HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewS.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky Review

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky Review

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It is time for part two of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone Trilogy review, and I am starting to understand a bit more about the franchise, after initially coming in as a newcomer. 

Playing Clear Sky means that it makes sense as to why the upcoming Heart of Chornobyl is also referred to as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. These games included in the trilogy are meant to be considered as one entry, with a singular story told throughout. Clear Sky is actually a prequel to Shadow of Chornobyl, leading up to the events in that game.

The name Clear Sky is related to a faction within the Zone. Unlike many of the other factions there, their interest lies in understanding and researching the Zone. Of course, they still carry weapons – as is a necessity out there – but their intentions differ from many others who roam the Zone.

Stalker Clear Sky review 1
Some Clear Sky in this Stalker?

This time around you play as Scar, who survives a phenomenon known as an Emission. Normally, these would kill anyone caught in them, so Scar surviving it is intriguing, at least for Clear Sky. After then surviving another Emission whilst on a mission for Clear Sky, it is assumed that Scar has some sort of innate ability to survive anomalies out in the Zone. However, he cannot take too many Emissions as they are slowly destroying his nervous system. That appears to be the only downside.

Scar is then asked to investigate why these Emissions keep happening, and it is believed it has something to do with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant at the centre of the Zone. You know, the big plant that caused the Zone to exist in the first place. No big deal. Apparently there is a group of Stalkers who are attempting to reach the centre of the Zone and have gotten further than anyone else has before; these Emissions are a response to that. Scar is tasked with finding – and stopping – them. 

Things start to piece together with Shadow of Chornobyl when you meet Sidorovich who tells you the names of the Stalkers you are hunting down: Doc, Fang, Ghost and finally, Strelok. Names you will be familiar with coming straight from the first game.

Immediately, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky feels like putting on a pair of slippers, coming straight from Shadow of Chornobyl, albeit with a few new features. Improved graphics, a better map (though still not great) and a more concise UI are noticeable from the off. Lighting appears to be better this time as well, with shadows from campfires looking far more realistic. Auto aim also appears to be working as expected too, and I was made to look quite adept at pulling off a headshot with it. This is in stark contrast to Shadow of Chornobyl where I was lucky if I was able to land a body shot. That doesn’t make things much easier though; these games were first and foremost designed for PC FPS players, and using a controller adds an additional layer of difficulty to an already tricky game.

Stalker Clear Sky review 2
A desolate wasteland

Clear Sky does also suffer the same issues as the previous game too. Namely, a lack of an Xbox Series X|S version – due later this year – and it did crash on me a couple of times as well. Also, it feels like loading times here are slower. Why this is, I am not sure, as you are largely playing on the same map as the first game, with only minor changes.

What is new for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is faction wars, and you are introduced to this new mechanic at the very beginning. During your initial moments with Clear Sky, you are asked to visit several locations and wipe out the bandits that reside within. A screen will show you live updates as to how your actions affect the skirmish and increase/decrease your standings with factions as you progress. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but to see your actions dynamically affect your social standings is pretty cool.

Further improvements come in the form of customisation of weapons and armour, including the ability to repair gear. Anomalies are once again present and are now harder to detect, meaning your bolts become even more crucial. The artifacts they now produce spawn within them however, meaning you are far less likely to have a collection of them after only a few hours.

Other than that, and a few new additions to the map, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky feels more like an extension to the first game, rather than a separate entity. Slightly shorter, but still just as tense during firefights and many other moments that can flare up instantly. You are never really safe in the Zone.

Stalker Clear Sky review 3
Would love some Series X|S optimisation

Much like Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is a prequel to the main event, but not one you should tackle first. The first game allows you to get your feet under the table, getting relatively comfortable. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky then gives you the world to explore, and whilst it is essential to understanding “the bigger picture”, it does so without really breaking the mould. 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky should be seen as an expansion rather than a full prequel, but it is one that fans will enjoy nonetheless.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Few improvements over the first game
  • Faction wars introduce new dynamics
  • Artifacts are harder to find
Cons:
  • Still a last generation release
  • More of an expansion than a full new release
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, GSC Game World
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (Review)
  • Release date and price - 6 March 2024 | £15.99
Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Few improvements over the first game</li> <li>Faction wars introduce new dynamics</li> <li>Artifacts are harder to find</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Still a last generation release</li> <li>More of an expansion than a full new release</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, GSC Game World</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (Review) <li>Release date and price - 6 March 2024 | £15.99</li> </ul>S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky Review
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