S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat. Sequel to the first game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, CoP takes the universe they created and moves the story further in this engaging FPS RPG “open-world” game. It puts you back in the Zone as a Major of the Ukraine Security Service sent to investigate why a mission into the Zone failed in the previous game. Its a world full of mutants, various factions, anomalies, artifacts and more wonders to be discovered in the Zone. So, I hope you sit back and enjoy this review of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat.
If SoC was the wild west of the STALKER universe, CoP is definitely the “civilized” game of the two. My immediate impression of the game is that a LOT of fixing went into it. The care and attention that the devs behind STALKER put into the game is immediately noticeable with a cleaner interface, better mechanics and just an overall smoother feeling to the game. On a interesting side note, the CPU usage that the game uses is much less than what SOC used. But the flipside is that RAM usage is a lot higher but that isn’t helped by the Mod I’m using.
The mod I’m using this time around (recommended by MoonshineFox) is Atmosfear 3. It adds a more dynamic & varied weather system, high-res textures and more hazardous weather storms. I liked how they really made the emissions in the game sound threatening, which is saying something considering how they sounded/looked in the last game. The mod causes a higher RAM consumption. So if you ever play the game, you’ll probably want to get that one.
The game is more complete, better balanced, more variety and it has a clear development mission to it. That much is certain after playing through it. The storyline is solid and fairly straightforward. Although I did like that you could choose different paths that lead to certain consequences for people in the zone. Missions are no longer buggy and have a better variety and interest compared to before. The ability to modify your suits and weapons was also a nice change to see, making the game more RPG-like. My favorite gun had to be the railgun you picked up in the later part of the game, the sound it gave off was just cool.
This is the best looking open-world game I’ve ever played. The 235 screenshots I took of this game are proof of how much I enjoyed looking around. ;). The graphics in this game are beautiful. The face animations are a bit lacking, but I can’t fault it too hard considering the game’s age and that only now are videogames finally making acceptable facial animations. Clearly, the engine was improved they were using could put out some great looking locations and mutants. I’m also glad that the world feels more open with less loading issues that it’s predecessor had. I enjoyed looking at the Zone just as much as playing in it.
I like how exploration in this game is better and more rewarding. You have plenty of interesting areas to look around, people to meet and creepy as heck underground structures to freak out in. I noticed more of the exploration took place out in the zone more than in underground facilities, which is quite different from the previous game where it puts you through several “X Labs”. I was…less than enthusiastic to see Lab X8 in this game and it was paranoia inducing just as much as the last Labs in SoC. Heck, one of the Burers made a baby crying noise before I opened the door and then greeted me with a big old whiplash to my head and me dead. That was just creepy. In fact, it was that one pictured below.
My main disappointments with the game lies with how this game feels like a step back from the potential SoC had. Gone is the epic-feel that the previous game had, gone is driving vehicles in the zone, though granted that only worked in mods. Gone also are the risks to the NPCs, the zone changing around you and a few other things that I wished that the developers had put more effort into rather than stepping back.
The Zone feels static now. SoC felt alive and moving around you regardless of your actions. CoP seems to take a step back from that premise. Sure, the AI is improved and there are still roaming bands of NPCs, but I started to term those NPCs as red-shirts because any NPC with a mild sense of importance would be protected. In SoC, you could come across battles going on or the carnage of battles once fought. But despite some of the same things happening in this game, you didn’t care about saving any of the roaming NPCs because they were throw away and did little to affect your experience. It’s disappointing that they never pushed the development of this idea more. Granted, this is a problem that similar game developers face right now.
Gone also is the feeling of change in the Zone at large. In SoC, when you shut off the Brain-Scorcher, the Zone felt like it changed around you. You had factions fighting in and around Chernobyl, mutants rampaging and other areas of the zone feeling a little bit more empty. The world in CoP largely stays in place. Your actions now usually just change some of the NPCs and their fate. Whether that is living or dying. What you do now has no real effect on the zone and that’s a disappointment. I was hoping that GSC would expand that idea of changes in the Zone in this game even a little bit compared to SoC but it seems they took a step back.
One irritation I have is with the weight system in the game. I felt like I could get too easily weighed down everytime I went out and getting slowed or completely stopped by stuff was just a minor annoyance I have. Granted, I can’t think of a better inventory in RPGs that has been made. True, this one was more flexible in its approach than the previous one and allowed you to add more space through modifications to your suit. They also changed it so that you couldn’t just sell any gun you came across, it had to be in good repair or the trader wouldn’t buy it and repairing usually costed too much to make any profit off of it. Which was a good idea, it gets rid of loot runs on the local bandit base to make money. I just wish when you were looting bodies it wasn’t quite so easy to pick up said guns on accident.
The tone of this game is very different to SoC. The last one constantly reminded you that this was a very horror-based, things will kill you at any turn that are far out of your league kind of a game. Whether that was the music, the Controllers and their hair-raising sound or just the NPCS interactions themselves. In CoP, the tone of the game is that of another world. This was reflected in the music and general presentation of the game which felt more muted to SoC more in-your-face presentation. Even walking around in the abandoned city of Chernobyl was a weighty experience, as if the ghosts of those that lived there would suddenly come out of the buildings that stood silently, a testament of what happened so many years ago. It was unnerving to walk around there, so silent and yet not… But, heh, I kept forgetting that the Zone was still on Earth and that there was another world beyond the borders of the Zone. Still, this isn’t a bad thing and it sets it apart from its previous game and I liked that.
That aside, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat is an engaging game in an beautiful world. I am really happy that I got introduced to this series. The journey has been exciting, terrifying and challenging all at the same time. I support original and unique endeavors and this series certainly has it in spades. I mean, how many games centered around Chernobyl do you run into? Very few, thats for sure. Its a great reminder of the dangers of Nuclear technology and this alternate future was very interesting. Despite my disappointments with the game, they didn’t overshadow the sheer fun I had with the game. And the game is largely clean of bugs or other issues as well in its vanilla state too. I have no doubt I will return to the Zone, whether it’s through a replay or a sequel remains to be seen. If your looking for an Open-World, RPG & FPS fun and thrilling game, then give the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Series a look.
I hope you enjoyed reading my review of this game. So STALKER, until next time, be safe in the Zone…