Available :Q1 2005

Stalker Multi-Player Preview © THQ
By: Doug Kelly

Ever since being taken through a level of this game at E3, I’ve been salivating at the mere thought of getting to play it. At the recent Gamestars Live/European Games Network in London, my dream was realised.

I noticed the Jolt booth and wondered what they could possibly be showing. To my sheer amazement I saw about 5 computers running Stalker multiplayer. I was slightly puzzled by the fact that this was not in a THQ booth, but I soon forgot all about that as I got sucked in.

The first thing that struck me was the level design that looked like something straight out of a movie, the abandoned train yard reeked of class. Carriages here, barrels and tanks strewn about the place coupled with some vegetation all combined to make it look like something out of a Hollywood production.

The weaponry was pretty much your standard FPS collection, pistols, rifles, etc. But there was one interesting feature – you can mod your weapons as long as you have enough money (money is gained through killing people). There’s a fairly intuitive ‘Buy’ menu that you can bring up when you respawn that allows you to purchase guns and ammo, as well as armour. Weapon mods come in the form of silencers, scopes and others of that ilk. The developer that was standing next to me throughout my time with the game mentioned that his favourite is an AK47 with a scope and silencer. Soon it became clear to me why this was his preferred choice. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

This is a fairly early client, so there was, as expected a few bugs and balance issues. The grenade launcher was slightly too powerful, and there would be a danger of the game turning into a grenade spamming fest. One thing that I had to comment on to the Dev was the run speed – it was incredibly slow, a moderate jog at best. He said others had also raised issue with this feature and that it’d all be balanced by the time of the final release.

Aside from the above, very menial gripes, I had to say that I feel Stalker is shaping up to become something awesome. The game plays very well and is a lot of fun. Level design is nothing short of excellent, with ladders leading to towers that you can snipe from, beautifully modelled scenery and buildings that all add to the atmosphere and ambience. This teaser of a multiplayer experience, coupled with the tour of the game at E3 has certainly made me believe that Stalker could be ‘a big one’, ala Half Life 2 and Doom 3. The question that I parted the Jolt booth with, was this ‘Will there be a singleplayer or multiplayer demo?’ The answer that I received made my heart sink. ‘No’.