|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: GSC Game World||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Viva Media||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 2, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (32 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
GSC Game World's S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series is a mixed-bag of emotions for gamers. On one hand, the atmosphere and setting are, without a doubt, some of the best designed for a first-person shooter. With that said, the series is also notorious for being extremely buggy or and incomplete, requiring modders to step in to fill the holes. With two games already finished, GSC Game World looks to Call of Pripyat to help bring the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series to a successful close.
Call of Pripyat takes place after the events of Shadow of Chernobyl in the surrounding area of Pripyat; the city closest to the disaster area, which is a nice change as both of the first two games took place in roughly the same areas. You play as a member of the military sent into the Zone on a mission to investigate a few military helicopters that crashed there while on a mission. You are given a weapon, basic armor, some food, and then you're on your own.
The first thing fans of the series will notice is that Call of Pripyat is arguably the most stable of the three. Unfortunately, it still has its quirks. Running the game on Windows 7, I can say that I suffered no crashing issues at all. Instead, I did notice stuttering during loading, particularly when jumping ahead in time to the beginning of a mission.
Visually, the game is pretty much the same as the previous two. Players can expect ravaged, radiation-filled environments crawling with mutants and enemies. Some details, however, were scaled back to increase performance. For example, vegetation details on distant hills don't appear until you move much closer to them. The downside to this sacrifice is that distant ground is bare, smoothed over, and solid-colored. One of the biggest reasons for the performance tweaks is the larger maps that are featured in Call of Pripyat. The days of the Zone being divided into smaller maps that require loading between them are over. In the end, however, the environments aren't really anything you haven't seen already from the first two titles. Although, the city of Pripyat is probably the most interesting of places to scavenge.
Call of Pripyat does run on the same engine as the other titles as well, which is starting to show its age compared to FPS games being released this year. And, along with the engine comes the touchy controls and shooter gameplay. Furthermore, Call of Pripyat seems to have the same AI problems its predecessors had. For example, when attempting to sneak up on enemies during the black of night, they become alerted to your presence despite remaining out of sight and being completely quiet. At one point, while sneaking up on some mercenaries, I shot a mercenary in the back of the head with a silenced assault rifle. Immediately after he died, all of the mercenaries in the building were alerted to my presence and began to move toward my position. Interestingly, this doesn't seem to occur in every instance, but it can be a frustrating experience when trying to remain stealthy.
Combat aside, the game also has a few new features based on community feedback. For example, a new sleeping feature was added that allows players to skip ahead to certain times of the day. Therefore, if you prefer making an attack attempt at night, but it is midday, you don't have to wander around wasting time. One problem with this system, however, is that some missions are time sensitive, and if you happen to sleep through one, it will fail, which can be permanent.
Another new feature in Call of Pripyat is GSC's "A-Life" system, which simulates real-life needs for your character. For example, getting hungry will have negative effects on your character, so having food on you for those longer excursions into the Zone is a crucial habit to learn. Moreover, your character will develop hunger if you sleep for long periods of time, even if you didn't need food when first going to sleep. The system is a nice addition because it makes the food items worth collecting and using.