HomeReviews4/5 ReviewS.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chornobyl Review

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chornobyl Review

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My only memory of the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game is that of a creepy looking guy on the front cover, staring back from the PC games section of any video game store I visited. That taught me all I needed to know; this game wasn’t for me. 

But now, with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl due imminently, and the original trilogy shadow dropping onto consoles, I am taking the plunge into the Exclusion Zone for the first time.

It takes a moment for things to click, but when they do, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chornobyl works well enough on console.

Stalker Shadow of Chornobyl review 2
Going back to Stalker Shadow of Chornobyl

The acronym S.T.A.L.K.E.R. stands for Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers and Robbers, which basically encompasses everyone you will meet in this game. Set in alternate reality Ukraine, a second mysterious incident has hit the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, rendering it definitely inhabitable. Instead, Stalkers now visit the Zone in search of riches.

Shadow of Chornobyl is the first game in the much-loved FPS series that has previously been PC exclusive. Its arrival on console for the first time brings a couple of new features to make it more console friendly, but there are also a few omissions.

Firstly, a weapon wheel has been added to make switching between firearms and melee easier. Aiming has apparently also been improved but if that is the case, I dread to think how bad it must have been on PC. These S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are a healthy challenge even on the lower difficulties.

Then we get to the omissions. The biggest one being a lack of current-gen updates. As it stands, this is the Xbox One version of Shadow of Chornobyl, with an Xbox Series X|S update due later this year. Over three years into this console cycle this seems almost unforgivable.

Aim assist is also apparently included for the console release, but I have yet to feel the benefit. You can see it in action briefly when aiming down iron sights of weapons, but unlike the super accurate AI, it hasn’t made Shadow of Chornobyl any easier for me.

Stalker Shadow of Chornobyl review 1
Pretty untouched visually

Graphically also, it looks like Shadow of Chornobyl has been untouched. This is not a remaster or a remake of any kind, and looks identical to the same game that first released in 2007. Which, to be fair, is perfectly fine; it certainly hasn’t aged badly, either in looks or gameplay wise.

You play as the Marked One, the only survivor of a vehicle being struck by lightning. You have no memory of who you are, and only have a tattoo of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and a PDA with the note ‘Kill Strelok’ for company. A trader named Sidorovich gives you a few odd-jobs as means of payment for him saving your life, but it is through these you develop new contacts, build the world around you and piece together your backstory.

Unsurprisingly, for an area hit by two devastating disasters, the Zone is a very desolate place. Many of the other Stalkers you meet on your journey are neither friend nor foe; your actions will usually end up dictating which side they fall on. Far more of them, are likely to shoot you on sight.

And it isn’t just humans to look out for. With that much radiation, some of the local fauna has changed as well. And you’ll quickly meet some; rabid dogs and some boar-like creatures looking to gore you. But delve deeper into the Zone – or even venture downwards – and the horrors only get worse.

The mutants are only ever out to attack and maim you. The humans you encounter though, well that all depends on your actions. Approach neutrals with a weapon drawn and things can quickly turn nasty. Likewise too if you have a penchant for shooting first and asking questions later. Every interaction in Shadow of Chornobyl feels like walking a tightrope, and it can go either way very quickly. And with multiple endings to explore, a ton of side quests with unique items to find and more, playthroughs will be very different among players.

Stalker Shadow of Chornobyl review 3
Mutants!

To turn the tide in your favour, you can also equip small rock-like objects called artifacts. Believed to be formed where anomalies also sprout from, these can help out whatever playstyle you are going for. But there is usually a trade-off for equipping them too. Some may increase your health by up to 200% but at a cost of making you more likely to suffer from bleeding effects. Others will make you more resistant to bleeding, but slowly increase your radiation poisoning. As such, many of these are best equipped for short periods at a time or when absolutely necessary.

For fans of the Metro and Fallout series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chornobyl is very much in the same vein. But it also isn’t for the faint of heart; a high difficulty and a sense of desolation throughout puts this into a much more military shooter vein than the Zone would initially suggest. The mutated animals are also not as prevalent as first thought. Many of the horrors found within are still very much shaped by the nature of humanity.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Port from the PC works well on console
  • Unique atmosphere throughout
  • Choices matter
Cons:
  • No Xbox Series X|S enhancements
  • Aim assist does not assist
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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Zombie Killer
Zombie Killer
29 days ago

For fans of the Metro and Fallout series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chornobyl is very much in the same vein.”

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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Port from the PC works well on console</li> <li>Unique atmosphere throughout</li> <li>Choices matter</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>No Xbox Series X|S enhancements</li> <li>Aim assist does not assist</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.: Shadow of Chornobyl Review
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