Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Impressions: STALKER Clear Sky, Fallout 3, and Far Cry 2

Posted by deckard47 on May 8, 2009

Yes, from now on, it will be Stalker, none of those silly out of place full stops here. If GSC games emails me angrily, I’ll go back, but I’m saying that their games are sweet, so hopefully they won’t. Clear Sky has got me good at this point, so good that I was willing to endure some unpleasant initial moments (being pinned down permanently by machine gun fire in a story-required mission, especially) to see the rest of it. I’m in the Zone proper now, doing missions, upgrading guns and armor (and buying new ones), building my faction reputations, and being scared by the night-time noises.

I put those other two titles up there because those are games that I liked, to a degree, until I found Stalker. I dug Fallout3‘s RPG aspects, and its setting (initially), but in the long run the story was bad, the quests were boring, and the setting was monochromatic, repetitive and uninventive. Cut to Stalker‘s Zone, which feels like a real place (with arbitrary boundaries!), with its waring factions, roving and stationary mutants, and unpleasant, tempting blowouts and distortions.  Sure it isn’t a full RPG, but it has a great weapon and armor upgrade system, a cool faction favor system, and lots of interesting sights and sounds. Night in the Zone makes night in the Capital Wasteland look like Disneyland. It’s almost pitch-black, scary and spooky music and howls travel across the Zone, and you can see those damn glowing boar-eyes coming for you. This game does more in its simple audio and visual environmental and enemy cues that Fallout 3 manages for its entire length. Sure, the ludicrous tradesmen and Stalkers may not be “characters” like Liam Neeson was supposed to be, but they are much less likely to draw a snort of laughter out of me. They’re only trying to convince me that I’m not alone, not that I should care for them.

Far Cry 2 is a fun game, and I like its sneaking/tactical/free-form aspects, but it’s a dead setting. Traveling across the fields of African Nation X (or wherever it’s supposed to be), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was also a wasteland. The odd badly implemented Zebra does little to alleviate the sense of emptiness. Maybe that’s the point, but it makes for a less interesting setting. I love the Zone, its blasted and wasted corners and expanses chock full of mutants, Stalkers, anomalies, and individually, carefully designed ruins and buildings. It feels tangible and weighty, in a way that Far Cry 2‘s artificial safe houses and quest/enemy clubs can’t hold a candle to. The combat in Stalker may be far more finicky, but it’s also more rewarding. When I go through an encounter without taking a hit, I’m always surprised, until that last enemy I forgot about kills me in one shot. It’s highly unforgiving, lacking in polish, and less coherent than both Fallout 3 and Far Cry 2, but its fiction is so much more interesting, nuanced, and affecting, I’d rather play this game for tens of hours more before I go back to the other two games.

Despite the fact that the first game is so scary and I can’t play it for long, I miss those elements in the second game. As a shooter, pretend squad game, and upgradable/expansive gameplay experience, I prefer Clear Sky in almost every way. That’s why I’m really excited by Call of Pripkyat, the next game in the Stalker series. It looks like it will blend the best of the two games, along with a lot of upgrades and fixes (and there are a lot of those that both games still desperately need). Too bad I won’t be in Russia for  the KRI Conference 2009, the annual Russian Game Developer’s Conference, because it sounds sweet. Time to go back to counting down the hours until Trek time.


13 Responses to “Impressions: STALKER Clear Sky, Fallout 3, and Far Cry 2”

  1. Gah you make me want to play Stalker, but I’ll have to wait for a possible future in which it gets a console release. No room for a game that big on my PC partition. Bugger. Thanks for reading my FO3 post; you missed a big huge mess on Critical Distance when I attempted to bring up some design points to add to a female’s concerns about sex in games, ended up getting rude and offending her big time, then caused a massive shit storm between the Iris/Cerise crowd and the Brainysphere people.

    I apologized earnestly to the offended women but haven’t received any replies. So it goes.

  2. Brendan said

    hmm… i may have to play Stalker one day… pity i only ever play PC games once they are really old and just work by default on whatever cheap laptop i own at the time.

    I certainly hear your point re: Fallout 3’s monochromaticness but really, if nuclear bombs were dropped on a city (futuristic, advanced nuclear bombs at that), there really wouldnt be anything less. In fact, there would be even less left than in Fallout 3. That said, I guess it isn’t just quantity. Ithey probably could have made the game just as sparse/unsparse without making every single train station look the same, etc. Still, I love it, and the only reason I havent started Broken Steel yet is…

    …because I just started playing Far Cry 2. Again, from what i have played, i fully agree. The initial taxi trip was so gripping, so real with the civilians wandering to the air strip, the taxi driver, etc.. I was just waiting for the g-man to walk out from behind an elephant. But when you start actually playing, there is no one. I have never been in a real african conflict, but I don’t think a country can empty of its populance so completely.

    Also, enemies at guard stations should not respawn quicker than it takes for their own bodies to fade away.

    Still, I’m having heaps of fun playing a sandbox-y shooter thatis unlike any other shooter i have ever played, but still not just an fps rpg. It’s really something different.

  3. deckard47 said

    @ Simon: It is a rather large game to put on the HD, and it’s frustrating enough that if you have work and/or other games yo like that aren’t fussy, it would be easier to stick with them. I think I caught up on most of the Critical Distance thing last night. Of course, it being late and just having got back from Star Trek (awesome!), I didn’t read all the related posts and arguments… You’re a better person than I for doing that, as I’m definitely not going to do it on a Saturday. Too much writing to do!

    @ Brendan:I do like Fallout 3, it’s just that I was so disappointed by what their world was like… The Capital Wasteland, for all of its inhabitants, in jokes, and little side quests, just didn’t feel as character-full as The Zone. Of course, in Clear Sky, he Zone basically is a character, so that’s kind of cheating.

    • I liked Star Trek too, for the most part (lens flair was really, really stupid). Also kind of think more could have been done with alternate universe thing (different roles on the ship, mainly, as to Kirk and Spock). Trying to decide whether to go with the fam at ten in the morning tomorrow to see it again.

      • deckard47 said

        Yeah, the lens flairs were over the top. It was like I was playing Mass Effect. Not a great feeling. Maybe they’ll do different stuff now that they’ve done their “bridge/introduction” movie? I hope…

      • ***Star Trek SPOILERS*** I should take back what I said earlier. The new badass Spock who can embrace emotion is an awesome move (especially the new love story). Apparently they want Javier Bardem for Khan, which would make me cream myself. It looks like the series is gonna be awesome, I just hope they switch things up a little bit more. Though I guess that’s hard to do since the roles of everyone on the ship were already so codified and iconic. One thing that bugged me was that not enough of the youths of the characters were different. I mean, Kirk Senior’s ship getting blown up should have changed more than just the youth of James T. Kirk, you know? Like, that’d be pretty traumatic, a gigantic ship killing a bunch of people then disappearing. It would totally change society enough to cause different people to be born, etc (because it doesn’t take much, considering the number of sperm there are competing over an egg).

      • deckard47 said

        I’d be excited for Bardem as Khan, but I’d be worried that this would make them be less creative with everything else. I really do want them to do different stuff with the characters, but with Bardem as Khan, they might just let the other characters go on autopilot. I can especially see them letting McCoy and Checkov play the same ludicrous caricatures that they’re playing now. I like broad comedy and all, but they have to be careful not to get too campy (although the campy bits were well done, like Uhura talking about “Spock’s frequency.” Also, when Spock says “fascinating” I was incredibly excited. Also he made “live long and prosper” sound like the most badass thing in the world.

    • Yeah it was totally, “Love live and prosper.” Bad-ass to the max. +1 on the I’ll be monitoring your frequency bit. I think they’re on the right track to doing new stuff with Scotty, which is cool. For some reason I can’t remember enough about what McCoy was like in the show to judge it, but yeah the Checkov stuff seemed pretty par for the course.

  4. Blah “long” not “love” fuck.

    • deckard47 said

      McCoy just sounded forced. Like he looked at the script, asked the writers if they *really* wanted him to sell it that hard, and then hammed it up for kicks. Anton Yelchin though, has no shame. Not that he needs to, I guess.

    • deckard47 said

      Also, someone else made this point, and it struck me how right it was. They couldn’t have gotten away with giving all of the women miniskirts if there had been a woman commander: it would have made the way in which the skirts de-serious and de-power people way too obvious.

      • Or they could have just made all the males wear cut-off jean shorts, as I am practicing right at this moment. God damn I love the look of my middle thigh! I don’t mind sexual objectification as long as it’s completely equal. My shirt’s coming off right now. Ahhh yeah, that’s better. Get my laptop camera turned on. What’s your iChat ID, you?

      • Dammit that was supposed to be “yo?” at the end, and I blew it.

        I agree with the mini-skirt thing, totally backwards.

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