S.T.A.L.K.ER., part one

We grill GSC's Oleg Yavorsky on the developer's long-awaited survival-horror-shooter

It's been a long, long old wait, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is now very nearly upon us. March 23, its launch day, is marked in big red felt tip pen in our diaries. Will the survival-shooter be worth the wait, exciting our hard drives with its gameplay? It's seeming so...

With the game about to hit, we cornered GSC's senior PR manager and very friendly chap Oleg Yavorsky for a chat about stalking through the nuclear wasteland. Part one of the interview is presented below, and we'll be bringing you more shortly, so stay tuned.

First question, kind of back to basics: please sum up S.T.A.L.K.E.R. in 200 words or less...

Yavorsky: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a Survival FPS game set in the near-future Chernobyl exclusion zone. According to the game story, there happens a second explosion in the heart of Chernobyl to generate the Zone - a 30-sq-km area of the game - the place plentiful not only of radiation, but also of weird deadly anomalous energy, mutants, hostile NPCs and more.

The player assumes the role of a stalker - a guy roaming the Zone, risking his life, in search of artifacts (generated by anomalies) to sell them later to scientists, dealers etc. The ultimate player's goal is to reveal the mystery behind the Zone - what generated it and why it exists at all.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a difficult game to label, but the best we can come up with is GTA meets Fallout meets Doom meets Resident Evil. Is that a fair approximation?

Yavorsky: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has been created with big freedom in mind. The player is entrusted with a vast territory and huge world populated by a variety of creatures impacted by bizarre and unknown laws, bearing both peril and glory. The player is also entrusted with a minimal set of items and hinted upon a storyline intrigue. From now on, he's on his own, exploring and fighting against the odds.

The gameplay will be structured in accordance with the way the player constructs it - be it secretive, stealthy operations full of ambushing or lightning-fast assaults. Some players may opt for exploration and trading, while others will become a warrior. It is the freedom that provides a platform for a game you cannot play the same way twice.

Originally, as a stalker, we had to both survive in and live off the environment, and could suffer the effects of hunger, exhaustion, radiation and health...

Yavorsky: After a series of play-tests we decided to simplify the micromanagement of the player's survival parameters and make it all less complicated compared to the original implementation. Thus, we removed the need to sleep and eat. Food, however, remains in the game and serves specifically to restore your health a bit (a kind of alternative to medkits). Exhaustion comes if you are carrying too much weight - getting overloaded with weapons, items, artefacts, food etc (each object in the game has weight) does not let you run or even walk (depending on the weight you're trying to carry).

Keeping an eye on your health bar and staying away from radiation and anomalies remains very important. Radiation sickness (you will see a characteristic visual effect and radiation sign on screen) makes you lose health very quickly, so make sure you've got anti-rad pills or vodka with you to cure the wounds.

Speaking about wounds, depending on the injury type, you may start bleeding (apply bandages to stop it), so watch out as other NPCs/creatures may hunt you down by traces of blood on the ground (you may do the same to them).

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