A group of stalkers, for the first time, reaches the very heart of the Zone-the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant-and triggers a cataclysm on the brink of a catastrophe. An immense blast of anomalous energy transforms the Zone: the once reliable and relatively safe roads are no longer so, the landscape is wiped clean by outbursts of anomalies, and previously unknown areas appear on the Zone map. Stalkers and expeditions perish or end up isolated within the lost territories.
After a second play, several years after the first, some reasons for this rating:
1- This is sold as a standalone game while 90% of it was in SoC.
2- The new places are mostly totally linear, and what is the best with Stalker if it's not the non-linearity?
3- How could the quests be still that buggy after all these patches? Holstering your weapon while entering an hostile building, getting missions from enemy factions, having missions that won't end because your team just won't come to the place you cleared... Also, getting unwanted missions that turn to failed missions after 10 seconds before you even can arrive where they take place is pretty annoying.
4- Enemies can throw a grenade to you from 150 meters, while you're behind a wall and under a roof, and the grenade still arrives on your feet and explodes in the same second.
5- You always find yourself fighting the same enemies, in the same places, so many times. Respawning never stops, even for a totally dead enemy faction.
6- The ending is terrible. Actually, everything from the bridge fight up to the ending is bad, but the ending is the worst.
7- Anomaly detectors mostly start bipping only when you're already dying in the anomaly.
8- I finished the game with my very first upgraded rifle (probably picked in the annoying military base), which was still the best I could do in the end.
9- Stalker SoC was a 10/10 game, so CS is still not that bad. But really unnecessary, even for the storyline.
I enjoyed this STALKER game great for faction fighting especially with the faction fronts mod installed or Clear sky Complete mod, however it is less survivalist by comparison to Shadow of Chernobyl or Call of Pripyat and even feels less atmospheric and less dangerous. A must for STALKER fans :)
While it is 'moar stalker' this prequel does not have the same impact as the progressive pseudo-RPG that is SOC. The game retains it's artistic sensibilities: the soviet aesthetics; the bleak landscapes, but the(new)later levels feel uninspired and many areas present in SOC have been inexplicably cut from CS.
The liberal use of scripted shoot-outs in CS and especially in Limansk are just wrong; over-used and literally unavoidable, making the later levels linear and boring.
The levels in SOC rarely used scripted fire-fights and were structured in a way that didn't necessitate them; and that was what endeared gamers to Stalker : a restricted sandbox game with emergent AI.
The emergent A.I has been altered and there is now a paucity of mutants and too many human opponents, with something being lost in the process so the world no longer feels oppressive. In SOC every faction (apart from the stalker's) had an intimidating disposition and was introduced to the player in an intimidating way: In the case of the Merc' faction and the Freedom faction there were cool scripted sequences; the army was dehumanised entirely, being introduced when butchering the Stalkers at Agroprom, while the bandits were also dehumanised as volatile animals.
In CS, with one of the development paradigms being 'join any faction', there is now an overabundance of friendly NPCs which detracts from the loneliness of SOC -- in fact there are now entire territories that are almost entirely safe. In SOC NPC's didn't need to befriend the player -- as they were hostile! -- they were characterised by the A.I! by their mystery/hostility.
The ending of CS(several of the aforementioned protracted action sequences) compared to the slow build-up of SOC(The intense path through Red Forest, to x19, through Pripyat, punctuated with blazing gun-battles followed by periods of tense infiltration in an intimidating environment) are not matched by CS.
If you are expecting more SOC -- this will disappoint.
Clear Sky is my least favorite one from the series, I consider it to be a good game in general but a bad Stalker game:
-New areas that were very well done.
-The main character is an extremely interesting-looking individual... Even if you don't really know anything about him.
-Combat is the core of this game, expect to kill more people in CS than you ever will in other Stalker game.
-The maps were extremely well-done, even though CS is my least favorite game, it's maps are definitely my favorite ones, Limansk and the hospital just blew my mind.
-You get to witness some major events that you only heard about in ShoC.
-Story doesn't feel as serious as in the other games, some people even go far enough to consider it fan-fic due to cheesy lines and the alteration of some character voices for the worst (Strelok being an example, he sounds like a teenager in CS).
-Even though this is a prequel, a few things that happen don't make much sense... Just roll with it and move on, try not to think about it too much.
-They had the right idea when adding the new artifact hunting system to this mod, artifact variety and respawn in anomalies feels stactic and uninteresting though.
-The ending offers you a very interesting cutscene... For Strelok. Scar simply vanishes, it feels like his only purpose to the game developers was to be "there" and then just disappear, almost like a scapegoat.
-Some parts of the zone look too much younger than it's sequel, nothing you shouldn't overlook it too much though if you consider the fact that they wanted maps to look more alive in CS.
-Failction Wars, they were supposed to be dynamic and rewarding, but end up being a chore more than anything else, plus the constant spawning and movement of NPC squads make the game feel more like a large online FPS map than The Zone, you will have very little imersion in the zone due to Faction Wars... At least they are completely skipable as far as the main story is concerned.