Step 1: Installing AMK
The first step in installing AMK is, obviously, to download the AMK 1.4 installer, as well as the 2.0.94 FINAL patch and run them. You'll notice that AMK is heavily configurable, simply choose whichever options seem the most appealing. A few things to remember:
- Your monitor resolution may not be listed among the supported resolutions. That's fine, just pick whichever resolution is closest. I run Shadow of Chernobyl at 1600x900, for example, so I just pick 1440x900 when installing AMK and it runs fine.
- The default weight capacity for Shadow of Chernobyl is 50kg. You're free to change it to whatever you want, but 50 is what the developers intended.
- Think twice before installing "post effects of being shot." The description isn't very good, what this basically enables is that when you get shot, you'll sometimes spin around and drop your gun. It's meant to simulate being disoriented after taking a bullet to the chest. Some people like it because it makes the game more challenging and realistic, but it can be extremely annoying.
Step 2: Installing the AMK for 1.0005 compatibility patch
AMK 1.4 is only compatible with version 1.0004 of the base game, so if you're running version 1.0005 or higher, you'll need to download this compatibility patch. If you're unsure which version of the game you're running, simply start it up and look in the bottom-left corner of the main menu. It will state your game version there. If you're running version 1.0004, you can move on to step 3 without installing the patch. If you're on 1.0005 or 1.0006, however, you'll need to download and install the patch.
Optional Step 3: Installing AMK Complete with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Weather Overhaul 3.1
AMK is great for improving S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s already stellar gameplay, but it does little to improve the game's aging visuals. Fortunately for us, AMK Complete exists. AMK Complete is a popular method of installing the textures, meshes, shaders, and sounds of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Complete 2009 as a stand-alone graphics mod with AMK 1.4. This method also includes S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Weather Overhaul 3.1 as part of the merge, which is an excellent mod that overhauls S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s outdoor lighting and weather effects. This process is simple, but contains multiple steps. Your game won't work until you complete them all.
- Download S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Complete 2009. Note that you need to download the archived version, NOT the exe installer. Once it is download, delete the gamedata\textures\ui folder. Then copy the meshes, shaders, textures, and sound folders into your gamedata folder.
- Download S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Weather Overhaul 3.1, as well as the 3.1.1 update. Install them by copying the appropriate gamedata folders into your install directory. The provided user.lxt file is recommended, but not required.
- Download and install the AMK Complete patch. Copy the provided gamedata folder into your install directory. This completes the AMK Complete installation.
Note: S.T.A.L.K.E.R Weather Overhaul is a great mod even if you're not installing AMK Complete. SWO 3.1 doesn't have a compatibility patch for AMK other than the AMK Complete merge, but SWO 2.2 is a reasonable substitute. Don't forget the 2.2.1 patch.
Optional Step 4: Installing Absolute Nature/Structures
Even with the Complete 2009 visuals installed, there's more work to be done visually. The "Absolute" series of textures packs are limited in their scope, but unsurpassed in their quality. And because they don't upscale the texture resolutions at all, they work wonderfully even on modest PCs. Grab Absolute Nature and Absolute Structures and install them.
Optional Step 5: Installing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shaders MAX
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. isn't a terrible looking game by any means, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't agree that it looks a little dated. Part of the reason for this is that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. doesn't support many of the advanced shader effects that are associated with modern computer graphics. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shaders MAX fixes this by updating and optimizing S.T.A.L.K.E.R's shaders, as well as adding new shading and postprocessing effects like shadow jittering, SSAO, motion blur, depth of field, and even sun shafts, among others. Download the mod, install it, then install a graphical preset. Don't forget to customize the mod by editing the configuration file (gamedata\shaders\r2\ShaderSettings.txt). All of the options are described in comments, so they're simple and easy to edit.
- A note of Dynamic Depth of Field: This effect is one of the most advanced and dramatic features included in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shaders Max version 1.05, and takes a little bit of configuration to get working properly. If you want dynamic depth of field in your game, DON'T install the dynamic depth of field option included with Shaders Max. It is incompatible with AMK. Install This AMK-compatible package instead. Once you have Shaders Max 1.05 and the provided compatibility patch installed, open your ShaderSettings.txt file and make sure that both Depth of Field and "DDOF" (located under the depth of field options) are enabled. Dynamic Depth of Field operates by spamming console commands, so after installing it you might have some trouble entering console commands while the game is running. This is normal, simply pause the game if you want to enter console commands with this module running.
Optional Step 6: Installing L.U.R.K. Animations for AMK
If there's one thing that Holden's L.U.R.K. mod does better than any other, it's weapon skins and animations. They're so good, in fact, that a fellow by the name of Robbie has taken them and packaged them as a stand-alone addon for AMK. They really are fantastic and breath new life into the game's visuals. You can grab them here.
Step 7: Installing AMK Retranslated
AMK is a great mod, perhaps the greatest ever made for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. But it has one glaring weakness, one major flaw that can disturb or even ruin the playing experience. It was originally developed in Russian, and the default English translation for it is simply terrible. Entire conversations are completely unreadable, untranslated, or simply missing. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: AMK Retranslated fixes this by overhauling the English text, replacing it with much more readable, immersive, and grammatically-correct text. Download it and install it by copying over the provided gamedata folder.
At this point it's a good idea to open your game and make sure that it works.
Step 8: Configuring S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl through the user.lxt
At this point you're done downloading and installing things, but if you want the ultimate S.T.A.L.K.E.R. experience, your work is hardly done. These edits and configuration tweaks can be a little confusing if you're not used to modding or PC gaming, but come highly recommended. Whenever I refer to your "user.lxt", I am referring to the file located in My Documents\stalker-shoc\. It won't have any programs associated with it by default, but can be read with notepad.
- Fixing the sun shadows bug: This is a subtle, but annoying bug that occurs with widescreen monitors and is easily fixable by editing one line in your user.lxt. Sometimes when you're inside, shadows from outside will shine as if the walls and ceiling behind you do not exist. You can also notice shadows near the edge of your screen acting abnormally during quick movement, if you're looking for them. To fix this, locate "r2_sun_near" in your user.lxt and set it to 20.
- Setting your Level of Detail and Mipbias for maximum quality: This is a simple edit intended for high-end machines. It will make textures at long distances look sharper. Locate in your user.lxt the variable "r2_ssa_lod_a". Set it to 96 for maximum quality. Next, locate "r2_ssa_lod_b". Set it to 64 for maximum quality. Finally, locate "r2_tf_mipbias". Set it to -0.5 for maximum quality. Note that this tweak will result in a noticeable FPS drop. Not recommended for low-end systems.
- Enabling motion blur: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl natively supports a nice motion blur effect, but for some reason it's not present in the options menu. To enable motion blur, first we must set a motion blur value in user.lxt. Open your user.lxt file and located the variable "r2_mblur." Set it to any value between 0.0 and 1.0. 0.0 is no motion blur, 1.0 is an extreme amount of blur. A value somewhere in between is recommended. I personally use 0.05. At this point, you must also enable motion blur by adding the command line argument "-mblur" to your S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl shortcut. To do this, simply locate the shortcut you use to launch S.T.A.L.K.E.R., right click it, and click "properties." In the properties window that appears, find "target" under the "Shortcut" tab and add "-mblur" (without the quotation marks) at the very, very end of that line. It should look something like this. Note that this tweak will result in a noticeable FPS drop. Not recommended for low-end systems.
- Disabling Prefetching: Disabling prefetching can dramatically shorten the outrageous load times in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. by stopping the program from pre-loading certain in-game resources. Disabling prefetching can cause more stuttering in crowded areas such as the Bar, but doesn't affect overall performance, so it's recommended. To disable prefetching, add the argument "-noprefetch" to your S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl shortcut, in a similar manner to the previous step.
- Enabling hardware anti-aliasing and vertical sync: By default, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. doesn't support any hardware anti-aliasing or V-Sync (they appear in the options menu but don't work), but you can force these options through your graphics card drivers. This process differs depending on what kind of graphics card you have (AMD or Nvidia), but it fairly simple. This is what enabling hardware anti-aliasing looks like through the Nvidia control panel. The process is similar for AMD cards. Note that this tweak only works on DirectX 10-compatible graphics cards, and requires a version of Windows at least as recent as Windows Vista. NOTE: FORCING HARDWARE ANTI-ALIASING IS EXTREMELY PERFORMANCE-INTENSIVE AND IS ONLY INTENDED FOR TOP-OF-THE-LINE MACHINES. DON'T BE SURPRISED IF YOU FRAME RATE DROPS BY 40% OR MORE JUST BY ENABLING 2x AA.
At this point, your installation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is configured with AMK and ready to be played. If you have any difficulties following these instructions, problems with compatibility, or comments regarding the quality of this guide, please don't hesitate to post them below. Thanks for reading and good hunting, stalker!