Editor’s Note: THQ has not allowed us to take screenshots of the beta build that we received. Instead they provided us with their own screenshots of the game for this article.
It’s a game that has been in the public spotlight for six years with seemingly endless previews, interviews and features since its initial announcement by developer GSC GameWorld when it was first called S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Oblivion Lost. Now we are only a month or so away from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl shipping to stores via publisher THQ. Recently the publisher sent over a beta build of the post-apocalyptic first person shooter for us to get a hands-on look at the game.
For the last time we will give a summary of the game’s storyline and setting.. S.T.A.L.K.E.R takes place around the infamous Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the Ukraine that in real life exploded in 1986, releasing a massive amount of radiation. The initial explosion killed only a few but the lingering effects of the radiation release may affect tens of thousands of people, maybe millions. The game’s fictional universe postulates a second explosion at Chernobyl over 20 years later. This time the radiation release has caused more than just deaths and possible cancer effects. It has also created mutated creatures of all shapes and sizes and has even turned ordinary artifacts into items that might be of considerable value.
Your player character is a “stalker”, a kind of scavenger who is trying to find anything that might be of value inside the affected zone. As the game begins, your character has the tried-and-true gameplay plot device of amnesia. His only memory is that he is on a mission to take out a fellow stalker.
While S.T.A.L.K.E.R is a first person shooter, the presentation of the game looks and feels more like a role playing game a la Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Your first task is to chat with a merchant who offers you a job in exchange for paying the merchant back for some unnamed obligation to him. The user interface gives the player a choice of responses to certain questions much like a role playing game and of course the idea of assigning certain tasks to your character has a lot of RPG similarites. The first task is seemingly a simple one; get some kind of data device from another stalker in the zone.
After getting your assignment you’ll head out of the merchant’s bunker and outside in the zone where you’ll really get a good look at S.T.A.L.K.E.R’s environment. It’s clearly a desolate place, with lots of ruined buildings, tall grass and an general feel of foreboding in the landscape. You are directed to go to a fellow stalker who tells you where to go to get the data device. Initially you are armed only with a pistol and a knife for this mission and needless to say you’ll feel pretty vulnerable as your character heads out to the location where the data device could be found. While walking to the farm to complete the mission you get a sense of the living world aspect of the game. Mutated boars and other creatures are seen in the distance and a helicopter from an unknown agency flew overhead. There are also….things…..that roam the landscape that are in fact some kind of spatial anomalies that were created by the nuclear event.. It’s best to try to steer away from them.