The 3rd time in the Zone

If you’re an avid fps game fan, you’re bound to know the series of games called S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developed by the Ukrainian team GSC Game World, beginning in 2007 with the truly epic Shadow of Chernobyl, continues in 2008 with Clear Sky and hit our screens for the 3rd time last February (2010) with Call of Pripyat.

The series is based loosely on the film Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky and the same titled novel of the Strugatsky brothers. The main story behind the STALKER series, in very short, is that after the disaster in Chernobyl in 1986 the Soviet Union continues experiments in secret labs located in the now deserted area around Chernobyl. A second explosion in 2006, creates the Zone, an area of  30km in radius, unique for it is host to extreme anomalous activity in nature and mutant inhabitants. Hundreds of people are gathering and scavenging the Zone for precious items formed in the afore mentioned anomalies (also called artifacts) in order to make profit by selling them.

The events of  Call of Pripyat (CoP from now on) unfold shortly after the end of  Shadow of Chernobyl. Having discovered about the open path to the Zone centre, the government decides to hold a large-scale military “Fairway” operation aimed to take the CNPP under control.

According to the operation’s plan, the first military group is to conduct an air scouting of the territory to map out the detailed layouts of anomalous fields location. Thereafter, making use of the maps, the main military forces are to be dispatched.

Despite thorough preparations, the operation fails. Most of the avant-garde helicopters crash. In order to collect information on reasons behind the operation failure, Ukraine’s Security Service send their agent into the Zone centre. The player assumes the role of Major Alexander Degtyarev and must traverse the Zone in order to find what caused the mission to fail.

In my opinion CoP is far better than Clear Sky, in terms of gameplay mainly. The graphics are basically the same as the rest of the titles in the series and to be honest seem to show their age a bit. CoP is laid out between 3 major areas: the Zaton swamp, the Jupiter factory area and finally Pripyat.What disappointed me most was that the game felt a bit repetitive and ultimately boring, as the areas do not offer huge variety. Especially Pripyat seems to be quickly laid out in order to finish the game’s production.

In CoP 2 new weapons are added in the classic STALKER arsenal: an RP-74 belt fed machine gun and Eliminator; a semi-auto shotgun with devastating blast (despite the fact that it takes ages to reload it, you’ll love this one).

Some mods are available for CoP, most of them producing outstanding results, enhancing the overall gaming experience. I’ve personally tested the following three and are well recommended:

  • AtmosFear 2 for CoP, among other things enhances the sky textures and weather effects, also enhances the emission experience by adding further graphical and sound elements to the emission. A word of warning for this one: when installing choose high resolution textures only if your machine has more than 3GB of RAM AND a high end graphics card! If you’re running with less than 3GB RAM choose normal sized textures.
  • Absolute Nature Texture Pack v1.1: modifies the game’s foliage textures  into high quality natural textures is 3 flavours for you to choose: spring, summer and fall. Outstanding work!
  • Absolute Structure Textures pack: As the name implies, it improves (quite greatly I might add!) the textures of buildings and other man made structures in the game’s environment.

All of these mods are very easy to install as they come with self-installers.

Official webs:

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