S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadows of Chernobyl is 10 years old today

#1


March 20th 2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of STALKER.

Buggy as hell upon release and very much overlooked that year because of Crysis and CoD MW. Years have gone by and slowly people realized what a special game this was, it routinely finds its way to the top of best FPS of all time lists.

A breakthrough AI system, complex ballistics model and an atmosphere widely regarded as the best ever.

It's difficult to describe why a game makes you feel natural taking swigs out of a vodka bottle and smoking cigarettes at your desk, no other game has immersed me more than STALKER. The firefights in STALKER are tense, taking a slow approach hiding in some rubble and picking off an enemy with a perfect shot then frantically finishing off his friend with bursts of fire is one the most rewarding experiences to be had in gaming. Many give the game a try and cant get into the unforgiving start, the game hands you a shitty pistol and tasks you with clearing out a parking garage full of bandits at the beginning, it's sink or swim and not easy to do.

There's nothing quite like STALKER out there, the closest is something like Metro or Fallout 3 modded to hell and back. With the release of DOOM last year as sort of take on Painkiller it gives me hope that something could come along and recapture the magic of this one

It doesn't have much spot light on GAF due to not being a console game but has large followings and weekly threads on other places so I thought I'd toss up a thread to celebrate this absolute masterpiece.
Get out of here Stalker
 
#8
Absolutely great game and in my top 10, didn't deliver on all its promises due to how ambitious it was, but it did so many things right nonetheless. The game is a great example of how to design atmosphere with nuance and how to capture melancholy. It's really a game that captured a lot of soul from classic Soviet science fiction books and film, not surprising based on what it is inspired from either.

The main menu theme to me perfectly encapsulates the melancholic atmosphere of the game.

I've tried so many times over the years to get into it. The furthest I've made it is like one hour in. I'll come back to it again sometime soon I think.
Cordon and the first hour are not great in my opinion as a huge fan and does a bad job of explaining to the player what the game is. From what I remember it's because certain features from the early game such as even the Cordon area were cut. The game really opens up soon though and there's a lot of great immersive complexity from it's A-life AI system (every NPC is active and doing something all around the world at any given time, not something most games do). The game's strength is how well it blends its open-ended world exploration and atmosphere and various game systems in order to create how melancholic and harsh The Zone is. The game world is constantly evolving as well, it's not particularly static, when exploring and delving into the underground labs, over time certain parts of the world change in inhabitants as there are faction fights etc, and your route of say funneling artifacts may not be that safe any more.

In the later games, such as CoP, a lot of loot in the game is persistent such as weapons - this means NPCs pick up and use rifles from others, which you might pick up later etc, where as most games just use normal loot tables. This was meant to be in SoC as well, but there is an unofficial patch that adds such features into the first game. The game is really good when you see how so much of its systems culminate so well into what makes The Zone such a harsh, melancholic place.

The game also never meant to be particularly "scary". it has horror elements, but its atmosphere at times is so well crafted that it outmatches games that try to scare you in the sense that there are times you just want to turn around and head back to the 100 Rads bar to ease the tension. There is not any game that I have played that creates great tension and the ability at times if you want to turn back from your journey to a solace place where you can find safety among zone inhabitants to ease the tension - it's something unique that is difficult to explain, the game's atmosphere is that well crafted.

Nonetheless there is nothing wrong if one isn't able to get into the game and I think if one has always had a big interest in the Chernobyl disaster in general as well as Soviet science fiction that it is easier to get into, but it's a game that has always had cult following because the Chernobyl disaster itself does. Also the game (and the later ones) have great and active modding communities.
 
#9
I built a pc to run this and it still ran like crap and crashed every few hours.


...

Worth it tho because the game is absolutely amazing. I still replay it every few years just because of how unique it is. Nothing out there really like stalker except metro, and that kinda has always felt like a good, but ultimately consolized version of the series. Sad the series was coming out right at the time pc gaming was really starting to take off again, and thus missed out on the boom of the early teens that I think would have delivered the studio the financial freedom to still be making stalker games.
 
#12
Difficult, scary, immersive and so realistic.

The game was so ahead of its time too when looking at today's gaming landscape. Its crazy just thinking about it. Such a great accomplishment for a 2007 game.
 
#13
Get out of here, Stalker!

This is seriously one of my top 5 games of all times.
I'm replaying it atm with the Autumn Aurora 2 mod and it's as much fun as always (maybe even more with this awesome mod).

Truly a timeless classic.
 
#14



A breakthrough AI system, complex ballistics model and an atmosphere widely regarded as one of the best ever.

Slight correction needed there, it doesnt have "one" of the best atmosphere designs ever. It has THE best atmosphere of any game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W9JeUepMLk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AljxzXrSsRM


I dont know if it was overlocked that year because of Crysis and COD. It came out like ten months before them. And the franchise sold several million copies. But still, its very much a gamers game, a hardcore endeavour, a pure PC game in the truest sense, making use to the fullest of things only a mouse and keyboard permits in gamedesign. So naturally, a far less popular game for the masses. And thank god for that.

Its some of the most unique games this medium has to offer, in every way. The territory where the game takes place is almost a character in itself, with all the anomalies and dangers lurking at every corner. And Call of Pripyat arguably makes the best use of an open space out of every game, maybe together with Gothic 1/2. It shows the highest potential games can offer and its a shame almost every mainstream AAA piece of shit game today being open world has led people at least on this forum to have a wrong view of open world and actually asking for liniar, restrictive, guided games. The opposite of what games should offer - choice, freedom, reactivity.
 
#15
One of 2 games that I have set aside in my "revisit" pile. Played about 4 hours of it and just sort of fell off. Was making my way through the zone and got stuck in a warehouse that was surrounded by enemies. Spent so much time trying to make my way past the horde and finally just couldn't put anymore time into it.

Everything felt stacked against me. I think Metro 2033 is more my version of STALKER. A bit more guided and linear but just as broken.

I'd love to go back to it one day and realize what everyone loved.
 
#16
Call of Pripyat is better, but this is still one of the greats.

The era of great PC shooters seems to be dead. STALKER, Half-Life 2/episodes, Far Cry, etc all in the span of a few years.

I like the Metro series, even if it's not the same experience, or quite as good.
 

Chacranajxy

I paid good money for this Dynex!
#17
Wow... that's kind of crazy to think about.

I kinda liked the original STALKER, but it was too janky for me to really get into it. Just felt extremely unpolished.... but I should go back to it at some point and see if the patches and such have improved things.


Call of Pripyat was a masterpiece, though.
 
#21
I think I have it installed on my desktop. One day I'll get those mods installed and give it a fair shot. Everything I read about this game makes me like it more
 
#23
Stalker embodies all that is good and bad about PC gaming. It is simultaneously challenging, infuriating, hilarious, boring, beautiful, hideous, the most immersive single player experience imaginable, an almost unplayable slog through archaic technology and design. Stalker on PC is more than a game. It is a more apt piece of shareware than any demo ever released. The community around this game was (is?) absolutely incredible. Stalker doesn't become a platform defining phenomenon without the end users ripping it apart, then putting it back together. It's like we all became Neo together.

Stalker would not even crack my top 10 games of all time, but I still love it dearly. A really special experience that I am happy I was able to enjoy.
 
#26
I still remember the pre-release hype for this game. People were losing their shit over how good the tech demo's looked for this game between 2003 - 2005. It really was an ambitious project for it's time, but to be honest, it is a game that I have never played.
 
#28
Hands down the most atmospheric game I've ever played.

I remember one encounter I had early in the game so vividly as it encompassed everything that was great about the game.

So it's night time and, in this game, it's actually properly dark and I'm running along the road towards a checkpoint when I see a group of lights in the distance, beaming in all directions. I realise it's a patrol's head lamps and they're slowly walking down the road. Too many to take on head first so I get scuttle off the road and find a tree to hide behind at the side of the road, I check my inventory and start setting up for an ambush, hoping to fire on them from the side as they pass.

I wait patiently for them to slowly mill down the road when suddenly the heavens open. It is torrential downpour and the sound effects in this game/weather system is amazing so you really feel like you're there, rainwater dripping off the end of my waiting rifle. Lightning starts to strike illuminating the area in brief glimpses. I stay behind my tree.

They're right on me now, I'm lining up my first target when........

I hear panting and barking, I panic and turn to see a pack of wild mutated dogs running at me, I notice that one or two run right past me so I hold my fire and they run straight onto the road and start an almighty guerilla warfare fight with the patrol on the road. The patrol scatters, as guys die their headlamps fall to the ground and extinguish until all I can hear are whining dogs. I scare off the remaining dogs with some rifle fire and take a boatload of loot from the patrol to myself.

Any other game - large parts of or possibly the entirety of the above would have been scripted. Not STALKER, completely unscripted. Amazing, amazing game. The best part? This kind of thing happens all the damn time!
 
#30
Played 1.0 to completion and got the bad ”drowning in money”-ending. Had an absolute blast, everything felt new and surprising.

Played it again later with a mod that made weapons more lethal for everyone. It was a completely different game. I also ”found” the main quest so that helped as well.

I will always prefer SoC to CoP, the latter felt polished and more like someone tried to make a video game. SoC was something else entirely.
 
#31
SoC was an incredible experience. It wasn't until my 2nd or 3rd game that I got the real ending either. I'd rank it as one of the best horror experiences I've ever had.

CoP I still need to try. Last time I played it, I died in a burst storm thing and then ran into a hard crash. I'd reach the boat and Ctd everytime.
 

Sinatar

Official GAF Bottom Feeder
#33
Modded, this is a top 10 game all time. Nothing like it.
Even vanilla is top 10. Hell my first playthrough of STALKER was *unpatched* and I still loved it's janky ass to pieces. When the first major patch came out (which invalidated saves) I was already over 20 hours in and I sure as shit wasn't restarting.
 
#34
SoC was an incredible experience. It wasn't until my 2nd or 3rd game that I got the real ending either. I'd rank it as one of the best horror experiences I've ever had.

CoP I still need to try. Last time I played it, I died in a burst storm thing and then ran into a hard crash. I'd reach the boat and Ctd everytime.
Lol, literally:



Get back into it if you can! Pripyat I don't think has higher highs than SoC does, but the overall package is much more consistent and cohesive in a way that only the much more experienced team that resulted from soc could have made.
 
#35
There are long periods of time when nothing is happening in STALKER that I have more vivid memories of than most games. There's never a moment you don't feel like The Zone isn't going to swallow you up.

What's the best mod for an optimal first-run STALKER experience?
Zone Reclamation Project the standard ironing out the creases mod with some balancing.

Complete I also see recommended a lot for first time, but I found it to be way too easy and didn't play more than a few hours. Everything should be a threat in STALKER and Complete took that away.

It is worth going back after a first playthrough with Oblivion Lost for the true terror of The Zone.
 
#36
I recently replayed vanilla version again (i think this was my 11 or 12 full walkthrough of this game), and it's still holding up well, even without mods. Outstanding game and atmosphere, basically first ever openworld survival FPS, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. created this subgenre, but sadly series died right before rise of Twitch and streaming, so it never got a real chance to became truly popular and get praise that it deserves. This game was ahead of it's time and i still have hopes that we'll see new S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game someday.
 
#39
There are long periods of time when nothing is happening in STALKER that I have more vivid memories of than most games. There's never a moment you don't feel like The Zone isn't going to swallow you up.
Yeah, I think that is testament to the games sound design. There was always some distant noise that would prick the ears. Gunfire, creatures, anomalies. I've never felt so consistently on edge playing a game before...

Fuck that Bloodsucker lair in CoP
 
#40
I recently replayed vanilla version again (i think this was my 11 or 12 full walkthrough of this game), and it's still holding up well, even without mods. Outstanding game and atmosphere, basically first ever openworld survival FPS, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. created this subgenre, but sadly series died right before rise of Twitch and streaming, so it never got a real chance to became truly popular and get praise that it deserves. This game was ahead of it's time and i still have hopes that we'll see new S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game someday.

I think metro is going to be coming full circle in the next entry now that consoles have the necessary RAM to actually run a game like stalker without crazy compromises. It'll be probably the closest thing we can get to a real stalker game.
 
#42
Yeah, I think that is testament to the games sound design. There was always some distant noise that would prick the ears. Gunfire, creatures, anomalies.

Yeah, but the greatest part is that this is all actually happening, its real time. Those muted, distant gunfire you hear are actually maybe some stalkers that were ambushed by some bloodsuckers or wild dogs. Or maybe its some band of bandits fighting with stalkers. Or some animals fighting for territory. Its so fucking awesome what they did with this series. And in Pripyat, after human fights you see the survivors going through the battlefield, pickpocketing the dead. So cool
 
#43
When I was big into PC Gaming this was and always will be one of my favs. Such an incredible game that while the Metro games tried to capture the magic just couldn't compare to what this game did for it's time.
 
#45
Amazing game and atmosphere, my PC was shit so I played it together with my best friend and I'm glad that i did it. It's one of the greatest FPS ever made.
 
#48
What an amazing game this was. I tried getting into it like 3 times but bailed before the very first mission where you run into those bandits lol

But once I actually gave it a chance and played the firefights smarter I was so engrossed by the game. And man the atmosphere might be the best of any game I've played.

Such a constant sense of dread
 
#49
Does anyone who's played this not say it's top 1 all time?

Endless, endless love for this game

i mean what can people do? Its the truth. Its a game where almost every single area is unique and extraordinary and not replicated in any other game. Playing it is a continuous sequence of "jesus christ, i cant believe i just experienced this".