GSC Game World's made no secret about the need to be prepared for new S.T.A.L.K.E.R. announcements, but news that a full new irradiated shooty adventure in the pipeline is set to release in the first half of 2008 will likely raise an eyebrow or two. It's back to the Zone as we meet and greet S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky.
Revealed in the latest edition of PC Zone magazine, Clear Sky is a prequel to Shadow of Chernobyl. Without giving away too many plot for fear of spouting spoilers, it fleshes out the origins of one of the main characters in the first game who, stepping into the boots of a stalker from a rival faction this time around, you're out to kill.
According to GSC, the Zone we stalked in Shadow of Chernobyl was one of relative peace - really? - but a year earlier when Clear Sky is set the environment is far more hostile. The developer describes the area as being "agitated", with anomalies "extremely active and the landscape is vastly different to what you've seen before."
"Even the air isn't as pure as in the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - with these 'spatial bubbles' which are like confusing Möbius rings that whole expeditions of Stalkers simply can't find a way out of.", says project lead Anton Bolshakov.
PC Zone explains that Clear Sky's game world consists for 50 percent new territory and 50 percent twisted renditions of what you've played before.
Sitting comfortably with the main storyline is an AI-driven stalker war. Players will be able to ally themselves with any of eight factions and work with them to seize control of important locations and ultimately assault enemy faction bases.
Even though you may think you're a stalker god, the factions think otherwise until you prove your worth. So, you start out as a rookie and have to climb up the ranks. At the top of the ladder you'll be handed missions more intrinsic to winning the war.
It's explained that players are not forced into joining factions, but apparently the destruction of one of the primary groups is necessary to open up the main 'path' to the heart of Clear Sky's main event.
On the fixing/tweaking side, work's being done on the interface and the PDA (they need it), with AI receiving a general overall buff too to boost immersion along with physics. New monsters are a definite, and GSC's even said to be slaving away to provide a DirectX 10 version of the game, although it's not promising this will actually materialise.
The first half of 2008 then. We'll have first screenshots shortly.
Further details on S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, and exclusive screenshots, can be found in an extensive preview of the game in PC Zone magazine issue 184, which goes on sale on July 19.