S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
Three years after the release of STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, the developers of GSC Game World invite us to return to the zone, proposing the first true official sequel of the lucky brand. Unlike the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky stand-alone expansion, whose temporal location made it a prequel, STALKER: Call of Prypiat picks up the story from where we left it at the end of the first episode. Following Strelok's deactivation of the Bruciacervella, the Ukrainian government thinks it well to launch a military operation in a big way, probably with the aim of getting our hands on the "Wish Hearer"; despite lengthy preparations, the Freeway mission is a total failure, and Major Alexander Degtyarev is sent to the Zone to examine the drop points of military aircraft.
A few steps on the edge of the Zone will be enough to realize how much the elements at the base of the gameplay have not changed at all compared to three years ago. The interface is intact, identical the PDA that allows you to keep track of the missions and consult the inevitable map with objectives and resources marked, the GDR-style inventory unchanged, complete with statistics for weapons and armor. The purpose of Call of Pripyat is not in fact to renew a formula now considered successful, but to resume the lines of the discourse from where they left off before the little successful digression Clear Sky, and propose a continuation of the story, still characterized by the same gameplay. The division between main and secondary quests will once again be very clear, the latter always available from the NPCs encountered at outposts and cities. The first hours of the game put the protagonist on the trail of the impact sites of military aircraft, an expedient of gameplay that unfortunately goes to impact on the rhythm of the introductory phase, extremely bland.
Despite a decidedly more marked use of the scripts compared to what was seen in the predecessor, the long and solitary exploratory phases, the lack of interesting firefights and the mediocrity of the cut-scenes cannot create that magic and that involvement that the first game was able to summon, nor to drag the player as he did Clear Sky, made dynamic at least by the many fights. The arrival at the first large outpost of the STALKERS introduces the few innovations that characterize this sequel, which materialize in a much larger upgrade sector than previously seen: through dialogue with some NPCs it will in fact be possible to improve the characteristics of weapons and armor substantially, allowing you to significantly increase the life and effectiveness of your basic equipment. Another small but welcome novelty are four hotkeys arranged on the interface, which allow direct access to care and food; in addition to medikit and bandages to treat bleeding, it will be necessary to eat regularly to avoid heavy health consequences.
The road to Pripyat
Once the information on the military helicopter impact sites has been collected, the story will finally begin, commissioning the player to find a way to reach the town of Prypiat, one of the centers most affected by the Chernobyl disaster. The task will not be easy, and we will move from gathering information at various sites in the Zone to stages of dialogue with the NPCs in order to gather a team willing to follow us in the enterprise. Once again the feeling is that of a strong lack of rhythm, where those who want a little action will have to rely more on the secondary quests, some of which are well made and able to offer some exciting firefights. Missing are also moments of real suspense, of which the first Shadow of Chernobyl offered several examples, leaving instead the sporadic scripts the task of proposing some decisive turning point, unfortunately not always effective.
From the point of view of combat, the developers have made some improvements to the Artificial Intelligence routines: the immoderate use of grenades by enemies has fortunately been revised, and the opponents show some more coverage tactics. Unfortunately, these are not great steps forward and overall we cannot speak of demanding enemies to be defeated, where the sense of difficulty is mostly due to the precariousness and poor effectiveness of firearms, at least in the first half of the game. The arsenal available is, as always, vast, and divided into categories between short and long weapons, with the possibility of transport limited by the weight attributed to each object; each weapon has damage statistics and will wear out as usual with use, making it necessary to repair from time to time at specific dealers. Without particular changes compared to what was seen in the past, the search for Artifacts also returns, which sees the detector already tried in Clear Sky and the same recovery mechanics come back into play .
The heart of Call of Pripyat is the same X-Ray Engine that moved Shadow of Chernoby lwith the necessary updates to the texture and lighting sector. The visual performance is overall good both outside and in the indoor areas, with the same strengths as the predecessor, that is the vastness of the rooms and the excellent lighting sector, characterized by an HDR capable of creating truly suggestive views. Too bad for the widespread pop-up and the fluctuating quality of the textures, which suggest how the engine begins to show its years. The design has remained unchanged, once again presenting the fascinating and decadent moors of the area dotted with credible architectures, huge and spectacular anomalies and monstrous mutants, all mixed in a still original and pleasant mix despite the few innovations.
Fortunately, the developers seem to have worked well on optimizing the code, saving the players the long list of bugs that plagued the predecessor and its expansion: Call of Pripyat is fluid, and during our tests it did not show any kind of technical failure. The audio effects have not undergone particular enrichments, and compared to several recent productions it is configured as discreet but absolutely not memorable. The music, on the other hand, is expertly packaged, and features well-assorted environmental pieces that are suitable for playing situations.
Up to 32 players can compete in a total of 4 standard modes, which alongside the classic deathmatch offer Capture the Artifact (alternative version of the classic capture the flag ) and Hunt the Artifact (where the players divided into teams retrieve the artifacts to bring them to the own base). The 15 available maps capture single player campaign settings in a fairly effective way. Overall, an accessory multiplayer sector, certainly not capable of making a “game of its own”, but certainly useful for lengthening the overall longevity of the product.
Overall - 7.5
STALKER: Call of Pripyat is unfortunately not a completely successful game. The return to the Zone is guided by a fascinating story on paper, but not very rhythmic once the arms are taken up. Quite repetitive and dispersive quests are not able to keep up the interest, which risks diminishing in part even before allowing the player to see the city that gives the game its name. It's a shame, because the depth of the gamepaly has remained intact, the mechanics that mix shooters and RPGs work as they used to, and the settings exude the same sinister charm. Precisely for this reason we feel to recommend the latest effort of GSC Game World to all veterans of the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, who will undoubtedly feel the nostalgia of the Zone and its mysteries; although the pathos are no longer the same, the return of the proven game mechanics should satisfy them. Newcomers should instead reflect: thanks to a very slow start, this game unfortunately risks discouraging before being able to offer its best; given the lack of big news, the best choice could be to rely on the original Shadow of Chernobyl, before going down in this sequel.
Download S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP