Really Late Game Review: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadows of Chernobyl

So I bought and played Stalker… err sorry, I mean S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (read that to yourself as “S period T period A period L period K period E period R period” every time it shows up in this post and you might get a small taste of something similar to the annoyance I felt playing the game.) Shadows of Chernobyl during the Steam holidays sale, or rather I should say I bought it during the sale back in December and got around to playing recently.

Short version of this post: Blarg, I want my $2 back.

This game got so much favorable press and fanfare and rave reviews, comparing it to Fallout 3, that I was expecting something I could really get into, but I just don’t get what anyone sees in this game.

So many things just irritated the hell out of me from the onset, some of my major qualms with the game (in no particular order):

1. It looks like ass.

I know it’s a 3 year old game, but it looks like ass for a 3 year old game. Gray colored people fighting other gray colored people and gray colored monsters in a gray world with gray rain. Sure, sure, it came out in 2007, but so did Half Life 2: Episode 2 and the first Mass Effect. I mean, look at a comparison between the two games:

Sure, we’re talking a much smaller company vs. a huge multi-million dollar gaming powerhouse company, but still, even in it’s heyday, I can’t say S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was much to brag about in the way of graphics.

But graphics aren’t everything you say? I agree, many games make up for lackluster or dated graphics with other elements. Which leads me to more complaints.

2. Horrible A.I. & buggy as hell.

You start of the game with like a slingshot and soon run into enemies with fully automatic weapons and body armor. Stealth and smart use of terrain etc. are supposed to be the key here, but whereas with a nice spec a modern (not 2007) PC at full settings I still have trouble picking out Mr. Gray Blob 1 from background of gray blobby trees, gray blobby railroad tracks and gray blobby building, they instantly know exactly where I am at all times and and are just predisposed to disliking me for some reason.

Stealth is a lie in this game. The A.I. always knows where you are, even when they cannot possibly see or hear you and are half a mile away.

Except when it is just completely clueless and can’t tell where anything is like in situations where you can go in by an alternate route and the A.I. will literally stand still and let you shoot them in the back head repeatedly and the dumber than dirt allies.

Add to this the self completing/failing missions (I failed missions I never even picked up!) and a host of other technical problems, and it just doesn’t make the game very much fun to play.

Examples: (Videos found on youtube, not mine nor is the terrible music in most of them my choice)
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3. OMG THE HEAD BOB!”#!”$!%!”

Seriously, wtf. This is not “realistic” and anyone who claims it is should immediately visit a doctor, because the world is not supposed to flop around like this when you walk:
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4. Story

Apparently there is one. I know, I was surprised too. I played the game for a total of 7 hours, and still mostly had no clue what the hell was going in. It starts off boring and doesn’t tell you anything. The game makes you work at trying to piece together the story. I don’t mean in an in-game/in-world sort of way. I mean if you, the player do not read tons of text and make a serious effort to try and figure out what the hell is going on and what the point of you doing anything is, then the story is vague at best.

It never really seems to grab you and involve you in the story, its more aimless wandering and doing a bunch of more or less random quests because you just don’t have anything better to do.

Add to this that most of the spoken dialog and in-world text is in Russian, which while making for a “realistic” experience as the game is based in Russia, does not make for a very involved experience for me, because I DON’T SPEAK OR READ RUSSIAN GODDAMNIT.

Now, I’m a translator in my real world job. And I can completely sympathize with the fact that 99% of all things are better in their original language, but that doesn’t help when I don’t speak that language, and I’m not about to try and pick up another language so that I can gain a better understanding of a game that I am angry I paid $2 for.

All of that together just makes for a disjointed, vague, difficult to find and comprehend story, and an overall terrible gaming experience. I put 7 hours into the game because so many people told me how wonderful and great and awesome it was, like a better version of Fallout 3. Well, they wrong. All of them. I enjoyed Fallout 3 about 1,000,000 times more and I rage quit in the middle of that game because of a bunch of bugs that made it impossible for me to progress in half the missions.

The only fun or enjoyment I had at all in stalker was when I finally managed to get a gun with a scope and made my way up to the highest point in one of the towns and went water tower on all the anti-social, boring, buggy A.I. brown and gray pricks who lived there before uninstalling the game and falling into a restless sleep dreaming of the $2 and 7 hours I would never see again.

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