The following is the translation of the open playtest report written by GeForsik. Link to the original article: http://www.gameru.net/?a=27260


I arrived at the Metropolis mall 25 minutes before the start of the playtest. While going up to the fourth floor, I was thinking of how to make my way through the crowd of infuriated STALKER fans waiting to see GSCs new work; but surprisingly, it was quiet and calm near Vault 15 no testers, no fans but just developers who were running from one computer to another trying to set them up before the game time. After some time, testers, fans and other youngsters interested in the playtest were starting to arrive. Some gamers came with books from the STALKER series to get autographs from the developers, while others were hoping to get a picture with them.

Putting a checkmark next to my name on the playtest's members list, Mr Yavkorsky sat me down in front of a computer with Call of Pripyat already loaded. First thing I did was check the game settings to possibly find some new graphics options available in the new 1.6.00 build of the X-Ray engine. Unfortunately, there was nothing we havent seen in Clear Sky. Its alright. I press Apply in the options menu, press New Game, and choose Stalker for the difficulty level. The game is loading

It was nice noticing the developers spent some time optimizing levels loading times, seeing that the game loaded pretty quickly. Oh no! Not Zaton again Sure, its the first location in the game, but still, after watching videos and screenshots from the showcase at KRI [Game Developer Conference], it wouldve been nice to see something new: Pripyat, for example. Alright, back to the game. I took out the PDA to see the objective: observe three MI-24 helicopter crash sites same objective shown at KRI. I decided to use another route and play side-quests instead. I went towards a dry cargo ship called Skadovsk, talked to the bartender and received a mission to find an artifact at the flooded fishing vessel. Seemed quite simple and ordinary to me. I ran out of the bar, simultaneously fixing my inventory by placing the first aid kits and bandages on the hotkeys (F1-F4), and only after around 350 feet I met a pack of dogs. I never encountered any problems with dogs in the previous STALKER games, but this time I had to work much harder to send those poor dogs to a better world (perhaps, I wouldnt have as much problem if Ive spotted them earlier). The main difference with the renovated monsters is that they now attack without stopping in front of you. So in the end, while fighting with the pack, at least one dog will be able to leave a bite on the protagonist. While analyzing the bodies, it was clear that the developers made some plastic surgeries, replacing old models with new high-poly ones, while also adding textures, making the monsters look much better and more realistic.

Alright, back to the game. Healed the wounds, reloaded my AK-74Y and continued running to the location. It was easy finding and getting to the vessel but finding your way inside was not as easy. I wont go into details about little puzzles inside and outside the ship but I will note that I had to use quicksave a couple of times. After leaving the ship with the artifact, I was greeted by a loner stalker which asked me to give him the artifact (the nerve!). I refused his offer and started walking away from him when two stalkers holding their guns blocked the road asking for an artifact again. I decided not to be a hero and gave away my artifact and watched the loner stalker run towards Skadovsk with my catch. His two friends were pointing their guns at me until he was no longer seen. Getting to a cover, I took out my gun and presented my skills with two headshots, one for each. Without having time to search two buddies, I ran after the other stalker towards Skadovsk. Once I get to the bar, I see that stalker selling my artifact to the bartender! Of course, the barman doesnt care who the guy is and how he got the artifact and replied to my grumbling, saying: This is the Zone, son

Yup, this is the Zone. And now, the Zone is filled with monsters, and not crazy stalker fanatics exterminating each other. The fights with bloodsuckers became much more interesting! Now this bloodsucker can actually suck the blood out of an incautious stalker, if he gets too close to him. His cloaking ability, as well as the new fix where monsters dont stop in front of you, really made him a formidable opponent even to an experienced stalker. The bloodsucker was the top contributor to my game deaths, and not regular stalker bandits. The monster animations are improved as well: after shooting a wild boar in a leg, it is quite pleasing and even pitiful to see him jump using the three remaining legs.

One of the biggest features of Call of Pripyat big open locations serves both a positive and a negative role in the game. Sometimes, you can go through as much as the third of Zaton without even meeting an enemy. And the environment isnt too exciting for stalker exploration either with just hills and glades. The main story events are happening in the quest locations.

Problems with AI are still present. At times you will encounter stalkers with an eagle eye that would spot and fire at you long before you would even see them on the screen; and sometimes, they wont notice you standing 30 feet away from them, even if youre firing your gun. Much praised cutscenes werent really impressive either. I walked to a helicopter, pressed F and then observed a slowly moving camera behind my back. At the same time, Mayor Degtyarev had zero body movements, as if he was paralyzed.

Since there are now much fewer stalkers walking around, the problem of ammo shortage wont be felt as much, to which I cant complain. One thing that is unclear to me, though, is the fate of the pistols in the game. From the start, you can have two automatic guns that you can place in both of the slots. There is no reason now to place a pistol in the first one.

In the meantime, Valentin Ektyshev came by and I couldnt resist a chance of interviewing him while playing the game:

GeForsik: Valentin, in the games main menu Ive noticed that the engine build was upgraded to 1.6.00. What are some of the new changes?
Atem: The most work has been done to the games optimization. With a limited time of development, we didnt make any significant changes to the engine. We had to part with ShaderModel 1.1, and now ShaderModel 2.0 is the minimum requirement.

G: So what about the static lighting? Did you have to get rid of it too?
A: No, we left the static lighting. We just got rid of the DirextX8 video card support.

G: How many polygons are now possible in each frame?
A: There are some places on Zaton with 800-900 thousand.

G: Ive seen some of the new screenshots of Pripyat why is Pripyat so empty? Such a small amount of trees, branches and grass.
A: I know; Ive been reading the forums and noticed that many are complaining about that. Trust me, right now Pripyat is the heaviest and the most polygon-filled location out of all three. Our engine is almost overloading

G: Will there be military soldiers in the game? If yes, will they be friends or enemies?
A: They will. In the final build you will know for yourself [smiles].

G: Arent you afraid that the player might get bored, walking around huge locations, shooting at not so often appearing stalkers?
A: Actually, the players themselves asked to decrease the population of the Zone. This is us listening to their opinions and trying to please them.

G: So you guys are getting close to the original game concept, when the Zone only had 120 stalkers?
A: Well, it was not a concept but just an idea. We are not coming close to its realization.

G: Is the release date still Fall 2009?
A: Yes, reaching for October. As of right now, everything is going according to plan.

Guys, your time is up, please come by and fill out the questionnaire and receive memorable prizes, announced Oleg Yavorsky. With these words my little tour in the world of G.A.M.E. was over. With one hour of gameplay I carried many emotions, some positive and some not. And since first impressions are usually not trustworthy, I will not give out any grades.

I would also like to point out that there is still a lot of time before October, and the developers can fix all the problems noticed by the testers.

P.S.: There was not a single game failure during the playtest.