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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky
STALKER Clear Sky.jpg
Developer(s) GSC Game World
Publisher(s) GSC World Publishing
Deep Silver (Koch Media)
Distributor(s) Valve (Steam)
Koch Media
Engine X-ray Engine 1.5
Version 1.5.10 (06 July 2009)
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) August 22, 2008 (Russia)
August 25, 2008 (Ukraine)
September 12, 2008 (EU)
September 15, 2008 (NA)[1]
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Role-playing
Survival horror
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: M
PEGI: 16+
Media DVD, Steam download
System requirements Microsoft Windows
  • Microsoft Windows Vista / Windows XP(Service Pack 2) / Windows 2000 SP4;
  • Intel Pentium 4 2.0 Ghz / AMD XP 2200+, 512 MB RAM; 10 GB free hard disc space;
  • 128 MB DirectX 8.0 compatible card / nVIDIA GeForce 5700 / ATI Radeon 9600;
  • DirectX 9.0 compatible sound card; LAN/Internet/Cable/DSL for Internet games[2]

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel to Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

Contents

Plot

Clear Sky is a prequel to the events in Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl.

The player assumes the role of Scar, a veteran Stalker who was injured and rendered unconscious by an energy emission while guiding a group of scientists through the Zone. Scar, the lone and somehow lucky survivor, is rescued by Clear Sky, a secret and independent Zone faction dedicated to researching and understanding the Zone in order for humanity to better understand what kind of phenomena it is facing. It is not known how Scar survived, but it is noted he has suffered damage to the nervous system and now has an unusual characteristic around him. After becoming familiar with Clear Sky, a patrol at an outpost in the swamps is under attack and Lebedev requests Scar helps them out, especially as some of the men there saved Scar's life. After fighting off mutants keeping the team pinned, a second emission suddenly occurs. Scar is once again the sole survivor, recovered shortly after the emission died down. The leader of Clear Sky, Lebedev, is amazed by how Scar is still alive. The Clear Sky lead researcher, Chebekov, believes Scar has acquired some "unusual ability" that allows him to navigate and survive anomalies and parts of the zone that would normally kill any ordinary man. Lebedev begins to theorize that the Zone is being disrupted by a dramatic increase in energy emissions, emanating from the Chernobyl power plant in the center of the Zone. Human activity is believed to be the cause. In other words, the emissions are part of an "immune response" the zone has. Someone has made it to the center of the zone, which is supposedly "meant to be taboo" and the zone itself is trying to consume that person in order to preserve its secrets. Besides endangering all the Stalkers in the Zone, Scar is heavily at risk too, already badly damaged by both previous emissions. Every emission harms the nervous system and future ones will eventually kill him if they continue. If the irregular and dramatic increase of emissions continues, the zone could eventually become highly unstable and run out of control, which may have disastrous and unknown effects for the zone and the outside world.

Gameplay

This game combines elements of survival horror (ammo scavenging, frightening atmosphere with powerful monsters), first-person shooters ("twitch-based" aiming, with a first person perspective), and RPGs (inventory management, quests, character interaction, armors and defense stats).

The most significant gameplay addition since Shadow of Chernobyl is the faction wars system. Different factions will struggle for territory, attacking to gain territory and then defending to keep it, while others then try to retake it. The player will be able to join and help factions in their battles. The stronger a faction becomes, the better equipment the traders can provide and their soldiers can use. The player character is a mercenary, and may do missions for any faction, or remain completely neutral, without consequence. Each of the main factions provide services, most importantly access to a trader and an engineer.

While Scar is always aligned with Clear Sky, and his ultimate goal is to defeat Strelok, he can fight against or ally with the four other factions in the Zone (Loners, Duty, Freedom and Bandits). The Swamp-dwelling Renegade or the Military factions cannot be joined. Careful choice of faction alignment needs to be considered in some parts of the story, for it may be difficult to progress further if the Stalker the player is interacting with is hostile, has needed information or is essential to triggering the next stage.

Other gameplay advancements since the first game include a deepened weapon customization system with the ability to repair damaged gear. Anomalies are harder to notice and now contain the artifacts in the game, which require a detector to locate. NPCs are given the ability to use hand grenades, take cover dynamically and use "blind-fire" techniques. Light machine guns have been introduced. There are NPC guides in the zone that will provide fast-travel for a fee. Emissions occur on an infrequent basis, requiring the player to take cover in a building pointed out by the PDA. If not adequately concealed, the player can die.

Factions

Within the zone are a number of factions with different goals and views about the zone ranging from government forces to clans of stalkers living off the zone.

Factions:

Army: The Ukrainian Army is keeping the Zone unreachable from outside contact. They are well-armed and present a major threat when you enter their area of control in the Cordon. The Army was not always at war with the Loner groups. In fact, they used to work with the stalkers, making profits while the Loners made theirs. However, the Army sold out the Loners to the Bandits. Encounters with the Army are rare, but without the proper equipment you may die within seconds. Regardless of your actions, they cannot be joined.

Clear Sky: Clear Sky is a faction which has dedicated themselves to researching the Zone. They are lightly armed, low in manpower, and isolated in the Swamps. Most of their manpower comes from wandering stalkers who are found in danger or in need of help by some of the main members of Clear Sky. These stalkers, appreciating the help of Clear Sky, join the faction, and some leave after paying their debt to Clear Sky. Though the player may align with another faction, the player will always receive objects from Clear Sky that serve to advance the story. Though at first Clear Sky may seem weak with their members wielding below-average weaponry, such as hunting rifles and pistols, they are quite powerful when mobilized into action, wielding deadly assault rifles, such is seen when they assault the city of Limansk.

Renegade: The Renegades are an elite group of bandits that were not shown in STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. They raided the Zone from the North-West and captured Limansk, isolating themselves within the area. In Clear Sky, they try to gain control of the Swamps, which consequently causes them to fight Clear Sky members. They are the first faction you fight, weak and easily beaten. They cannot be joined.

Loners: Loners are rookie or free stalkers, who are not interested in other factions' goals. They seek personal profit among the riches of the Zone. Almost all of the other major factions get their manpower from this group, which is the largest in the zone. Those who have trained and suffered enough of the Zone's dangers may be accepted by other factions. When this faction was introduced in STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, it showed that there were stalkers who had no affiliations to other groups. Most Loners are in small groups and are armed with dated weaponry, but some like Father Valerian's group in the Cordon (the Loner base of operations), are looking for greater treasure by cooperating with the Army.

Bandits: Bandits are a large unorganized group of robbers and murderers. They capture and rob wandering stalkers and they are always hostile to the other factions. Any stalker who kills another stalker, or robs him of his belongings is a Bandit. Bandits claim that they enforce the law around the Garbage area, a large field where countless numbers of irradiated objects are dumped into. In this field Loners, known as Diggers, come here to make a small living by salvaging usable materials. Often times, the Bandits raid Loner-held locations such as the Flea Market. They have a seemingly replenishable source of men to fight. Bandits rove in patrols and steal all a stalker's equipment save for their pistol, knife, and basic armor.

Duty: Duty is a group of former soldiers that were sent in to take control of the Chernobyl NPP. They were abandoned after encountering the horrors of the Zone and left to die. The stranded army soldiers then formed Duty under the reign of General Krylov. Being the most organized and fundamental group in the Zone, they are trying to prevent the Zone from spreading, and waging a Crusades-style war against mutants. They also train, accomplish day and night watch duties, patrol their territory, and research the Zone, trying to learn new ways to eliminate it. Duty is rumored to be allies with the Spetsnaz as some of them were seen conversing with some Spetsnatz operatives. This is due to the fact that General Krylov has connections with Spetsnaz troops. However, most Spetsnaz members are still hostile towards Duty since Krylov holds a deep-seated hatred towards the military after being left to die. Duty's arsenal is mostly comprised of ex-Soviet and Russian weapons such as the AK-74 or the OTs-14 Groza. Duty is based in an abandoned research complex called the Agroprom research Institute, where they discover some former C-consciousness "experiments" (one of which you will face later on). They also are dealing with a current mutant crisis as they unleashed a tunnel full of them when they set off some C4 charges.

Freedom: Originally, the founder of this faction and the founder of Duty's faction were friends, but their vision for the future of the Zone greatly differed, leading them and their followers to wage war against each other. While Duty restricts the Zone from the outsiders, Freedom aims for the opposite; Freedom wishes the outer world to be allowed freely into the Zone, stating that the Zone is a gift to humanity and could be the key to unlock secrets that could revolutionize and solve the problems of mankind by using artifacts. They also believe in studying the zone. Because of this they are commonly called Anarchists by Duty and much of the other factions of the Zone. Freedom isn't well organized; they allow members to use their skills to find a niche and do as they wish. The majority of Freedom's arsenal is a combination of NATO, Western and Soviet weapons, though they generally use NATO and Western armaments such as the SIG SG 550 or the SA80. Freedom is based in a factory complex in the Dark Valley.

Mercenaries: The mercenaries are an elite armed force hired by unknown customers, rumored to be the grunts of the other Western European countries. Some say that they were sent by the Western European nations to better understand the Zone. Others say this faction is a secret Russian military group, disguised in Western-based equipment, sent to stop the independent research and military groups in the Zone. In any case, there is never enough information given to be certain about who the mercenaries are, apart from being hired guns to do the dirty work of their customers. Mercenaries are mostly neutral to all factions unless they are hired to combat a specific faction. One example is the conflict between mercenaries and Freedom in the Dark Valley. The mercenaries are far less powerful in manpower when compared to their state in Shadow of Chernobyl and can be eliminated with a single mission.

Monolith: The Monolith is a mysterious and unknown faction of stalkers. From PDA records and logs, their intent would be to protect the NPP and the Wish Granter, which they seemingly revere. They are rumored to be brain-washed stalkers who ventured too close to the C-Consciousness, which then converted them to fanatical soldiers with one goal; to protect the hive mind deep in the Chernobyl NPP.

Military Stalkers: The military stalkers are a secretive group of soldiers tasked with protecting officials in the Zone. They do not appear in the game and only make a brief cameo appearance in the ending scene of Shadow of Chernobyl. They use deadly, silenced sniper rifles. Supposedly, they are elite Russian or Ukrainian troops.

X-Ray 1.5 Engine

Sunbeams effect

Advancements made in 1.5 include volumetric light, dynamic volumetric smoke, full volumetric fire, soft water, dynamic wet surfaces (with water streaming down the sides of surfaces), depth-of-field blur, DirectX 10 support, SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion). A complete day and night system is included along with improved weather effects.

However, the game will maintain the same minimum system requirements as Shadow of Chernobyl, and is scalable enough to run on outdated DirectX 8 hardware. The engine's revamp has allowed for improved and increased performance on most systems. Version 1.5.03 of the game supports MSAA for DirectX 10, while version 1.5.06 added support for DirectX 10.1.

Reception

Reception for Clear Sky has been generally positive. PC Zone UK and Games Master UK have both given Clear Sky a score of 88 out of 100, while Edge Magazine gave 7/10 saying the game "turns the best and worst of PC gaming into something extraordinary".[4] GamesTM gave the game 90/100 saying "Clear Sky chiefly succeeds because it transforms grim fantasy into a startlingly real-world experience".[4] PCGamer UK however, awarded the game 68% saying it is "The disappointment of the year", particularly criticizing the increased difficulty and that the atmosphere of the zone was not as well delivered as the original.[5]

X-play's review was generally unfavorable at 60%, citing boring environments, glitches, and antiquated gameplay. GameSpot gave it 7.0/10 due to glitches, and hoping the patches will fix some major things. In GameSpot's "Best of 2008" the game was nominated in just one category, in "Best atmosphere" but it lost to Dead Space.

Limited editions

Separate limited edition versions of the game were released in conjunction with the standard version.

The Russian limited edition is presented in a larger box and contains the game disc, a bonus disc, two kerchiefs, an A2-sized map of the Zone, several patches with logos of the game's factions, a dog tag, a custom lighter and a little white ball called "The Clear Sky Artifact".

The second limited edition, released in the rest of the world, is presented in a metal box and also contains a bonus disc filled with extras (such as bonus artwork, screen savers, making of videos, a five-part interview with Oleg Yavorsky the PR Director for GSC Game World and the soundtrack) and the A2-sized map of the Zone.

Polish limited edition, presented in medkit-like bag with game's logo contains game disc, soundtrack, patch with logo of one the game's factions, stickers with logos, small map of the Zone, t-shirt with game's logo on chest and inscription "Сделано в Чернобыле" ("Made in Chernobyl") on back.

Digital Rights Management

Stalker: Clear Sky uses the digital rights management (DRM) software Tagès as copy prevention. Some versions can only be installed on a limited number of machines (5).[6][7]

References

External links

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