The world turns really dark during these things.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat is the sequel to the first STALKER game, Shadow of Chernobyl, and takes place near the center of the Zone shortly after the events that took place in SoC.

For those who don’t know about it already, STALKER is a series of games that combine RPG elements with a FPS system. Players can collect weapons, armor and even different types of ammunition, while also carrying around basic essentials like food and anti-radiation medicine. STALKER’s combat is unforgiving, usually resulting in a quick-load if you screw up a firefight. STALKER games are also some of the most atmospheric around, and it almost feels like you’re really right in the Zone when you’re playing, with the wind whistling past your ears carrying the sound of gunfire from far-flung locations.

I have only played the game for a few hours, so this is more of a “First Look” kind of thing rather than a full-on review, so yeah.

After the events of the first STALKER game, the Military decides to send in choppers to investigate the center of the Zone. Naturally, none of the choppers return. The player plays the role of a Stalker-turned-soldier sent by the military to investigate, and find out why.

Immediately upon starting the game, I recognized the landscape from having played Shadow of Chernobyl, with a bleak plain infront of me with some scrubs and leaf-free trees. The best thing about the STALKER games has always been its’ capability to really portray a radioactive wasteland that doesn’t necessarily mean “Nothing”. Vegetation is far from scarce in the Zone, and mutants are plentiful, if unwelcome.

A pair of mutant dogs attacking a pig thing.

The game starts by setting you down near a few neutral Stalkers, whom you can ask for directions and in doing so get your first mission objective. This is a nice touch as you have to talk to the locals to find out what is what and where is where, rather than having your mission objectives and waypoint magically appear on your PDA. The Stalker points you towards a guide who takes you to the place where one of the choppers went down.

The path towards the chopper serves as an introduction to Anomalies, which are basically that – Anomalies. Nobody knows why they exist, and no one knows why they appear when they do. Anomalies are basically traps, with effects ranging from electrocution to flaming pillars to gravitational anomalies that throw you up into the air.

It hurts.

One of the new things featured in Call of Pripyat are new “Interest” zones, where large amounts of anomalies congregate, usually with ill effects towards your continued not-deadness. It’s a good idea to avoid them if you can, but if you choose to go into them you can discover large rare Artifacts, which can be used to boost your stats or sold for cash, which can be used to buy new equipment or to upgrade/repair your current gear.

The quest system in Call of Pripyat is similar to those in Oblivion or Fallout 3, with a central quest log and clearly marked objectives on your PDA’s map. Some quests are mutually exclusive – complete a quest aiding the bandits and you may find a quest to help the Stalkers to be closed off to you. You may also encounter quests with conflicting objectives, with one person asking you to kill a Stalker that another guy wants you to protect.

This guy smells like trouble.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with this game so far. Other than the dated graphics, it’s truly one of the most interesting games I’ve played in some time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some bandits to shoot.