STALKER = FPS Oblivion. We need a patch, yo!

------------------------- MY RATINGS -------------------------
Difficulty: Hard
Time Spent: 10 to 20 Hours (Still in Progress)
Learning Curve: 2 to 4 Hours

Gameplay: 8 / 10
Graphics: 8 / 10
Sound: 8 / 10
Value: 9 / 10
My Tilt: 9 / 10


Gameplay: To put in simple terms, STALKER is like Oblivion meets Rainbow Six Vegas. The environment and game play is very much like Oblivion - open-ended and free-roam. Like RainbowSix Vegas, this game makes it harder than it should be. As realistic as it may be, in the outdoor areas of the game you hardly get anything to help you dodge bullets, which gets quite annoying after a while. On top of that, even if you have trees to hide behind, the weapons you get to use toward the beginning of the game don't shoot that far, thus making it very hard in combat.

I wouldn't call myself a veteran in FPS but I've hard my share of Counter Strike for the past 6 years as well as other classic titles in which I always start off at the hardest difficulty. In STALKER, I started at the "stalker" difficulty setting, one above the "novice," and I'm already having a hard time battling enemies. In this game it is impossible to do the run-in-and-shoot playing style, as you will easily die in about 6~7 enemy shots. The AIs are suprisingly good in targeting, as they almost always hit you when you are trying to get rid of groups of 2~3 at most times.

Another thing that "grinds my gears" is that the characters speak Russian to you, which is not a problem if they don't speak Russian to another in the background while the convo screen shows that he's speaking English to you in the mean while. It's just a minor annoyance that I have never experienced in other games.

The PDA map is another thing that is quite... annoying. It takes about an half hour to figure out how to use the dang thing, and the details on the map is hardly helpful. When accessing the PDA and the Inventory screen, the game does NOT pause. Which means if you want to use some bandages during combat you have to watch out for enemies while the inventory screen is right in your face covering 90% of the screen. Sure, some people call that "realistic" but may I remind everyone that this should be a game, even if we seek realism as much from a game as we can? It's just frustrating after a while as it take a few hours to get used to.

Graphics: This grahics in this game is very much like in Oblivion. If you have an high-end graphics card you can enjoy most of the scenery, only if it's not so gloomy all the time. The character models look A LOT like the characters in Rainbow Six: Lockdown. I have a GF7900GT and I have to turn down the graphics in other to run smoothly at 1280x1024, and at 1024x768 the game looks crappy to me even with everything at max settings. So mind your graphics.

Sound: Again, as real as it may be, most of the NPCs speak russian in voice yet English in the dialogue box where you carry on your conversation... it's just very weird and take some time to get used to at the beginning. The guns sound realistic and so does everything else. Nothing wrong here :)

Value, Tilt: Like mentioned in the Gamespot review for the game, this game is quite buggy from time to time and it crashes a lot on many PCs. The loading time too takes quite a while so be prepared for that. A patch will fix it all, hopefully.

Buy... or no Buy? - This is more like a alternative FPS and the graphics is definitely dated but if you can get around that it wouldn't hurt to try... But keep in mind that this is very much like a FPS version of Oblivion when deciding whether or not to purchase it. The game is listed for $40USD but I know a nation-wide chain store that sells it for $32USD. *Cough* Target *Cough* Enjoy!