2008 Reviews

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky

  • Review Date: 2012-03
  • Release Date: 2008-08
  • Developer: GSC Game World
  • Rating: 6.0

I was left disappointed with S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. I strugged to give it a 7/10 with it's shortcomings and tediousness. But, I figured a second playthrough I'd probably enjoy much more as I'd know what it's problems are. So a sequel (or prequel to be more exact), I should be able to enjoy. Sadly, not so.

Despite all patches and the Complete mod which fixes many issues, Clear Sky still disappointed greatly. It's a shame to play through this creative and unique radioactive Russian world that looks fantastic, but have such poor, unpolished gameplay.

Now I knew from the get-go that the carry capacity would irritate the hell out of me, so I soon turned the limit off. It was one of the worse things about the first game. I know some people like to spend hours micro-managing their items constantly - that's half of what RPG's are about. But not me. I prefer the old skool shooters of being able to carry every weapon and item you pick up. I want to kill and explore, not manage inventories.

The other annoyance is the walk speed and your stamina always running out. You do a lot of traversing by foot in this game, which isn't too enjoyable. So at least putting on an unlimited stamina cheat makes that slightly better.

And then there's the night-time problems which many players complained about. Pitch black for long periods of the game with enemies that all have pinpoint accuracy, the ears of an owl and nightvision, it would seem. The Complete Mod returns your sleeping back, so you can completely skip over the night time sequences, thankfully.

But that's still not enough. The gameplay still disappoints. It's harder than SOC, but I was playing on a lower difficulty so I didn't die too often. I felt SOC was too hard, so I knew to lower the difficulty a notch and therefore found the combat difficulty okay. And I didn't want to die often because the quick load screens are so insanely long. On a computer that can run any game up until 2009 at full quality settings without any slowdown, Clear Sky takes at least ten seconds per load. In a game where you have to reload a lot, because enemies can take you down very quickly, anything over five seconds is unacceptable. As well as this I did get quite choppy framerates at times.

Sadly the weapons are pretty bad. I don't get why the developers would add the constant weapon jamming in - it's just not fun. Add features that make gameplay more challenging... but having to reload (and the reloads are painfully slow) constantly during combat because certain weapons keep jamming is just grinding on my patience. Then you can only quickly kill enemies by getting headshots - which are quite random. You can unload two rounds of bullets into an enemies body and he'll still be standing. Fire one shot into his head with your handgun and he's dead. But you can't depend on headshots because the guns are so unreliable, at least in the early stages. Later on you can get some better weapons, apparently. I can only guess you get these by purchasing them or playing side quests, because I was still playing with the same crappy weapons I had from 1/3rds through the game by the end. For some reason I hadn't found any of the really good ones. And then they're not that good unless you upgrade them. Admittedly I only stuck to the main quests and only did side quests when it just happened to be right in front of me.

The radiation areas might be a unique feature to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, but that doesn't make it a good feature. Having to find anti-rad and vodka to heal me whenever I walk near a radiated area is another source of pissing me off. Not fun.

Then I get to the third to last level (by which point I was just ready for this game to end) and it just keeps crashing and won't allow any autoloads. After the fourth time playing the level over from the start due to random crashes and because every auto save crashes from that level on, I gave up. Even sprinting through the level on god mode wouldn't work, it just crashes. So I was forced to watch the last two levels on youtube, and I didn't really miss much other than a bit of an underground hospital then a horrible looking final battle and blink-and-miss final cutscene.

As I said above, Clear Sky is a great looking game. Bad, at least half of the game is played in the same areas as SOC. That is nothing but cheap, lazy and ripping gamers off claiming it to be a new game. This is the first time I've played a game where half the levels are just copied from it's predecessor. Terrible. In fact, there's nothing new in Clear Sky at all - you can almost consider it a long mission pack for SOC.

Despite my complaints, I did quite enjoy the first half of the game. It wasn't until the radiation areas became more common and my weapons got less-effective that I started to tire of it. But I'm not really reviewing the original release here am I? I required the Complete Mod and a couple of cheats, and if I'd come into Clear Sky without playing SOC first, I really wouldn't have liked it. Even with the mod and patches, I still couldn't finish it due to the crashes.

Not recommended, and 6 out of 10 is being kind.