S.T.A.L.K.E.R (acronym for scavengers, trespassers, adventurers, loners, killers, explorers and robbers—quite a mouthful, eh?) is a game that almost never was. Delayed by six years after its initial announcement, S.T.A.L.K.E.R is an ambitious FPS (first-person shooter) game that mixes elements of action, strategy and trading to provide a surprisingly open-ended, non-linear gameplay experience.
The game is based on the film Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky and the book Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. The game is set many years after the infamous “meltdown” in Chernobyl, which forced the nuclear plant to be shut down and hundreds of people to be evacuated.
The darkside: Be prepared for mutant beasts and other creeps.
In the year 2006, a second explosion rocks the supposedly defunct Chernobyl nuclear station, causing a second meltdown, creating in the process, an area of hazardous environment around the reactor known as the Zone. It’s so named because of the many mysterious artefacts and anomalies that litter the surroundings. The artefacts have interesting properties that can be beneficial or harmful or both, and some people perceive them as valuable items for trade. The Zone, therefore, gives rise to an ecosystem consisting of government soldiers, mercenaries, bandits and the artefact hunters known as Stalkers.
You start the game waking up in the Zone after having been rescued from a “death truck” that met with an accident. Unfortunately, you have no recollection of events preceding the accident and have no idea who you’re supposed to be. The only thing that you have to go on is a note that was found on you that simply says “Kill Strelok”. That ultimately is your goal, but because of the open-ended nature of the game, you can go around exploring the environment, hunting for artefacts, trading stuff, pursuing other side missions and generally leading the life of a Stalker without having to narrowly follow the main plot line.
Along the way you will discover that there are various factions of people in the Zone—some friendly and some not. The game features a fully independent and functional ecosystem where characters go about their task and react to events around them in a realistic manner. So, if you were to choose to side with a faction, be prepared to receive hostile reactions if you come across members from opposing factions.
The Zone also plays host to many mutated beasts, some of whom possess strange powers that they use to hunt prey. Most of them hide in tunnels of top secret installations underground. Be prepared to wet your pants when you come across one of them.
The game features high quality graphics with day/night cycles, weather effects and all the other usual graphical wizardry expected of a modern next-generation game. Be warned that the system requirements to run this game are quite high and if you want to play this game at a decent speed, meet the recommended system requirements. You will not be disappointed with S.T.A.L.K.E.R, especially at this price.
Game: S.T.A.L.K.E.R—Shadow of Chernobyl
Price: Rs699, at all leading gaming stores
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