Thursday, 27 January 2011

Pripyat called but I wasn't in

I have discovered that I have an incredibly temperamental mind when it comes to deciding if I like a game or not. There seems to be a pressure trigger in the back of my mind that I suddenly noticed has been tripped about four hours too late. If I was a shop, I’d have been burgled a lot by now.

The latest game to toy with my head like it was a tub of farting putty is S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat (which will not be written out with so many dots again in this post, just a heads up). The Stalker series has been cemented in my heart as a bug ridden pit that is about as playable as driving a car with no wheels, engine, chassis or mirrors - you’re basically riding a frame. This is how I felt about Shadow of Chernobyl anyway.

I went into Call of Pripyat thinking much the same. I saw that equipment still degraded with use, not suffering from radiation poisoning was a still challenge, and my faith was held aloft when the narration said completely different things to what the subtitles indicated.

Everything in the environment was as hostile as ever – animals tried to kill you, bandits tried to kill you, random patches of ground burst into flames and tried to kill you. Stalker’s world is a horrible place to trudge about that feels distinctly unfair and stacked against the player. It really made me appreciate the small havens built out of beached cargo ships and old train stations that were dotted sparingly about the land.

Then it hit me. This really crap place that tries to reject me at every twist and turn is meant to be like this. I’m meant to feel on the edge of nature’s bitchy side at all times. I’m here to take on this demented nightmare of open spaces, mutants and radioactive death. This is awesome.

After accepting that the world was such a harsh mesh of dynamic and often invisible obstacles intending to kill me, trying to stay out of them became fun. My prejudices from the first game had carried over to this one and I failed to realise the point of it all. It didn’t take long for my enthusiasm to shoot from ‘empty’ to ‘awesome’ after a few minutes of navigating the anomalous, radioactive hazards properly – actually listening to the Geiger counter instead of running around and hoping for the best.

Call of Pripyat makes the wastelands of Fallout 3 look about as hostile and unappealing as a bakery full of freshly baked bread and rainbows with a box of kittens outside it. Okay, there is still the odd glitch or slightly bad gameplay decision that spoils it slightly, but other than that there is a really good game underneath. My curiosity about the proper sequel, Stalker 2, is now approaching critical levels.

How fun it is to learn about new games that already exist. To be fair, that’s why I love the Steam game sales so much, cheap games that I wouldn’t have touched at release for a tenth of their RRP. I win (seriously, Shadow of Chernobyl and Call of Pripyat went for £3).

No comments: