- Jun 27, 2008
STALKER: Shadow Of Chernobyl has been one of my favorite games since it came out back in 2007. However, as many of you know, good things cannot last forever, and I grew bored with the game in time. While sitting at school and not doing my work, I remembered that a mod had been released a while back that added many new things to the game, which were supposed to make it very fresh and ripe for another playthrough. After spending about a week with the mod, I've come to report my findings.
For the uneducated, STALKER: Shadow Of Chernobyl was the very first in a series of games about taking a lovely stroll through post-nuclear-disaster Chernobyl; all the while fighting for your life against mutants, bandits, and even the land itself. The game featured some of the best atmosphere the gaming industry had ever seen, with an amazing open world, and AI that would kick your ass if you gave them the chance. Not only that, but it had a compelling story that drug you by your hair through some of the creepiest underground levels in gaming, just to show you what happens next. For lack of a better term, Shadow Of Chernobyl was the shit. Unfortunately, not everything about the game was good; only almost everything. It was so buggy, glitchy, and crashed with such frequency, many people simply gave up on the game without finishing it. It's terribly unfortunate for such an amazing game to become buried under technical issues, and that's where STALKER: Complete 2009 comes in.
For the slightly less uneducated (i.e. those of you who don't care to follow a game's modding community), STALKER: Complete 2009 is a mod for Shadow Of Chernobyl, and surprisingly, not a year based dietary plan for people who like to stalk things. The purpose of the mod is to stabilize the game and add all sorts of new content to it, making it fresh for all you veteran STALKERS out there. If you, like me, research things before downloading them, then you'll be colored very impressed before you even click anything. The mod's feature page is miles long, listing all the tweaks to the delicious STALKER recipe, such as added textures, an improved day/night and weather cycle, and new and improved AI. But how much of it is actually true?
*All screenshots were taken by me personally.
This is the "starting town". It reminds me of Borat's village, strangely enough.
The mod's most boasted improvements to the game are all in the graphical department. It claims to have added many new textures, skins, and improved the existing ones. Well, when you first boot up the mod, it won't seem terribly different if you haven't played Shadow Of Chernobyl in a while, but it is certainly an improvement. Everything looks much more detailed, and the textures on all the guns are particularly impressive. These additions simply add to the entire experience greatly, and don't seem to put any extra strain on your system than the original game did. One thing I noticed instantly was the vastly improved lighting system, which, when set to its highest setting, can make the environments look simply amazing. The placement of the sun even shows in how your gun is lit up (Like, in the screenshot above, you can tell that the sun is behind me.). The draw distance has also been increased, allowing you to see much more detailed objects at greater distances. Sadly, the trees and grass still look like someone went around and glued green felt to everything. Guess it can't be perfect.
A few other improvements shoved right into your face from the start, are the ones involving the game's day/night cycle, and the weather of the world. Sunrise is a particularly lovely time, noon is very shiny, and night time features pitch blackness that makes you wonder if you're actually playing the game with your eyes closed. They've also added varying degrees of overcast, ranging from light to HOLYFUCKINGSHIT, and further increasing the notion that the atmosphere in this game is always going to be completely awesome. One improvement I noticed right away that had me thanking whatever god would listen, was the tasty new HUD. The old HUD was such a hideous growth on the face of Shadow Of Chernobyl, I'm very much glad that it god its well needed replacement. The new HUD is much more sleek and sexy, displaying all the information you need to know in compact, clear glass boxes. It takes up much less of the screen, allowing you more room to soak up the fantastic atmosphere on display.
It can get so peaceful, you sometimes forget that you're standing on the geographical equivalent of Satan.
The sound design has also been added upon. Many weapon sounds have been completely redone, like the Fort pistol, which sounds much better than it did before. The double barrel shotgun sounds more like a dying rhinoceros than I would have expected, but it isn't a huge issue. The guns are simply much louder and more enjoyable to shoot than before. Plus, it's really cool to hear a firefight taking place far in the distance. Many small touches have been added to the existing sounds, like the added crunch while stepping through tall grass, or the nice new fire sounds, completing your Cherbobyl hobo experience. They've even added new guitar songs for the Stalkers to play while huddled together in camp. I'm not exactly sure how many, but I haven't heard the same one more than twice so far.
Not all of the added features are cosmetic, however. There are a great number of gameplay changes that increase the pure awesomeness of the game. Unfortunately, this is text, so you probably didn't pick up on the sarcasm in that sentence. There really isn't anything added in this department. No new quests, no new areas, no new guns, and not even a single new artifact. Almost everything about Shadow Of Chernobyl's gameplay remains here, for better or worse. They have added a mechanic that requires you to sleep though, just in case you needed a few minutes to take a shit, walk the dog, or anything that you can do while entirely pointless heartbeats play over a black screen. The only interesting thing about this is the random dream sequences that play sometimes, which are cool the first time you see them, but really annoying the next thousand times. STALKER: Complete 2009 does allow you to continue the game after you've beaten it, if you finish with the good ending; a feature I quite like. I always hated getting roped into having to finish the game without even realizing it. Also, the AI has been improved so they can't spot you in pitch darkness and fill you full of holes before you even realize they're there. That is now your job. Sneak up on enemies as much as you want. It's a blast. The enemy will now retreat if shit gets too hot for them as well, adding a whole extra level of intelligence to them. Oh, and they don't throw piles of grenades at you simultaneously anymore, reducing the overall frustration level a tad.
"You sure you wanna go out in that storm?" "No. No I'm not sure."
And lastly, the most important feature of the mod: The Technical Stability. Is the game more stable? Yes and no. Remember those annoying points in Shadow Of Chernobyl where the game would completely freeze momentarily, for absolutely no reason? Well, they're still here. Except, instead of the game crashing on you, it continues and you just get shot in the face/devoured alive by whatever you were trying to kill at the time. But really, there's only so much a mod team can do, and they've done an excellent job with what they were given. I haven't had the mod crash on me a single time, and those hiccups are far less frequent than they were originally. Plus, the physics engine has been made more stable as well, resulting in you getting stuck in less things, and all around better physics. So, if you're one of those people that gave up on the game because of technical problems, you might want to give it another go with this mod installed.
I'm going to be completely honest here... I am entirely unable to stop gushing about how my first night in The Zone went. I stumbled blindly through a hurricane at midnight, making for some of the most fun I've had in the game. I happened across a firefight in progress, and could not wait to join in, dashing madly through the rain, shooting at anything man shaped. You haven't lived until you've had your own midnight hurricane firefight. I can't recommend STALKER: Complete 2009 highly enough. It's fresh, without making any major changes to the game that the fans would dislike. And if you love Shadow Of Chernobyl, that's really all you can ask for. Make sure that you don't pass up this mod.
See that flashlight in the distance? That's a camp of soldiers to ambush. It doesn't get much better than that.
Thank you for reading. Any and all criticisms are welcome.
Also, if you want to read my other reviews of HAWX [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.122907#2487130], Fable 2 [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.129939#2830125], and The Boondock Saints [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.168594], please feel free to do so.
Click this link to download STALKER Complete 2009 [http://www.moddb.com/mods/stalker-complete-2009]