Unfortunately, it isn’t all clear skies for Clear Sky
and even before we get around to the issue of performance we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out some flaws in the game design.
Take the bandages, for example. Bleeding to death is a very real threat in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
and your character needs only one injury to start bleeding out worse than a haemophiliac in an iron maiden during an earthquake. The only way to stop your bleeding is to slap a bandage on the wound, which can be done either through the inventory or straight through the Quick Bandage button.
On the face of it then this seems like an excellent way to build some more gritty realism into the game. Clear Sky
is a terrifying game at times and there are more than a few points where we’d advise you to empty your bowel before playing. In these areas though what makes you shiver isn’t just the worry that a bloodsucker or snork is about to jump on your face, but the sense of vulnerability. Even on the easiest settings insta-deaths are common.
The reality of the bleeding system though is that you end up carrying around a stupid amount of bandages, which completely overrides this sense of realism. You have to wrap a new bandage on after every scrape, no matter how little damage you took. There’s nothing on this earth capable of simultaneously wearing away our will to live and keyboards like having to tap ‘C’ every five seconds in a gunfight.
What really begins to grate though is that the bleeding system isn’t very consistent, proving to have more holes in it than Amy Winehouse's elbows. For some reason medkits in the Zone don’t include any type of bandages, so if you take a shotgun blast to the face in a fight then you’ll need to use a medkit, put a bandage on, dodge the next shot and
return fire all at the same time. Why do medkits instantly restore your health but not stop you bleeding at all?
The major new feature in Clear Sky
proves problematic too, mainly because it too is more complicated than you’d expect and not fully introduced to the player. A large part of Clear Sky
is built around the idea of allying yourself with certain factions and working with them to wipe out the competition, which gives you access to better equipment. The system doesn’t work very well though.
To strengthen your faction's foothold in the area you’ll need to seize some preset landmarks from the enemy and hold them until reinforcements arrive. Again, nothing bad in theory, but in reality you’re always either left waiting for the next allied squad to spawn from nowhere or taking on an outnumbered opponent alone. Captured areas all too easily slip back into enemy hands too, with your friends sending you constantly repeating and super-generic pleas for help even if just one bandit has stumbled close to their base.
On the topic of bandits, it also has to be pointed out that of the hundreds of constantly re-spawning characters in the Zone there are still actually only about five different appearances. All the members of a faction look identical, which is understandable for some of the more militant groups, but laughable when you get rushed by twenty-five bandits in identical leather jackets.
We understand that it’s a problem for developers to give each faction an individual and instantly recognisable look of course, but this is just ridiculous. Surely there’s room for some variation? Can’t every fifth bandit have a pink leather jacket or something?