[poll] Game Review: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.- Shadow of Chernobyl

Title: STALKER - Shadow of Chernobyl
Developer: GSC Game Worlds
Publisher [US]: THQ

After a little over 6 years in development, STALKER is finally here. It's hard to truly categorize Stalker, but it's in the vein of classic RPG/Shooter games such as System Shock 2. The basic background of Stalker is loosely based upon the novella Roadside Picnic, and the loosely adapted movie of the same name, however, instead of barely inhabitable 'zones' that have experienced Extra Terrestrial visitation, it is set in a single 'Zone'; the ruined remains after a second accident at Chernobyl. As a Stalker [men that risk their lives raiding dangerous zones for valuable artifacts] named only 'the marked one', Shadow of Chernobyl sends you deep into an open ended wilderness filled with disturbing and mutated animals, dangerous 'anomalies', army troops, sub-human beings, and rival Stalkers.

Although the game adds in some RPG elements mixed with an FPS interface, it is truly more of an action oriented survival game than an RPG. There is no real 'skill' progression, Leveling up [Well, there are different ranks, but still not the same], but there is a money system, an inventory system, and the ability to explore and trade with other Stalkers. The system may not be a new one, but it is engaging and the large world to explore is engaging. The only real problem with the game comes from the various bugs that plague the game. The AI isn't 'bad' [in fact, it can pull off some neat tricks once in awhile] but it's not great, and sometimes the more animalistic creatures will get stuck running in place. It's also not uncommon for the game to freeze for a second or two before returning to motion. The graphics are decent, the lighting effects and textures are nice, and some of the enemy models are detailed and disturbing [The 'Flesh' monster is a good example, apparently it's what is left of the domesticated pig !dodge] but the weapon models look cheap, and they also sound cheap. Other minor annoyances come from the games translation, sometimes you see bad text problems [Most of the game is in text, but thankfully, most things they say are short and easy to read through or skip] and sometimes their voices aren't translated into English [What did that guy just say to me? %-6 ]. To make a long story short, Stalker is an excellent game, but it isn't without it's flaws. If you are dying to play it now, I recommend you go out and buy it. And although it's experience is an overall great one [the atmosphere, the challenge, the fact it's the first open ended FPS action game in along time] make it a must buy in that case. But if you are willing to have a little patience, it may be a good idea to wait for a patch to work out some of it's annoying kinks, but in any case, don't miss it.

Graphics: 7.9/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Audio: 7/10 [I almost gave it a 6, but it's really just the voice overs and guns that are truly bad]
Replay value: 9/10
Overall: 8/10