shooter; environments feature tons of interactive objects and the vehicles will realistically react to different terrain and inflicted damage.

Utilizing a hitherto little-known graphics engine called the X-Ray engine, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. certainly looks to be a serious contender in the FPS genre when it is released which, at this point, has yet to be determined. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this title in months to come so stay tuned for further development news as the retail release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. comes into focus.

*Former deputy chief of staff for special zone forces V. Podsvirov.

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