Clear Sky’s biggest innovation is the artificial intelligence system that controls the NPCs and factions that inhabit the aforementioned districts. The ongoing dynamic faction war is displayed in your PDA menu, which shows each faction’s personnel strength and territory holdings. As you meet new factions, you’re given the opportunity to support their cause by assisting in raids and defending against assaults. I’m disappointed that these optional missions don’t have any effect on the main story, but I thoroughly enjoyed the spontaneity of the skirmishes. Randomly happening upon two (or sometimes more) groups engaged in a firefight added life and believability to the world, and being able to turn the tide of each battle and earn some loot in the process was very rewarding. The only aspect of the faction war I found annoying was the presence of Bandits, a group of seemingly unkillable hooligans that occasionally mugged me for all of my hard-earned weapons and cash, leaving me to start again from scratch. I’d prefer they just killed me.
The inevitable shootouts (this is, after all, still a shooter) ranged from ridiculously easy encounters near the beginning of the game to frustratingly challenging assaults later on. At times it seemed impossible to win, thanks to the AI’s impeccable aim and night vision superior to what any human could ever hope for. Running out of bandages (which are more scarce than in the previous game) in the middle of such fights often proved fatal - a couple of times, I had to resort to quick-saving after every kill until I eventually prevailed. I wasn’t impressed by friendly NPC behavior, either - it never felt like they were fighting alongside me as much as I was a lone third party interfering with their conflict.
Other minor changes, such as the new artifact discovery system and random radiation shock waves, don’t differentiate Clear Sky enough from its predecessor to make it feel like more than a stand-alone expansion pack. The game stability improvements and faction system certainly make this a technological step up from the original, but they don’t add up to a compelling reason to replay the same game. If you’re new to the series, however, it’s definitely the place to start.
PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.
PCG Final Verdict: 78% (good)
Sep 17, 2008