In Stalker: Call of Pripyat you play a stalker, of course. Stalkers hunt through the Zone for artifacts, revenge, weird critters, and more. But not women. There are no women in the whole game. Maybe that’s why everyone is so grim and angry. You do a fair amount of talking and information gathering, but it’s primarily a first-person-shooter. There are some role-playing elements. You don’t have stats like agility, but you do get tired from running too long. You find better armor and weapons while playing, and need to get them repaired. You talk to lots of masked men with guns and shoot many, many more.
After the jump: reloading. It’s not just for your guns.
You also do a hell of a lot of walking. The game is huge, with three very large areas to explore. There’s a main plot that takes you to a fair number of locations, but there are many more to see, too. It’s largely non-linear. You can go visit most places before you get a quest there. It doesn’t wait for you to activate it. The world exists outside your influence. It’s got lots of inventory management and wandering, but at it’s core it’s a tense, mechanically solid shooter.
Anyway, here I am, in the game about 4 hours, I’m in my second day in the Zone. I’ve talked to lots of people, gotten many quests, succeeded with several of them, and failed a couple others. I’m ranging out on my second major excursion, trying to sweep past several locations at once. My main task, and the one I’m worried about, is the need to recon a bandit base which is loaded with bandits. A trader back in the stalker base wants info on their plans, so I’m to recover any random bits of intel I can find at their base.
Once I get there, a quest marker shows up on my map, so it’s obvious my quest can be completed in one particular location. After a tiny bit of poking around it’s obvious this is going to be a combat mission. There are bandits everywhere. I’m a little reluctant to go in, as I’m not that experienced with my gunplay at this point. The most I’ve had to take down is the random irradiated were-boar or swarming pack of rabid dogs. That’s scary, but the creatures I’ve faced so far are not very smart and don’t have any ranged abilities, so I don’t really have to worry about them until they’re right on top of me. Which I don’t let them get to. The bandits are another story. Another story entirely. I get familiar, very familiar, familiar like with an old lover, with reloading my saved games.
Combat encounters with humans, at least so far, are hard as hell. The last combat encounter I had was with three measly guys, and I had to reload it a half dozen times. So I’m not expecting great things from my encounter with the bandits. And sure enough, I die four times in quick succession. The enemies pop out from cover, fire off a lot of shots, then duck back behind cover. Normal behavior in a shooting game. But then these guys pop out from somewhere else and shoot at me. I’m constantly on my toes while fighting them.
To start things off, I run up behind one patrolling guard, shoot him in the head (sorry) and quickly loot his body, hoping for a medkit. No dice. I loop around the back of the station and find an access door, beyond which I can hear Russian voices raised in alarm. I cat-and-mouse with the guys behind this door for a bit, dying and reloading 3 times, occasionally taking fire from the catwalk below my position, before rushing downstairs, taking out that guy, running into the building underneath the guys causing me trouble, lobbing a grenade up to their floor, then circling back around to the original door. I’m in luck! One of them has been flushed outside by my grenade and I take him down quickly.
Sometimes men take seeming ages to go down in this game. There’s a bullet spread for each weapon, so bullets fall anywhere within the target reticle, which means that occasionally a bullet in that spread will fly into someone’s head, and then the combat goes very, very quickly. This guy is like that.
I make my way through the darkened building, steadily taking down bandits, scared to turn on my headlamp so I can see because I don’t want to offer up myself as a big glowing beacon for the enemies. So I’m fighting in the near dark, and it’s intense and scary and I exult after taking down someone and seeing he’s wearing exoskeleton armor. I’m a badass! He went down quickly! The lesson here is that sometimes bullet spread is on your side, and other times you just kick ass. Obviously, I rule.
I clear out all the bandits and recover the information. As I’m leaving I realize I’ve wiped them all out, so whatever information I’m delivering to the trader will be on what their plans were.
Well. No need to tell him I’ve killed them all, right? Right.
DoomMunky is also Mick, a theater and voiceover actor in the Bay Area. He bikes everywhere and recently became a pretty damn good pie maker.