Stalker: Clear Sky - Is Your System Ready?

Stalker Clear Sky should probably be called Stalker v1.5. You don’t have to know the precursor, Shadow of Chernobyl, to enjoy this one, though it would help if you’ve played it before. Inspired by the movie, the main character is a stalker (go figure) who fights his way through the contaminated areas around Chernobyl. The main objectives are pretty straightforward: fight, explore the environment, perform a handful of small tasks, and then fight some more.

The restricted zone is full of renegades, other stalkers and mutants, although the real danger comes from the radiation and resulting anomalies. These are characteristic of what the illegal inhabitants lovingly call “the Zone.” If you manage not to stumble into a deadly anomaly, get contaminated by radiation, or get ripped apart by mutated wild dogs, then the military will hunt you without mercy. Officially, no one is allowed in the Zone.

In Clear Sky, the time period is before Shadow of Chernobyl and the known areas in the first version are further extended. The character starts in a new large swamp area so more experienced players don’t get bored with content they’ve already seen. After that, you get into the known (but slightly changed) areas, as well as new areas.

The level of difficulty at the beginning is pretty easy, but once you have built your first military base it suddenly gets a lot harder. Even if you play on the lowest level, you get snuffed out pretty quickly. The wimpy solders from the first version are now super-tough and shoot extremely well. Also, the anomalies and radiation are even deadlier — one wrong step, and your journey is over.

A nice additional feature of Clear Sky is the repair of equipment and the upgrading system for weapons and armor. It would have been cool to have a self-improving-character that betters its skills with experience; currently, you distinguish your combat strength only by your weapons and equipment. The better they are, the higher your chance of survival.

The game is not approved for children, so it isn’t censored (as it says on the German cover). The game runs well on a Core 2 Duo and Geforce 8800 GTS at 1920x1200 pixels if you turn off anti-aliasing and DX10 lighting effects. For maximum graphics quality at high-def resolutions, you will need a Radeon HD 4870 or GeForce GTX 280 graphics card; you can read in our performance comparison about how well the game does with the HD 3870, HD 4850, HD 4870, GeForce 8800 GTS 512, 9600 GT, 9800 GTX, GTX 260 and GTX 280. If you want to get the most out of your game, you can get explanations of the optimal graphics settings from the forthcoming pictures and tables.