|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: GSC Game World||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Koch Media||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 15, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-32||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The non-human enemies, on the other hand, behave a little more chaotically, depending on the type. Zombies are slow-moving and mindless, while mutant dogs are ferocious but easily scared by gun shots. Some of the other mutant creatures you'll encounter will try various things to get the better of you, from attacking in packs to waiting until you're not in the open.
The role-playing aspects of Clear Sky are pretty much the same as they were in Shadow of Chernobyl. The player can loot just about every dead body, desk drawer, abandoned facility, and more. Then, those items can be sold at vendors for money or kept and used. Purchasing better weapons and armor, as well as keeping a healthy supply of med kits and food are all important. In this sense, Clear Sky provides a more survival-horror type gameplay. Trying to make sure you always have plenty of ammo can be a problem, but not an annoying one. Ammo and provisions can almost always be found on downed enemies. There are no character levels or unlockable abilities, but collecting artifacts can give players certain bonuses and advantages, like being able to run faster or carry heavier items. In the end, while a bulk of your success relies on quick thinking and careful aim, there is a decent amount of character depth and progression to achieve.
The musical score is an interesting combination of bleak soundtracks for the more atmospheric and mood-setting moments and fast-paced, pulsing beats for those intense firefights. The environmental sound effects provide an impressively realistic and edgy backdrop for the game's ever-changing mood. For example, the sound of rain pounding against the ground sounds different depending on whether the character is facing forward or looking up at the sky. Unfortunately, Clear Sky is a Russian game with Russian dialogue and voice acting. So, while a lot of the original Russian is left in to provide a more authentic feel to the game, a large chunk of the game's crucial dialogue was dubbed with English-speaking voices. And, even though the English voice acting isn't terrible by any means, it certainly doesn't live up to the rest of the game's quality.
One thing that does bog down this otherwise amazing game is the complement of bugs and technical problems. In fact, even with the latest, patched version, Clear Sky has some strange issues. It isn't the severity of the bugs that really get under the player's skin so much as it is the quantity of them. Clear Sky plays more like a beta version than a fully tested retail game. While many fans of the original were hoping that Clear Sky would deliver a relatively bug-free experience from the start, it looks more like most will be waiting for a few updates before delving too far. The main reason most gamers are waiting for more patches is because of an issue with updating the game. For some reason, updating Clear Sky to the latest available version will erase all saved games and progress that has been made, forcing the player to start over from the beginning. Moreover, if the latest version still has plenty of bugs or problems, starting over and then having to start over again later on doesn't sound too appealing.
The multiplayer component of Clear Sky is very similar to the original. And, like the original, most people don't seem very interested in it. Most of the typical gametypes are available for players to choose, so in this way, it is unremarkable. There are some interesting RPG elements to the multiplayer game that make it more than simplistic deathmatches. However, because it's difficult to find a server with enough active players, most will probably stick to the single-player component, which isn't really a bad thing. Of course, if you do manage to find a nice server with a regular and healthy population, the experience can be fun.
Overall, Clear Sky is a game with its fair share of problems. Bugs and technical issues are all too common and shouldn't be present in this capacity. The multiplayer, while fun at times, is difficult to get into and seems a little tacked on for a game in the FPS genre, where multiplayer is generally a primary focus. On the other hand, it is nearly unrivaled in creating a truly immersive and creepy setting. The game's visuals are astonishingly vibrant and artistic, and manage to be both beautiful and horrific at the same time. The combat is realistic, intense, and challenging to keep even the most hardcore gamers interested and the role-playing elements complement it well. If you're a fan of the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R., or you passed it up the first time because you weren't sure about it, take a chance on Clear Sky. Like a good book, it has the ability to grab you and hold you until the very end.
CCC Freelance Writer