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STALKER: Clear Sky

Oct 10, 2007

We had to wait 70 gajillion years for the first Stalker game to come out, and now GSC are preparing another game for early next year. It's a prequel to the freeform Chernobyl-based shooter, giving you control of a Stalker mercenary active in the Zone a year before the original game.

Clear Sky sprang into life at GSC as an expansion pack, but swelled like a radioactive polyp into a game in its own right, bringing territorial battles, four new zones, and some spectacular new engine enhancements. The new timeline gives us a chance to explore the world before the star of the original makes such an impact on it, and to see more of its infamous "A-Life."

The turf war touched on in the first game now takes center stage. Eight factions are battling for control of the Zone. In a world that's been stripped of almost everything good, resources and land are vital: everyone fights for the merest scrap.

If you sign up with one of these factions, you'll be offered missions. Some will be small, such as killing a certain number of the mutants that wander the surrounding area. Others will be big-time, such as leading raids on other factions. Enemy territory is captured via control points, wooden encampments that you fill with your men and fight off intruders from. The ultimate goal for your faction is to take over the entire map. If this all sounds a tad too regimented, don't worry: you can choose to just mess with the factions instead. Stalker is still all about freedom.

Also impressive are the engine enhancements: Stalker had a gritty charm, but you couldn't call it good-looking. GSC have been updating the engine, making those disturbing Ukrainian skies more convincingly ominous with a replica sun that moves across the sky according to the day/night cycle. Volumetric mist now hangs in the air, literally thickening the atmosphere.