S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is an action survival horror game set in GSC Game World's vision of 2012 Chernobyl. You are in control of the Marked One, a stalker who was found left for dead in a "death truck" by a fellow stalker. You are taken to Sidorovich and from there on forward you do quests, all in order to solve the mystery of The Zone and figure out who you are.
The game has amazing atmosphere whilst still retaining fun gameplay. Despite being well armed and protected, you will never feel safe in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The game also boasts artifacts: risk/reward items that give you bonus stats in risk of taking radiation (rarer artifacts in the game have bonuses without dealing radiation). There is a varied arsenal in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, from Makarovs to the classic AK to shotguns to Gauss Rifles.
Despite what some people might say, even on my medium range rig I did not experience crashing at all and unmodded the game ran very smoothly. There and there you can experience hiccups while the game is loading in various elements of the map (especially when you are running it for the first time of the day). The game has quick loading times except the first one which takes a fair bit of time, but it's all smooth sailing from there. However, the games vanilla stealth is very limited and you can't sneak kill that many enemies a la Metro 2033.
One thing I'd like to mention is S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl's modding community. It is still very active to this day, with various amazing mods like Autumn Aurora 2, L.U.R.K., STALKERSOUP and Zone Reclamation Project. For a first time playthrough, I'd recommend playing vanilla to get a feel of the game before trying out these mods.
Overall, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is an amazing game and it's the only game like it out there, so play it before you forget about it. And then play the other two games and turn into a cheeki breeki in real life. 9/10
Easily the best out of the entire series, play this if you want a challenging and immersive experience. I would suggest getting the Autumn Aurora 2 mod, it fixes a lot of bugs, improves the graphics immensly and fixes the awful hit detection in the vanilla version.
I have had this game for many years now, i have played all of the series and played them again... Vanilla, Modded, Overhauled etc. and never left a review once. So today i'm going to leave my first review on quite possibly not only my favourite STALKER game, but also my favourite game ever.
STALKER is an exceptional game for two reasons, atmosphere and immersion. It's from 2007, sure it's not PS4 graphics, but neither is skyrim. Sometimes there are bugs that ruin the experience, but i have only ever encouted them on one play through and a wealth of overhaul mods are available that offer differnt experiences to the table.
However, the game is brutal. With next to no tutorial and unintuitive key binds and mechanics, it's easy for one to start feeling unsure and awkward. The difficulty curve is higher than any other game I've played before. With the game leaving the order of the side mission you take down to you, and the pace you follow the story up to you, you may find yourself unsure of where to go next and what to do.
That said, all these things are what eventually come together to make the game fantastic. You come to master the unintuitive play and mechanics and quicksave becomes your best friend, combat can become tactical and fast paced, or stealth like and tense. The difficulty curve forces you to think instead of run and gun, it forces you to take your time and way up if you really gain more from a raid than the ammo you will use... the only game where ammo really is a valuble item. You start making your own moves without the game telling you where to go and what to do which makes the game feel open and free. All this makes you feel completly immersed in this world.
And the sounds... the darkness... sure the textures are not great but you quickly forget about that once you get a feel for the atmosphere. One part of the game that really had me on edge was very close to the end when you finally have the armour required to enter the high radiation zone and you sit near one of the old plants with almost greyscale vision as winds howel and mutants dawdle the corner to your side.
Honestly a fantastic game and something to not miss out on. This game is worth more than most retail prices games nower days.
Whew. Learned enough Russian to know "sucka" must not be a good name to be called and "grenatu" means grenade.
+Tense gameplay +Good graphics +Realistic feel to weapons +Story is attaching. For me, at least. +Damn vortexes.
-Game has a very slow start. Takes a while before you can sprint nonstop to cut the crap of walking a lot, and get a weapon that shoots in a relatively straight line. Get the Vintar Special Sniper Rifle, by the way. You get used to the bullet drop. -There are some weird bugs around quicksaving and NPC hostility that can get under your skin if they happen in certain conditions that, guess what, happened to me. *sigh* I didn't even want that revolver anyways.
=It's not a horror game, though it can get creepy at times. And there's that one time you'll get scared the sh...eet of silk out of you. Just hide behind a wall and shoot it around the corner.
=Most non-essential NPCs speak Russian, and only Russian. That means, like me, you'll have to get used to hearing "sucka," "grenatu" and that set of words they say when they refuse to talk to you while you don't lower your weapon.
=The game's not really attached to decision-making. Don't expect Fallout-ish dialogue moments. Shoot everything that shoots first on sight.
I can definitely say I enjoyed this game, but it's hard to say if others will. There's really no way to tell unless you play it for yourself, but if you like brutal shooters, great atmosphere, and spooky nuclear dystopias, this game is for you. There are a few issues with this game however, but thankfully most of them can be remedied with the large selection of mods available. The biggest issue I had, however, is that I felt the game became a chore to play after a while. I'll chronicle my experience below, which hopefully gives you a good idea of the pros and cons.
First few hours - It's confusing, but I pushed through and found myself having fun
5-10 hours - Finally get a feel for the zone, having a lot of fun after learning the basics and doing missions. Learn to save scum, because this game really ♥♥♥♥s you.
10-18 hours - This is probably where I had the most fun. I got totally sucked in by the atmosphere. Running around at night was awesome (after you fix the music bug, the soundtrack is great). Finding better equipment and stashing ammo is neat. gunfights is challenging but feel rewarding.
18+ hours - The game starts to slow down. Despite finding better gear it never really seems to matter that much, enemies will still take an entire magazine to down if you aren't always getting headshots, although you will die in 2-3 (despite stalker difficulty supposedly putting everyone on equal footing). The game starts throwing more and more enemies at you, until it becomes a chore every time you step into a new area. Near the end of the game, I started running past everyone because it was just so boring. Because I got bored and rushed through the game, I got stuck with a terrible ending too. Obviously this is my fault, but it made last few hours of the game feel more like a waste than an enjoyable time.
Final thoughts: Overall I enjoyed it, but I burned out after a while and felt unsatisfied near the end. If you're not a fan of difficult games this might not be for you (especially if you're a fan of the modern "casual" fps games). However, if you like a challenge and you love games with good atmosphere, I'd give this a try. Hopefully you'll have better motivation to finish it than me.
Note: I used the Zone Reclamation project mod, a few texture mods, and a few sound mods. I only experienced one hard crash, which occurred when I tried to eat bread out of an enemies inventory. Other than that, a few minor hangs but nothing bad.