S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl previewed by peng

When I saw the booth of THQ at ECTS, the only game that really got my attention was STALKER, so we got ourselves an interview with Oleg Yavorsky, one of the developers on the project.

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. : Oblivion Lost is a FPS/RPG-game set in 2006 in Tjernobyl. There has been a second explosion at one of the reactors spreading even more radioactive waste into the environment. The military has decided to close down the site and let nobody near the ruines of the building. Rumours say that the military is conducting secret experiments at the site and working on a psychotropic weapon technology. For obvious reasons, people are very interested in finding out what is going on. There are Corporations that hand out rewards for any usefull items recovered from the site. So people try to get in. The people that get in (the ones that aren’t shot trying) stay in the ruines to recover or steal items and technology from the military. These people are called Stalkers. When Corporations want a certain item, it is send out to the Stalkers. All Stalkers posses a Personal Communication Device where they can check what to look for. Whether it’s finding an item, extracting DNA from a mutant or killing some one.

You play the role of a Stalker, trying to earn his money by retrieving items for the Corporations when it is needed. Of course, you are not alone. There are other Stalkers like you, trying to earn a living. They do not follow a scripted path, but they have their own backgroundstory and goals to achieve. They also have their own will and mood. For instance; if you are attacked by the military, or some mutated animal, you can send out a distress call. When there is a fellow Stalker nearby, he can use that information as he wishes. He could either come and help you, come and help killing you or ask money in order to help you. One can only hope that the one nearest to you is a friendly one. Friendly Stalkers can also come in handy for other things. They can give you tips and warnings, f.e. if there is a large military activity in a certain sector, they could warn you about it and you could avoid going there. Or maybe encourage you to go there because there is a valuable item there.

You start out with a standard outfit that contains some clothing and a Personal Communication Device. While playing the game you can upgrade yourself with a all sorts of items like a geigercounter, radiationsuit, etc. by buying or exchanging items and parts of the map from fellow Stalkers or local dealers. You can also kill soldiers or stalkers and take their items and outfit. The game’s storyline is continued ingame, but on a very extensive way. You can play the game any way you want; you can follow the missions or work on you own. The storyline has a lot of different branches which leads you to different places and you can get other weapons and items by doing so. The architecture in the game is for 60% authentic. So authentic that the Russian government asked to review all the information they had about the nuclear site.

Now let’s talk about enemies. Apart from the angry stalkers and the military there are mutated animals that roam the radiated lands. There are several types of animals. Some work with melee-attacks, others work through telekinetic or telepathic ways. But they are not scripted to attack some one. The animals are scripted to find food. Not to attack everyone that passes buy. But if you happen to be the meal that walks buy when the beast is hungry… well… hehe. They also have an advanced AI, but I’ll talk about that later on.

Next : the AI of the game. Pretty impressive I’d say. Nothing in this game is scripted. Everything is simply trying to achieve goals. Like when a mutated monster sees you in a certain building it will (when it’s hungry), plot out a course to intercept you, same goes for enemies. But since there are so many paths you can undertake, there is always a chance that you won’t run it to it. A very cool thing is, when you hide near an armydepot, you can hear the soldiers play cards against eachother, call for backup when some mutant attacks them. The NPC can finish the game for you; f.e. when your mission is to kill a mutant, you can lead it to the army depot, and they can kill the animal in your place. When a certain animal sees you with a gun, he will respond differently then when you haven’t got one. So it will attack you if you haven’t got a gun, or just ran out of bullets.

The game is so realistic you even have to sleep and eat while playing. If you don’t eat or sleep you will faint after a while. So you must find a safe place first before you can sleep. You can buy food from local dealers, but if you can’t find a dealer you can always shoot an animal and eat it. But you would loose health by doing so, since the animals are radiated. You can drink vodka or eat radiation pills to regain health. Vodka whoah! It is in Ukraine afterall. Each character has a set of bones ; if you hit someone in the leg, he won’t be able to run as fast. If you shoot someone in the arm, he won’t be able to aim as good as he used to.

There is also a day/night cycle which adds to the atmosphere. You can drive vehicles such as jeeps and trucks. If you find any drivable vehicles that is, there aren’t many out there. You can shoot anything of the vehicles, use every tactic there is. Shoot the driver through the window, shoot the tires, etc.

The graphical engine is very impressive. The modells are very detailed, the sky is beautifull and it all runs fluidly on a PVI 1.2Ghz with a GeForce 3.

We asked about the multiplayer features, but they couldn’t tell much since they had been focusing on the AI for the last couple of months. There will be multiplayer, and they have some pretty renewing ideas that they didn’t want to go into. Not yet. They haven’t decided yet either if they are going to build player driven Corporations, so we’ll just have to wait for that.

Not too long though, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. : Oblivion Lost is set for release first half 2004.