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S.T.A.L.K.E.R Call of Pripyat Mini-Review

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I've decided that creating a whole slew of full length reviews that would be lengthy and require an exorbitant amount of effort, I'm going to use my blog to write a series of miniature reviews. If someone likes a particular review, I can go full-scale with it and try to get it published with TPG.

Today I'll be looking at the third installation of the STALKER series, Call of Pripyat:

Story: Call of Pripyat is less a sequel to the events of Clear Sky and Shadow of Chernobyl (In that order) than it is its own rendition of the game. There are moments that make more sense if you've played the previous two, such as the one at the end, but otherwise Call of Pripyat has its own, unique storyline. Unlike the previous two, however, you are not bound to the storyline. In fact, exploration is something that is encouraged, in the form of hidden stashes. I often treat my gameplay when I'm not following the story as a kind of treasure hunt: where's the next stash? What's in it? The stashes contain anything from food and medical supplies to ammunition and rare weaponry.
But, back to the story, it is extremely free-form up until the very last moments of the game where it becomes on-rails mandatory. You start of in Zaton, a very swampy region with a dried up lake bed that once served as a trade route for oil tankers. As such, there are two beached tankers in the semi-dried up lake bed, one of which serves as a kind of safe haven and market for the Stalkers. The second region is the area around Jupiter Power Plant, but most stalker will refer to the area as Yanov, named after its central safe haven, the Yanov train station. Yanov is significantly drier, and offers a wider variance of terrain and places to go, but is considerably more dangerous than Zaton. The third and final area is the city of Pripyat. This is where the storyline finally comes together, and is the area where you end the game, should you choose to leave the zone at all
Your character is Major Degtyarev, a USS agent sent to the Zone to discover why the Russian Army's helicopters crashed in their attempts to reach the center of the Zone. Most Stalkers don't even know you're USS, so they treat you as a regular Stalker.

The X-ray 1.6 engine is simply amazing. Direct X 11 lighting creates a stunning landscape as the sun goes down, or as a fireball passes nearby lighting up the area around it, casting shadows on yourself and objects in its vicinity. The greatest thing about Call of Pripyat is the contrast of light and dark: everything around you is in ruins, the ground is blackened, creatures have rotted skins, yet the sun creates beautiful vistas as you stand on top of a simple hill. And the X-ray engine does this all without dragging your video card down in the slightest bit; my system has very modest specs, and I can get a consistent 60 FPS everywhere.

In the absence of a story to follow step by step, Call of Pripyat makes up for that in its great gameplay. Without the mod that I use to make the game incredibly hard, all of the STALKER games are exceedingly tough. Ammo is hard to come by; weapons will degrade as you use them; money is scarce and is not given freely; radiation, hunger, and the elements will kill you. But, that's what makes playing the game so continually rewarding. Every time you leave the safety of the Stalker camps, you're fighting for your life, and few people will help you. The game feature a system called A-life, which governs how each individual Stalker runs his day. A group of Stalkers may travel from one area to another in search of artifacts or scavenging ammo off of other dead Stalkers. Mutants will travel around the Zone too, picking fights with the occasional group of Stalkers, you, or even other mutants for territory. Large three way fights can break out, completely unscripted, and you can just watch from a distance through your binoculars to see who wins. You can then live up to your STALKER name and scavenge from the dead. (By the way, STALKER is a an acronym for: Scavenger, Trespasser, Adventurer, Loner, Explorer, Killer, Robber. You can choose any of those too live by, mine being Scavenger and Adventurer. This is not an actual part of the game, just a part of the lore I like to follow)

One of the things that makes the previous two STALKER games make you crap your pants about. The Zone is a very quiet place... that is until a pack of dogs starts chasing you down or a bandit opens fire on you. Sounds are wonderfully done in Call of Pripyat. I am a veteran of the Zone, so most of the things in the game don't scare me anymore, but I've had frights because a Chimera starts leaping toward me out of the darkness. The STALKER series is really all about atmosphere, and all the parts of the game, including the sound, contribute to its atmosphere.

Not for everyone. Its learning curve is about as steep as it gets, but once you get the hang of things it's like a walk in the park, except it's filled with deadly things. Dying is a part of the game, so quicksaving and quickloading is a must, and needs to be learned early on. If you think you're going to round a corner into something nasty, quicksave. If you think that you're safe out in the open? Quicksave anyway, a pack of mutants can be on you at any time and you didn't even know they were there. As said before, Call of Pripyat is about atmosphere; when you get past the terrible dialogue, you realize the game was put together very well and all of its parts just flow to create an enjoyable game.

Thanks for reading. I'll be working on some other reviews in the near future.

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    i8pptuakamonstercam's Avatar
    nice Allane, I to really enjoy all of the stalker games. Good fun.
    WaterDumple's Avatar
    Definitely an underrated game with a very nice atmosphere. I wouldn't praise the graphics hardly at all without a mod, but the gameplay and sound is perfect. Atmospheric games often have to resort to linearity, but Call of Pripyat nails it without needing that in the slightest until the climax.
    Dusk's Avatar
    The difficulty is the only reason I have not bought the game...
    Toad's Avatar
    Hey Allane, nice review! Have you found any good bugfix mods for the game? I hear that the first two STALKER's got a lot better once you applied some fanmade patches to get rid of bugs. Also, do you have any particularly cool screenshots?