S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky Final Hands-On

Modified guns, shrewd trading skills, and hilarious dialogue are all part of life in the zone. Our final thoughts before the review.

Life is not easy for a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Besides the excessive punctuation between the letters of your job title (making a complete muck of stalker business cards), you inhabit the Chernobyl exclusion zone inhabited by angry militants, well-armed bandits, and irradiated boar--all of whom would take pleasure in guttin' you, boy. We hit the zone running this week and are here to offer our final thoughts on S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, the prequel to the acclaimed Shadow of Chernobyl, before its release on September 15.

Clear Sky is a shooter, pure and simple, but also throws in elements of role-playing and survival horror games. Weapons are rated in strength, accuracy, rate of fire, and overall condition, which all deteriorate over time. Luckily for you, enemies tend to drop their own weapons when they, you know, die, and you can grab low-level replacements at any time. There are also a number of parts like scopes and larger ammunition clips that can be combined with firearms to increase their respective attributes. Early on we can already say how fun it is to pimp out your gun with items earned in the heat of battle. Although there is no custom creation tool for your looks, the combinations of weapons and armor at your disposal are endless.

The zone is a large and inhospitable place. Be sure to block up with SPF 5000.

There's also somewhat of an economy at work in the zone, and you'll pick up rubles along the way that can be spent at trading posts throughout the area. After a few hours of capping bandits and stealing their loot, we stopped by a trader in hopes of purchasing a shiny new American shotgun. We had more than a dozen basic Russian shotguns along with a number of pistols, worth thousands of rubles. But no. Blame it on the radiation, the sinking dollar, whatever--the trader would only offer pennies on the ruble for our weapons, a total of about 300 RU. Of course, he wanted nearly 3,000 RU for his shotgun, so we casually tipped our hat and left his humble shack. There's hope that different traders will offer better prices for your wares, but we decided to take our economic frustrations out on the enemy instead of haggling with miserly shopkeepers.

The opening portion of Clear Sky takes place in the Great Swamp. There reside enemy factions, bandits, and the friendly faction by the name of--you guessed it--Clear Sky. Clear Sky claims it's doing research on the zone to discover the reason behind the sudden increase in explosive radioactive bursts that kill everyone in their paths. Something about an intruder had gotten past the Brain Scorcher to reach the center of the zone, and the zone isn't happy at all about it. (The writing and dialogue aren't going to win any awards, if you were wondering.)

To guide you through the swamp, you have a handy PDA. The map showcases friendly, neutral, and enemy locations, and also exactly how big the area is. While it remains to be seen how much of the zone is cut off by fields of deadly radiation early in the game, if you zoom out of the map, you can see that the exclusion zone is huge. That's good, because it's also filled with valuable artifacts that can boost your abilities and resistance to radiation, or be sold for heaps of rubles. Your PDA also has a list of primary and secondary objectives, and a handy button that will highlight their locations. Because the factions are fighting a dynamic war that developer Deep Silver claims is different every time, there is also a faction page that gives details on each group's combat strengths and resources. After we took out several enemy strongholds, it was admittedly a blast to see Clear Sky's borders and resources expand.

Combat is basic first-person shooter fare, with a few twists. Particularly nasty bullet wounds will bleed, and you'll need to access your inventory for a bandage to stop the bleeding or else your health will continue to deplete. There are basic squad commands later in the game, but at this early stage we fought alongside Clear Sky soldiers. The health system is unforgiving, and you'll need to take lots of cover--this is not a run-and-gun shooter.

The Clear Sky universe is engaging, but the dialogue won't win a Pulitzer.

Clear Sky guides will escort you through the zone to previously unreachable locations. One such location was a stalker outpost located right next to a military base. Unfortunately for you, that particular military base is not friendly, and a soldier immediately opened fire with a mounted machine gun, forcing you to take cover behind boulders and trees--wait, not trees. Bullets slice right through the wood. After many deaths, we gave up trying to single-handedly take down the base and absconded to the stalker outpost for our next mission.

At this point, it's fair to say that fans of the original Stalker will enjoy Clear Sky as well. It's not without its foibles--cheesy dialogue, punishing difficulty, unfriendly checkpoint system--but the customization and open world offer a unique experience in an engaging universe. Check for our final review next week.

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Discussion

188 comments
doomonger
doomonger

I agree with shazam_Ip below. Even though I am a STALKER fan and love Clear Sky I do not get the fact that my machine has more problems running Clear Sky with high settings than Crysis/Crysis Warhead with the top settings!

mbashour
mbashour

why does it take a ridiculously long time to review games now? for most pc games they don't even review them for like two weeks. now i just go straight to ign.com because they have the review up the day the game comes out...

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

I'm gonna agree with what looks like most people here and turn this one down. It boasts customization and an open world experience... yet sounds tedious and looks, frankly, rather ugly. And I find it hard to see how a game can be engaging while at the same time have awful dialouge. Seriously, watching a few vids of this, I get the impression I'm watching an old Playstation FPS.

pidow
pidow

I'm going to get Dead Space and Far Cry 2 instead...I do not need hang-ups or games that do not work form start...sorry STALKER.

russian_takeout
russian_takeout

graphic wise, this game is same as the first. somewhat not finished, but still fun enough. in my opinion, one of the best games. but at this point, needs a few more fixes before being complete

zbeckmaster
zbeckmaster

Dang game keeps crashing all the time, worked good for about 10 hours before that though. Like the game and the first one but at this point won't even play. Sucks.

david_joseph93
david_joseph93

yeah it is a System Hog..But it aint boring to me but it has ALOT of glitches and Warhead Is more impressive but Good All Stalker has its Moments and I FREAKIN love it...and its Glitchy! but i love it

shazam_lp
shazam_lp

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky is a boring, glitchy and buggy piece of junk. The engine is a resource hog and the graphics aren't even that impressive when put side-by-side with Crysis Warhead that runs about 50 times smoother and uses half the resources this game does. In my opinion, it's a total let down.

Zardoz2003
Zardoz2003

The first Stalker got old really fast ..certainly not worth a $50 pop..not that I would pay for most of the trash this site gets paid to hype...

FTB_Screamer
FTB_Screamer

"Unfriendly checkpoint system" WTH, this a PC game, you.can.quick.save.

landfill_dump
landfill_dump

OMG there will be so many great game-releases this fall! Clear sky, Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, CrysisWarhead, NHL09, FIFA09 and GTA4 for pc . . . geeezus! I'm lookin forward to buying this one. Hope there aren't as many bugs as in SOC. . . .

dj_rules_12
dj_rules_12

Does the game have a online campaign? Or is it Single player campaign then multiplayer(DM,Capture the flag ect). I only ever saw videos of the first game. Has the gfx engine been updated (DX10?)

dddddddo
dddddddo

Daggersquad: They couldn't sell you game because, there wasn't CD-Key inside.Manufacturers(dumb)forgot to put it in boxes for western release and game was called back from all stores.

david_joseph93
david_joseph93

well actuatilly Cordon is A bit larger...but the Swamps Wow thats like The Biggest...and its really cool

nufuhsus
nufuhsus

First let me say I just Got S.T.A.L.K.E.R:SoC and I like it (still in Cordon however) a lot. Just an observation, but does this "prequel" not sound exactly like the first game? I hope the map is about the same seeing that this takes place a year prior to SoC; maybe a little smaller.

DIMARG00
DIMARG00

they took SoC ,one of the most addictive games ever, and made it better.AMAZING!!! - STRELOK RULES!!!

biokrysty
biokrysty

This game Rocks This game is Immortal ....clear sky......

david_joseph93
david_joseph93

Dude! Stalker Ownz! its a MUST PLAY! Glitchy! but! i RULEZ:D

Daggersquad
Daggersquad

I went to Wall Mart about a week ago and they had this game on their shelves and advertised and everything but when I got to the check-out, the register kept coming up with "Cannot sell". I asked them what it meant and they said that it was recalled. Then I asked them why the hell they had it on the shelf then but just left. I probably could have gotten it if I spoke with the manager but I figured there was a reason why is was recalled so I let it go. Can they do that though? Have items on the shelves with price tags and everything when they knew it couldn't be sold?

da_post_office
da_post_office

im mostly a console gamer, so right now my comp is crap. i upgraded it bac when bf2 came out, and im upgrading again now for this title. i loved shadow of chernobyl, and its just goin up from there. looks freakin awesome.

da_post_office
da_post_office

im mostly a console gamer, so right now my comp is crap. i upgraded it bac when bf2 came out, and im upgrading again now for this title. i loved shadow of chernobyl, and its just goin up from there. looks freakin awesome.

dddddddo
dddddddo

Do you keep all your "guy" parts clean?

raymondcs123
raymondcs123

Wtf GS don't whine about difficulty just because it doesnt have health regneration

awwaad
awwaad

yeah My Best Game!!!

awwaad
awwaad

yeah My Best Game!!!

mellowmugger
mellowmugger

I tried to buy this but the employees told me there was a recall so I couldn't

hickmanjw
hickmanjw

This was clearly a paid for preview by the game maker to build hype for the U.S. release after terrible reviews of the game overseas. Check out metacritic to see the truth.

solidbond1
solidbond1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

tamd
tamd

modders will make this game more fantastic

Dylanius
Dylanius

"This is to the MODDERS or Dudez That can BUILd Modz.....PLEAZ I need! no WE ALL NEED! a Clear Sky ¨Oblivion Lost¨ Please!!!!!!!!! Beacuse There Is Like Soooooo Muchhh Potential On Clear Sky ....You Modders Are The only onez That Can Put It In Glory! Like Yo Did With ¨Shadow Of Chernobyl¨ Please! beacuse i cant mod.." Roflmao! WHO can argue with THAT?

david_joseph93
david_joseph93

This is to the MODDERS or Dudez That can BUILd Modz.....PLEAZ I need! no WE ALL NEED! a Clear Sky ¨Oblivion Lost¨ Please!!!!!!!!! Beacuse There Is Like Soooooo Muchhh Potential On Clear Sky ....You Modders Are The only onez That Can Put It In Glory! Like Yo Did With ¨Shadow Of Chernobyl¨ Please! beacuse i cant mod..

muaythaisoldier
muaythaisoldier

It's player made moddifications that made the 1st one a blast. If you guys ever go back to it look up some of the bigger mods. The environment of this series is soo immersive!

xmg0
xmg0

Many early players say its very glitchy, I'm still wondering.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

@vasot ....duh? what were you expecting? thanks for stating the absolute obvious lol. just because fallout3 will be game of the year doesn't mean people still don't want to play this until that comes out...nub :)

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

MiLDracuLA
MiLDracuLA

I've heard this game has an ownage physics engine.

ToxinZA
ToxinZA

I enjoyed first one, but glitches really hindered gameplay, when i came sprinting into populated areas I'd find them unpopulated until the characters load and appear out of no where, very annoying. Hope this one has that problem sorted.

Navydad101
Navydad101

Went to Wal-Mart a few hours ago, South East US, this game was on the shelf. No idea whats up with the release date.

rocket_master
rocket_master

HOLY CRAP I DIDN'T KNOW THIS GAME COMES OUT IN TWO DAYS! Sorry for caps so happy and so pissed I broke my motherboard the other day.

Vasot
Vasot

The game is a BUG mess and feels unbalanced The latest patch fix some serious ones but strange glitches still exist Also Fallout 3 just looks better and more interesting from what i saw

bornej
bornej

I pre-ordered mine today through Steam. Hopefully Steam keeps it current on the patches or I'll be p*ssed.

HungarianKP
HungarianKP

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. style; I'm loving it. I loved playing the first game, and definitely I will get the new game. Lets Rock & Roll!

simon_charlie
simon_charlie

Thank God (or whoever you want as they are of more assistance than GSC!) for the new patch, although I have to start again it is a relief. DO NOT think of playing without installing both of the patches, you may end up smashing your pretty rig.

mohicanu
mohicanu

the game is full of BUGS...from small ones to big ones

RecoilX98
RecoilX98

um no, saves work fine. also new patch out 1.5.04 go go.

alanj50
alanj50

If you download the latest patch (11 Sept) your saved games will not be recognised. You will need to start the game again.

vianegativa85
vianegativa85

I needs me a new computer and clean undies and them BAM! I'm all over this game when it comes out, still have to upgrade my current PC and finish the first Stalker. What damn good games though... wacky Russians.

znoop2006
znoop2006

dddddddo my video card is just fine,i have a XFX 9600GT 512DDR3 so there are two possibilities : 1. You are blind and you cant see the gun models 2.You aint blind but you like crappy gun models.