Remembering 2007: The Biggest Games That Turned 10 This Year
Created by GameSpot Staff on
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl -- March 20, 2007
Even in 2017, the FPS-RPG hybrid S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is still a shining example of world building. Atmosphere is a nebulous concept when it comes to games, but STALKER nails down the feeling of scraping by in a dangerous, foreboding world. Dynamic weather effects along with smart sound design, especially when it comes to rainfall and thunder, compound the uncertain nature of trekking across a nuclear wasteland. The X-ray graphics engine also featured dynamic lighting and HDR rendering which, to this day, presents a lifelike environment; lamps illuminate rooms realistically and the sun beams between the breaks in the clouds. Character models and animations definitely show their age, but some of STALKER's set pieces stand the test of time.
In many ways, STALKER had issues at its foundation with technical performance and difficulty balance. Around its initial release, frequent crashes and unstable framerates hampered the experience, which was cranked up more than you'd expect by the jankiness of a first-person open-world game. NPCs clipping through walls and spawning inside of geometry--sometimes breaking quests--are just a few examples. Difficulty worked in an odd way in that 'easy' meant everyone (including you) deals less damage, forcing you to pump already-scarce ammo into enemies.
But underneath the lack of technical refinement is a special game that never held my hand. I created my own approaches to combat; often times I questioned whether or not I should engage at all, akin to an immerse sim. Enemy AI is unpredictable and kept me on my toes, making STALKER suspenseful, but it also threw in survival-horror elements alongside its supernatural themes cohesively. But I found the quieter moments just as valuable, like sitting at a campfire with fellow Stalkers as one of them strummed their acoustic guitar.
-- Michael Higham, Tech Editor