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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone Trilogy

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone Trilogy

The original games in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series have finally been collected and are now more accessible than ever before.

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I still remember the excitement that filled me as I looked forward to the release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl back in 2007. The images I had seen in the legendary PC Player magazine had sold me on the idea completely. It promised a world where you could freely explore the mysterious and infamous area around the exploded Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Unfortunately, these promises had to be tempered considerably after the release was delayed, as developer GSC Game World had promised more than they could deliver. When the game was finally released, it was divided into four to five different zones, each with their own unique atmosphere. When I finally got the CD into my ageing PC, the game ran poorly, but it was playable, and played it I did - and what a game!

Since then, uranium-enriched water has flowed under the bridge and there have been three games in the series. As you may already know, GSC is gearing up for a fourth in September, and as part of that, these first three are now being released as a collection, available for the first time on modern console formats.

The first thing you encounter when you start the game is a message from the developers welcoming console players and pointing out that this collection has been put together in the midst of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. It's sad, of course, that this is still going on and that the developers have had to not only deliver a solid trilogy, but try to... well, survive at the same time. Furthermore, they state that the less politically correct elements of the series have been retained to keep the mystery of the Zone the same as it was 16 years ago. This proves to be the case, as the game is more or less a faithful replica of my first experience with the Zone when I was hunting Strelok and my own memories as "The Marked One".

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The game follows the familiar trope where the character has lost his memory and must fight his way through the Zone in search of the past and Strelok, who is referred to via a precursor to today's phone called a "PDA". Like the original version of the game, the voice acting is sparse and the characters you meet speak Ukrainian. This is acceptable in itself, but the biggest problem is the small print, which can be a challenge for my ageing eyes. Furthermore, there is no option to adjust the font size, which is a problem for those with vision problems who can't sit very close to the screen. In the subsequent games, S.T.A.L.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky and S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat, there is more English speech, but the text is still difficult to read, which is a shame as the story in the three games is both exciting and mysterious. The characters have a lot to say and the player has to read a lot. There is a bit more voice acting in the later games, but reading is still a significant part of the game experience. This type of challenge should have been addressed in the update of the older games as technology has evolved and the updates should reflect this.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone Trilogy

This may seem like an odd point of reference, but I choose to dedicate column space to it anyway to demonstrate that these games are really just a collection with no further tweaking or restoration - and that's for better or worse.

And I'm not done criticising the console versions of these games. You'd expect the game series to be significantly improved almost 10 years later, perhaps not through dedicated restorations, but if nothing else, just a bit of optimisation to ensure they present themselves at their best. However, that's not really the case.

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I understand that the developers are in an unusual and scary situation in Ukraine, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Legends of the Zone Trilogy doesn't add much new for old players, or almost nothing in general. The only additions I could find in the game were the improved resolution of up to 4K/60fps. The graphics still look the same as they did on the game's original release, and while the game runs smoothly and fluidly, it's not exactly a feast for the eyes. The game wasn't the prettiest when it first came out, and it certainly hasn't become any prettier with age. One could have hoped for more from the developers. On the positive side, the game retains its dark and mysterious atmosphere, so new players will get more or less the same experience I had when I played S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl for the first time.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. Legends of the Zone Trilogy is a very minimal update, as there aren't many changes beyond small things like auto aim and the previously mentioned refresh rate upgrades. It seems more like a faithful but lazy collection of some great games. It may sound like a misplaced complaint, but when we've seen what automatic RTX Remix treatments can do to old games, just a slight retouching of some of the rougher graphical elements could have done a lot for playability. And yes, there are a few extra features missing here too.

Fortunately, the qualities of the three original games still shine through. The atmosphere is still intense and the game design is still excellent. The Zone is dangerous and creepy, with mutated animals, deadly Stalkers and deadly anomalies hiding precious and rare artefacts that are very valuable both to sell and for your survival. The Zone is still as treacherous as ever, a quality that thankfully hasn't been lost over the years. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Legends of the Zone Trilogy still manages to capture this dirty but fascinating world. I still love these games as much as I did 16 years ago.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone Trilogy

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The Legends of the Zone Trilogy continues to consist of fairly challenging games. Stalkers are formidable opponents, and if you run directly into them, your chances of survival are close to zero. Even on the lowest difficulty levels, it's far from a breeze. You'll have to sneak around and flank the enemies to survive. The weapons are realistic and satisfying to use. You'll quickly find your favourites that suit your play style. It's also possible to upgrade weapons with scopes and silencers, which is a cool feature. The tactical element is often crucial for survival.

Is S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. Legends of the Zone Trilogy worth buying on console? If you've played them on PC, the console versions offer pretty much the same experience. In fact, the PC versions can be modded to look and play even better than originally intended. If you're new to the genre, these three fantastic and atmospheric games are an excellent time capsule of what good shooters were like in 2007.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Each of the three games are still fantastic. 4K/60fps is a solid addition.
-
Light restoration would have made a big difference. Lacks optimisation.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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