S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.  The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-Ray engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (a later patch, 1.5.06, included support for DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.
Get out of here stalker!
This page contains spoilers to the game's final plot. It is advised you skip this section or page if you haven't completed the game yet!
Clear Sky is a prequel to the events in Shadow of Chernobyl.
The player assumes the role of Scar, a veteran Stalker mercenary who was injured by an energy emission while guiding a group of scientists through the Zone. Scar, the lone and somehow lucky survivor, is rescued by Clear Sky, a secret and independent Zone faction dedicated to researching and understanding the Zone in order for humanity to better understand what kind of phenomena it is facing. After attempting to help a patrol at an outpost in the swamps, a second emission occurs; Scar is again the only one to survive it.
The leader of Clear Sky, Lebedev, is amazed by Scar's survival, and theories that the Zone is being disrupted by a dramatic increase in energy emissions, emanating from the Chernobyl power plant in the center of the Zone. Human activity is believed to be the cause. In other words, the emissions are part of an "immune response" by the Zone itself. Someone has made it to the center and the Zone itself is trying to consume that person in order to preserve its secrets. Besides endangering all the Stalkers in the Zone, the emissions are also interacting with Scar's body and immune system in a unique way that will eventually kill him if they continue. Furthermore, if the emissions continue the Zone could eventually become highly unstable, and run out of control.
Scar is tasked with finding information about any activity regarding Stalkers trying to reach the centre of the Zone. The first clue is that a suspicious group was found talking to the trader Sidorovich in the Cordon, the southern boundary of the Zone. After helping Clear Sky forces regain control of the swamps, Scar makes his own way to the Cordon, where he is contacted by Sidorovich. Narrowly escaping the Military outpost next to his entry point, Scar meets Sidorovich, who discusses what is happening in the Cordon. Certain events have caused Loners and Military to turn on one another. In the resulting fracas, a case of loot that the Loners were delivering to Sidorovich has gone missing. If Scar finds the case, Sidorovich will be able to shed some information. To do this, Scar works with Loners by getting the captured Military commander, Kheletsky, to crack and divulge the location. After eliminating key forces who would try to rescue him, the location is revealed and Scar finds the case, returning it to Sidorovich.
Sidorovich, now satisfied, fulfills his end of the deal. He explains that the group that visited him were looking for some exotic parts. He directed them to the Garbage, where piles of old relics and unwanted objects are left lying around for looting. One of the members was named Fang. Scar heads to the Garbage to try and find Fang, but only stumbles over a PDA that belongs to a group that Fang and his friends went to meet. After saving the group's messenger, it is discovered that Fang went into the Dark Valley. Scar heads to the Dark Valley, to find the Freedom faction trying to defend the area from mysterious attacks. After some investigating, it turns out that Mercenaries are behind the attacks, and they are being assisted by a renegade Freedom commander, with the Bandits being used as a smokescreen. Scar helps Freedom deal with the Mercenaries and the commander in order to retrieve more information. He learns that Fang returned to the Garbage shortly after visiting the Dark Valley, searching for more materials. Scar returns to the Garbage and heads for the flea market, owned by Loners.
When he reaches the basement of the flea market, he is ambushed and is rendered unconscious by Bandits. The Bandits laid their trap for Fang, but catch Scar instead. They take his equipment and run, leaving Scar unharmed. Lebedev wakes Scar and tells him Fang's PDA is nearby. Upon discovering it, the faction's identity is revealed. The Strelok Faction, a small group of elite Stalkers, are attempting to penetrate the centre of the Zone. According to the log, they did it once before and are now going to do it again by force. Lebedev confirms that they are the ones the Zone is trying to destroy, but it's not clear how they got past the Brain Scorcher or why exactly they are doing this. Upon finding that they went towards the Agroprom Research Institute, Scar must pursue the team by any means possible. But before that can happen, Scar will need to recover his equipment from the Bandits who stole it.
He travels to Agroprom Institute, which is in the hands of Duty, the rival of Freedom. The Zone is being overwhelmed by very dangerous mutants, and the commander of Duty is hard-pressed trying to remove them. When it is found that Strelok went to the underground, Scar volunteers to head into there to rout out the mutants in exchange for further information. Battling through mutants and Bandits, he discovers another PDA which confirms the group's intentions of reaching the Wish Granter and the power plant. Their intentions clear, Lebedov gives Scar the undeniably difficult task of killing Strelok before he reaches the centre. While Scar pursues him, Clear Sky will ambush and stop the others. After escaping the underground, Scar heads north, knowing it will be a long road to travel in order to reach the NPP.
He reaches Yantar, a Loner-dominated area. The factory near the science bunker is swarming with hordes of zombies, ordinary people whose brains have melted due to a powerful psi field there. Professor Sakharov, who is operating in the area, tells Scar that the group did pass through there and that the leader, Strelok, volunteered to test a prototype psi device. In return, Strelok wished to keep the prototype. The device itself would allow the user to completely resist and block psi emission effects, like the Brain Scorcher. To better understand this, Scar finds notes on a group of dead Stalkers, who were alive moments before, near the plant that discusses the effects of the psi-field and explains why the local emissions are happening. In order to proceed, the faulty cooling system of the psi-emitter beneath the factory must be repaired so that the psy emissions cease. Scar teams up with a Loner named Lefty and his crew, who - under continual fire from waves of zombies - work to restart the coolant pumps inside the factory. Without the emissions, the zombie problem would abate. Professor Sakharov thanks Scar for his aid, before informing him that a signal from the prototype device is being detected. According to the signal, Strelok is in the Red Forest. Scar quickly proceeds forward.
Strelok is briefly in plain sight, but immediately escapes before Scar can apprehend or kill him. Lebedev exhorts Scar to stop Strelok, and Strelok responds with death threats if the pursuit of him does not cease. After chasing him to a motorized drawbridge, Scar must fend off an ambush launched by Loners hired by Strelok. Strelok takes advantage of the confusion to escape, blowing up a tunnel behind him. He assures Scar that it is no longer possible to follow him. He also states that he will reach the centre, whatever it takes.
Lebedev then makes contact with Scar. The tunnel was the quickest way to the plant, which is through the Brain Scorcher. Lebedev tries to think of a way over the other side of the drawbridge, which is raised, over highly radioactive water and controlled by Bandits. Unfortunately, the bridge is now the only viable means to the centre, via the adjacent town of Limansk. Scar is directed to an old Forester in the Red Forest, protected by Duty, who may know a way. Forester is regarded as a well-known guide in these parts. Upon meeting Scar, Forester tells him that he knows of a way. A group of Stalkers and Mercenaries, guided by a man called Leshiy, was attempting to reach the other side but ended up in a spatial anomaly, effectively trapping them somewhere near Limansk. They are unable to escape, as any attempts only return them to their starting point. First, Scar visits a group of Mercenaries at the ravaged Military warehouses, who reported some radio transmissions coming from a nearby tower. When Scar arrives, he hears what is happening to the trapped group in the Spatial Anomaly. He then helps in recovering a unique artifact for Forester, which enables him to navigate the Zone. Forester believes it could to used to help guide the team out of the anomaly. One thing remains, to contact the trapped Stalkers and notify them on how to escape the anomaly. But in order to do that, Scar must find a transmitter powerful enough to contact them.
Scar is directed back to the Military warehouses, where he reunites with the Mercenary friends of Leshiy. They know of a military radio transmitter that is powerful enough to transmit the needed coordinates to Leshiy's team. Unfortunately, it is guarded at a base by what is believed to be the last of the Military. The leader pairs Scar up with a small band of Freedom soldiers, who are making a raid at the same place. After fighting heavy resistance at the base, Scar powers up the transmitter and waits as Leshiy and his team free themselves. They then inform Scar that they are now on the other side of the bridge. Lebedev acts immediately on this development. Convincing Leshiy and his team to aid Clear Sky in reaching the other side, a large contingent of Clear Sky soldiers heads to the bridge, awaiting Scar's arrival so they can make a push. When he does get there, he assists Lebedev and the Clear Sky forces to provide cover from Bandit snipers for Leshy's team, while they lower the drawbridge. Afterwards, there are many thanks all around and the path is clear. Scar moves out with the first advance team heading into Limansk.
The pressure is on at this stage. Limansk has been turned into a street war between Bandits, remaining Military forces, and the Monolith faction. Clear Sky helps Scar push through the war-torn streets, having to face many problems. From clearing out a machine-gun nest, Scar has to survive multiple Monolith ambushes until he reaches a partially-constructed multi-story building, heavily defended by Monolith forces. After making it out, he helps cut power to electrical fences blocking the way out of Limansk. After he has made it through, the only thing that's left is to take an underground passage located just past an abandoned hospital. Another advance team is pinned down by Monolith, who are swarming in the hospital. Scar and Clear Sky forces work together to push through the hospital to reach the NPP on the other side. There is harsh resistance, but Scar pulls through. But during the process, a Mi-2 controlled by the Military appears. It opens fire on everyone in the Hospital, including Scar. Scar defeats the helicopter alone while the Clear Sky team catches up. As they reach the tunnels, the team stays behind, giving Scar a window to reach the NPP.
The final battle is at hand. Strelok is in the vicinity, defending himself from both Monolith, Clear Sky and Duty. Lebedev thanks Scar for helping them reach the centre and now needs his help to settle things once and for all. Given a prototype Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Gauss Rifle, Scar must use it to disrupt the psy-blocker device Strelok is wearing. Without the aid of the device, Strelok cannot survive the potent psi emissions for long, and Lebedev believes that the activity in the Zone will stabilize after Strelok is defeated. Fighting his way through swarming Monolith soldiers, Scar uses the Gauss Rifle to disrupt the device and succeeds.
After Strelok is defeated, readings are taken to see if the stabilization is beginning. Suddenly, an unexpected and massive emission occurs, reaching levels far beyond the norm. Everyone within proximity to the plant, Duty, Clear Sky or otherwise, is hit and begins succumbing to the effects of the emission. During the closing cut-scene, they can be seen crowded in the corridors of the NPP, shaking unnaturally, whilst video screens flash with distorted black and white images. These signs foreshadow that those not already killed outright by the blast are about to experience a worse fate: brainwashed to become part of the Monolith forces; or, like Strelok, becoming unwitting agents of the C-Consciousness.
The scene is now set for the Shadow of Chernobyl episode of the Zone saga to unfold, with the story continuing as seen through Strelok's eyes in Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl.
This game combines elements of survival horror (ammo scavenging, frightening atmosphere with powerful monsters), first-person shooters ("twitch-based" aiming, i.e. no leveling system or "skillsets"), and role-playing games (inventory management, quests, character interaction, armors and defense stats).
- Main Article: Faction wars
The most significant gameplay addition since Shadow of Chernobyl is the faction wars system. Different factions struggle for territory, attacking to gain territory and then defending to keep it, while other factions then try to retake it. The player can join and help factions in their battles. The stronger a faction becomes, the better equipment the traders can provide and their soldiers can use. The player's character is a mercenary and may do missions for any faction, or remain completely neutral, without consequence. Each of the main factions provide services, most importantly access to a trader and an engineer.
While Scar is always aligned with Clear Sky, and his ultimate goal is to defeat Strelok and his group, he can fight against or ally with any of four other factions in the Zone (Loners, Duty, Freedom, and Bandits). Other factions, such as the swamp-dwelling Renegades, the Military, the Ecologists, and the Monolith factions cannot be joined.
Other gameplay advancements since the first game include a deepened weapon customization system, and the ability to repair damaged gear. Anomalies are harder to notice, and now contain the artifacts in the game, which require a detector to locate. NPCs are given the ability to use hand grenades, to take cover dynamically, and use "blind-fire" techniques. Light machine guns have also been introduced, and there are now NPC guides in the Zone who can provide fast-travel for a fee.
- Main Article: Factions
Army - The Ukrainian armed forces, stationed in the zone to prevent any stalker activities. They are hostile to all factions except to the ecologists. Their main base is on the Southern part of the Cordon, with a secondary base in the Military Warehouses.
Clear Sky - A scientific faction trying to understand the zone and learn about it, Clear Sky is the first Faction the player encounters in the game. Their base of operations is on the south-western section of the swamps west of the Cordon.
Renegades - Renegades are a faction similar to the Bandits. They are at war with Clear Sky, and their main base is in the north-east section of the swamps, just north-east of the machine yard.
Loners - A nomadic faction of stalkers who are united because of aggressions from the military and bandit factions. Their main base is in the Cordon, where they also have other camps scattered around, including the Rookie camp. They also have the "Flea Market" camp in the Garbage, and a large station in the Agroprom base. They are at war with the Bandits, and tolerant of Duty and Freedom.
Bandits - A faction at war with the Loners, tolerant of Freedom, and hostile to Duty. Their main base is in the railway maintenance "depot" in the Garbage.
Duty - A paramilitary faction trying to "kill" the Zone and stop it from spreading. Considers the Zone evil and alive. They make their base in the Agroprom research center, where they are constantly besieged by mutants from the underground tunnels and are at war with the Freedom faction. They are tolerant to Loners, and hostile to Bandits.
Freedom - A paramilitary faction trying to make the Zone available for everyone, so that mankind can benefit from its wonders. They are at war with Duty, and are tolerant of Loners and Bandits. They are based in the Dark Valley in the factory area, and are constantly harassed by Mercenaries.
Mercenaries - Carry out different tasks for money, basically for anyone.
Monolith - A faction of religious and brainwashed zealots whose religious interests focus on the Chernobyl NPP in the zone. They are tough, well-equipped, and hostile to all other factions.
Military Stalkers - Loners hired by the Army, hostile to all other factions.
Ecologists - Scientists who hire Loners and other factions to protect themselves from Zombified Stalkers so that they can continue their Zone research in peace. Their mobile research facility is in Yantar near the pond.
X-Ray 1.5 Engine
Advancements made in 1.5 include Volumetric lighting|volumetric light (a.k.a. 'Crepuscular rays|God-rays'), volumetric smoke, volumetric fire, soft water, dynamic wet surfaces (with water streaming down the sides of surfaces), depth-of-field blur, DirectX 10 support, SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion) and more. However, the game maintains the same minimum system requirements as Shadow of Chernobyl, and is scalable enough to run on outdated DirectX 8 hardware.
Version 1.5.03 of the game supports Multi-sample anti-aliasing (MSAA) for DirectX 10, while version 1.5.06 adds support for DirectX 10.1.
Reception for Clear Sky has been generally positive. PC Zone UK and Games Master UK have both given Clear Sky a score of 88 out of 100, while Edge Magazine gave 7/10 saying the game "turns the best and worst of PC gaming into something extraordinary".  GamesTM gave the game 90/100 saying "Clear Sky chiefly succeeds because it transforms grim fantasy into a startlingly real-world experience".  PCGamer UK however, awarded the game 68% saying it is "The disappointment of the year", particularly criticizing the increased difficulty, and that the atmosphere of the zone was not as well-delivered as the original.
X-play's review was generally unfavorable at 60%, citing boring environments, glitches, and antiquated gameplay. GameSpot gave it 7.0/10 due to its glitches, while hoping that patches would eventually fix some major issues. In GameSpot's "Best of 2008" the game was nominated in just one category, in "Best atmosphere"; however, it lost to Dead Space (video game).
Clear Sky was released upon the 22nd August 2008 in Russia, with a patch being available at release (Patch (computing)|Patch version 1.5.03 for the International version, said to be identical to the Russian version 1.01 patch). It was soon after reported, on the GSC-gaming official forum among other places, that both the unpatched and patched Russian version suffered from severe stability issues. These included Crashes to Desktop (CtD), BSOD|Blue Screens of Death (BSOD), bugs that made the game unplayable, and a general poor performance of the game even on high-end systems. These reports were not unanimous however, and several other members of the boards reported that they had few or no issues with stability, even if bugs in-game remained prevalent. These latter reports proved suspect, given the change logs from GSC accompanying subsequent patches which identified many script errors being fixed. These script errors always resulted in a CtD, which the forums had consistently been reporting.
On September 5th 2008, the game was officially released in the rest of the world, except in North America and on various online distributors. Reports of poor performance are still prevalent around the official forum and some of the fansites. Since then the game has been patched several times and the latest is now currently 1.5.10, fixing most of the game-breaking bugs that were present upon release. However, some players are continuing to report severe bugs with the game, including severe graphical issues that were not present in 1.5.04. One of the new now potentially game-breaking gameplay bugs is the crash to desktop that happens when attempting to talk to wounded characters.
Some players reported problems with game's StarForce and Tagès copy protection that prevented game from starting even when the original DVD was inserted.
Separate limited-edition versions of the game were released in conjunction with the standard version.
The Russian limited edition is presented in a larger box and contains the game disc, a bonus disc, two kerchiefs, an A2-sized map of the Zone, several patches with logos of the game's factions, a dog tag, a custom lighter, and a little white ball called "The Clear Sky Artifact".
The second limited edition, released in the rest of the world, is presented in a metal box and also contains a bonus disc filled with extras (such as bonus artwork, screen savers, making of videos and the soundtrack) and the A2-sized map of the Zone.
A Polish limited edition, presented in a medkit-like bag with the game's logo contains a game disc, soundtrack, patch with logo of one the game's factions, stickers with logos, small map of the Zone, and a t-shirt with the game's logo on its chest and inscription "Сделано в Чернобыле" ("Made in Chernobyl") on its back.
Digital Rights Management
Many people are also experiencing issues registering the game at all. Tagés offers two ways of registering the product: an Automatic Mode, which automatically communicates with the Verification Server, and a Manual Mode, where one can access a code via a web browser.
- Stalker: Clear Sky official site
- Stalker: Clear Sky Deep Silver site with international patch downloads
Development and cut content
- See also: Category:Clear Sky cut content
In the beginning, Clear Sky was named Anarchy Cell; and while most of the story remained intact until release, some elements were changed. The biggest change was in Scar: he was originally called Messer, a guide leading International Scientific Group stalkers (United Nations, basically) on a mission deep into the Zone, to the Generators, a place where time and space were not bound by laws of physics.
Suddenly, a blowout took place and Messer reappears on the outskirts of the Zone, in the Marsh, and is rescued by Clear Sky and recruited to track down Strelok before his incursions into the heart of the Zone can destroy it. However, it is not the real stalker - he has been copied by the noosphere, which gained consciousness in the process. The game progression also differed slightly - after uniting the warring factions, Messer was supposed to find a key that would allow him to reach the Cartographer, a legendary stalker that knew how to get everywhere in the Zone, living in a small Orthodox chapel. He would tell the hero how to reach Ghost City, through which the NPP can be reached safely and Strelok intercepted before he can trigger another massive blowout.
Compared to the Anarchy Cell design document, little has been cut, with the exception of the Pripyat Underground and the infant consciousness of the noosphere as a third, sinister force in the Zone.
- ↑ "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky Forming The Zone," Game Informer 178 (February 2008): 84.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/stalkerclearsky?q=S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
- ↑ PCGamer UK Edition 192 (October 2008)
- ↑ GSC Game World Community - Please insert original DVD of "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky"!
- ↑ http://techgage.com/news/stalker_clear_sky_features_5-time_activation_limit/
- ↑ http://store.steampowered.com/app/20510/