STALKER For Free (Not The Rubbish One)

By Alec Meer on May 18th, 2009 at 11:43 am.

Via the strange magics of download service Gametap, the original STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl (not its deflating sequel Clear Sky) can now be played for precisely zero pennies. No region restriction (apparently), and it joins a freebie roster that also contains the stalwart likes of Deus Ex, Hitman: Blood Money, Psychonauts and – yes! – Hotdog King.

The twin sacrifices necessary to gain this gratis copy of one of the most original and atmospheric FPSes of recent years are 1) installing Gametap’s adverty download app all over your PC and 2) Gametap’s despotic encryption system ridding you of the ability to mod STALKER in any way. While the vanilla game is many splendids, the huge modding scene improves it exactly thirteenfold. I guess you could consider the Gametap version the demo, and buy a non-nerfed copy elsewhere if you like it. Where? Here.

Edit – 64bit Windowses are not supported, by the sound of things.

Edit edity Mcedit – sounds like this may only be the case until the end of this week. Get your blinkin’ skates on. Seems savegames will be transferable from Gametap’s paranoiaware version over to the standard version, at least.

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57 Comments »

  1. Adam says:

    I am sad that you call Clear Sky the rubbish one. It is still a fantastic game, moreso now that the patches have removed most of the CTDs and similar. It isn’t bad its just not as good as SoC.

  2. Nallen says:

    Sooo…what’s the catch? It’s free but I have to sign up for a lifetime of spam? I costs zero pennies but a lb of flesh? My first born son? Right arm?

  3. Premium User Badge

    Fede says:

    The only drawbacks it has are
    · you need to be logged in to run the games
    · apparently it installs only on the same partition in which you have your OS installed

    edit: thanks to Francis L who linked to this http://support.gametap.com/selfservice/template.do?id=348 which explains how to install to another partition

    and yeah, as said, you cannot mod it

  4. Paul Moloney says:

    “Gametap’s despotic encryption system ridding you of the ability to mod STALKER in any way”

    A PC game download service which removes one of the main advantages to playing PC games in the first place.

    Brilliant, simply brilliant.

    P.

  5. SquareWheel says:

    I jumped through the hoops and downloaded all their crappy bundleware, and ended up getting this message when trying to download STALKER.

    “Sorry, your 64 bit system isn’t currently supported for Windows PC games. Browser-based games are however compatible. For more information, please see this help article”

    They could have mentioned that at the beginning. =|

  6. Nallen says:

    · apparently it installs only on the same partition in which you have your OS installed

    That’s that door slam shut with a crash.

  7. Optimaximal says:

    Seriously, this is pointless – As free as it may be, even high-street mega-conmen like HMV are selling the original STALKER for £2-3 in bargain bins.

  8. Owen says:

    People are giving us access to games for FREE, and still people complain?! *is confused*

  9. GARY! says:

    I’ve used Gametap before and it’s not really that spammy. I’ve not had any emails from them or anything, it’s just a bit of a pain having to run an extra piece of software underneath the games.

    Give it a go :P

  10. jalf says:

    @Nallen: Symbolic links, man! Just like the install path to some other partition

    Although the 64-bit thing and the mod thing and all the other stuff pretty much ruins it in any case. Are all these Gametap-specific limitations, or are any of them caused by the game itself?

    Also I seemed to remember that Clear Sky was the one you liked. Guess not…

  11. jalf says:

    @Owen: Yeah, I get telemarketers calling me up to chat with me *for free* too, and I complain about that! How unreasonable. I get a metric ton of advertisements in the mail too, all for free, and I hate that.

    Apparently, here people get an intentionally crippled game for free, bundled with other junk that no one wants, and they complain.

    Doing something for free doesn’t excuse you from criticism.

  12. ChaosSmurf says:

    Do you want to play STALKER without mods? If so, download this. If not, don’t. I don’t see a problem.

  13. Spiny says:

    So.. what mods is Alec talking about? I finished shadow of chernobyl & i’ve just started Clearski [sic], having waited for it to be patched a few times.

  14. Dominic White says:

    @jalf: That argument might make the slightest shred of sense if this was telemarketing, or junk-mail, but they are giving away a (well, one of many – look at their free games list – it’s HYUUUUGE and has some genuine classics in there) free game with very few strings attached.

    And I love how ‘The full game’ is ‘Intentionally crippled’. No, you don’t get to customize it, but if you want to, there’s nothing stopping you from buying it.

    As someone said in the last gametap-related paranoia-thread, you guys don’t just look a gift horse in the mouth. You break out the amateur dentistry kit and go to work.

  15. yxxxx says:

    sigh no play for me with my 64bit windows.

    When are they gonna release a “gold” version with clearsky included. My disc has cracked and i really dont want to buy both seperatly.

  16. AndrewC says:

    @Spiny If only someone had done an article about it:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/04/27/stalker-the-mods-return-to-clear-sky/

    BTW, that article doesn’t show up if you click on the ‘Stalker’ tab in this article. Rank amatuery RPS! And tsk!

  17. Anthony says:

    Hey, I liked Clear Sky!

  18. Nallen says:

    You sound a little naive there Dominic, these people are not providing a game for free, they’re providing it as a mechanism to generate money, just like the other forms of advertising mentioned.

    Obviously there is nothing stopping anyone that wants to live without the bundled software, DRM, inability to mod etc buying the game and I think most of us are saying we would rather for one reason or another.

    I see it less as a gift horse, more of a trojan horse. I’ll be looking inside :)

  19. Stem says:

    Gametap was pretty good when it was a standalone app. The browser based version is garbage, not bothered with it since they switched to that.

  20. danielcardigan says:

    Owen says:”People are giving us access to games for FREE, and still people complain?! *is confused*”

    Hi! You must be new on the Internet.

  21. Ben says:

    I was playing Serious Sam 2 for free over GameTap until they decided that it was no longer free and some other games were free. So it doesnt exactly do what it claims to do. Unless you pay the subscription fee!

  22. Dominic White says:

    Well, if they just randomly gave away games for free forever without actually selling anything, it would be a warez site, and not a rental service.

    That’s what it is, really. It’s like Lovefilm (for UK) or Netflix (for US), but with PC games.

    And if ‘Here are some free games. If you pay money, you get many more games.’ is a trojan horse tactic, then I’m throwing my gates wide open.

    Edit: For the record, I think Metaboli is a slightly better service, but it costs a lot more than Gametap, so you get what you pay for. I managed to get in on Gametap when they had a $60 yearly deal going on, and so as long as I don’t cancel, it remains that price for me for life.

    Metaboli also lacks the free trial stuff, which kinda sucks. Still, better range of games, so they get my cash.

  23. PHeMoX says:

    “People are giving us access to games for FREE, and still people complain?! *is confused*”

    That’s because usually there’s a catch and actually there IS a catch. Not modding S.T.A.L.K.E.R means missing out on some of the things you could get as bonus for free when you own the normal version.

    Of course, I don’t say no to Hitman: Blood Money for free instead though!

  24. Idle Threats & Bad Poetry says:

    Downloading Tomb Raider: Legend & STALKER now. I thought I couldn’t access Gametap from my location outside the US (and UK) before, but now everything is honky-dorey.

  25. Gregory Weir says:

    HOW DARE THEY OFFER THE WORLD SOMETHING FOR FREE THAT I DO NOT PERSONALLY WANT?

  26. Dominic White says:

    @Idle Threats: They seem to have taken down the regional limits, ever since Time Warner ditched the site and sold it to Metaboli, their european competitors.

    I wonder – has anyone in the EU tried to subscribe? Or is that still officially (you could get in by saying you were American anyway, which is what I did) limited to US customers only?

  27. Anthony says:

    Hey, they have Hitman Blood Money for free?

    Ok. Sold.

  28. PaulMorel says:

    When GameTap was bought out a few months back, they switched to a horrid interface. I canceled my subscription because the system is now browser-only, and it borks like half the games on many computers.

    Long story short: GameTap was great while it was owned by Turner. Currently, it is garbage.

  29. Dominic White says:

    Conversely, I didn’t think that much of Gametap back when I had to launch everything through a seperate browser app, but find it a lot quicker and more accessible now that it uses the same launch-from-browser system as Metaboli.

    Haven’t had anything broken either.

    It was certainly buggy as fuck during the transitional period, though. I think they should have just given all existing subscribers an extra month free access due to all the problems they had.

    It still isn’t entirely up to Metaboli standards yet, though. I want them to adopt the desktop shortcut feature sooner rather than later.

    As for the 64bit issue, that’s a shared problem between the two sites. Both Gametap and Metaboli used the only real download-rental DRM system that there was at the time – a set of software by a company called Exent.

    Unfortunately, Exent are INCREDIBLY LAZY, and never update anything, ever. So Metaboli are now transferring over to a more modern encryption system that should support 64bit OS’es. A further perk is that they might be able to enable modding. We’ll see on that front.

    Gametap should be adopting that shortly after Metaboli does.

  30. Peter says:

    I’ve tried to download some free games and received the following message:
    Sorry, your 64 bit system isn’t currently supported for Windows PC games. Browser-based games are however compatible.
    This is not good :(

  31. Anthony says:

    Here’s me with Windows 7 x64.

    No free games then.

  32. Adam says:

    “Hey, they have Hitman Blood Money for free?

    Ok. Sold.”

    This one is a much better thing, cos there aren’t many good mods for Blood Money so you ain’t missing much.

  33. Chis says:

    I’ve seen Stalker go for something like 5 quid in my local Morrisons. Honestly it’s more than worth picking up at that price, and you’ll be able to mod it. Wouldn’t bother with this free deal unless you’re utterly penniless :P.

  34. Adam says:

    It was about 3 quid on steam a few weeks ago.

  35. Francis L says:

    To everybody worrying about this being an attempt to spam you, you really shouldn’t. I haven’t tried the free version of GameTap since they switched to the browser interface (I subscribed long before then), but when I was a free user before, all I had to put up with was a single 30 second ad before the game launched and an enticing list of other games I’d get if I were to subscribe. Also the fact that games rotate in and out of the free roster on a set schedule, whether you’ve finished them or not. But no spam or anything — in fact, I don’t believe you need to give them much information at all to start using it.

    The downsides of course include needing to install yet another piece of software, into your web browser no less, and everything’s all locked up away from you, and you can’t edit anything or install mods. And the new browser interface hasn’t quite yet reached a point I’d describe as actually working. And it doesn’t run on 64-bit OSes, though what Dominic says about Metaboli changing over is certainly encouraging (GameTap’s stance has always been to tell you you don’t really need a 64-bit OS, 2GBs are enough for anyone, and that they were looking at it and might fix it someday but it wasn’t much of a priority).

    But it isn’t like you are committing to much. If you don’t have bandwidth caps or anything it really is free, just a matter of leaving a browser window open in the background for a little while to download the game (and maybe restart the download a couple of times, and if you open another window and use the browser to browse the web at the same time, expect it to crash occasionally — the new browser plugin is especially flaky when downloading). And if you don’t like it, GameTap seems to uninstall pretty cleanly.

    Oh, and it is still possible to download/install the game to a path of your selection, but you have to edit some registry keys. Googling should lead you to a GameTap Knowledge Base article about it.

    I’d try it out. While I prefer to actually buy games like Stalker, I do pay GameTap $60/year, so clearly they offer something worthwhile!

  36. MrBejeebus says:

    whats with the CS hating? its much better imo

    i found gametap a buggy rubbish piece of sh*t when i tried it, i never have since.

  37. apa says:

    So… If I would get Stalker from Gametap then I would “own” the game, right? And if I own it already it wouldn’t be pirating if I got another copy from some other source, say Usenet or Mininova! –> Result: free Stalker which you CAN mod! :)

    (next someone starts reading the EULAs just to prove me wrong? ;)

  38. Stupoider says:

    Awesome, I’ve always wanted to try this game.

    Thanks, RPS!

  39. lumpi says:

    · apparently it installs only on the same partition in which you have your OS installed

    I sure as hell won’t complain about a free game, but this might be my first ever try at GameTab, and this seems to be one of the most pointless and annoying restrictions I can think of. I might have terribly underestimated the space requirements of my OS install, but I only have 1.5 GB left which probably makes it impossible to install any Gametab games (sorry, won’t re-partition my entire PC for stupid Gametab).

  40. Francis L says:

    @apa: Well, GameTap is really more of a rental service than ownership — once it expires from the free games list (or if you’re a subscriber, once you end your subscription), you aren’t able to play it anymore (this is the reason for the GameTap DRM).

    Also, the lack of mod-ability, annoying DRM, etc. might have been a factor in the publisher’s decision to allow GameTap to run it with the free offerings, hoping it would lead people to purchase it after trying it in a more limited form on GameTap.

    And finally, GameTap might base how much ad revenue they pay the publisher off of how many people launch the game how many times through their website.

    So no, I don’t think you’d really be keeping within within the bounds the publisher was willing to provide a free copy to you for.

    @lumpi: http://support.gametap.com/selfservice/template.do?id=348 you can install to another partition if you’re willing to edit the registry (the “selfservice” in that URL is very much true).

  41. Stupoider says:

    Lumpi, if this is your first try of GameTap, I also suggest you play Psychonauts. :) It’s a game that nobody should miss.

  42. Jim Rossignol says:

    Quite so, that’s a mighty list of free games.

  43. SirKicksalot says:

    The rubbish Stalker is also available for free.

    http://files.gsc-game.com:3128/oldbuild/

    Clear Sky is not… yet.

  44. Vagueism says:

    I have only one thing to complain about. The saves are not stored on my machine, and I’d like to be able to pick up where I left off if I would take a (longer) break from the game.
    If this was a free online word processor with no possibility of emigrating my files I wouldn’t use it.

    That may have changed since they went to browser plugin instead of the standalone app?

  45. stormbringer951 says:

    About the encryption: Yuki of Shifter mod of Deus Ex found a way past it for DX, so maybe someone can get past the one on stalker?

  46. 678 says:

    Free this week only. You should mention it. Now i’m at 93%. Waste of time…

  47. Shadrach says:

    Calling CS rubbish wasn’t very nice, disappointing yes (especially the end) – but still a nice looking and (after patches) quite playable game.

    LIke other say you can get it for almost nothing in bargain bins and on Steam for 20€ so why submit your pc to this DRM cr*p?

  48. Tim James says:

    Just an FYI that the mods aren’t super critical here. Float32 is probably the real nice thing you are missing out on (good shadows) and everyone loves repair and increased carry weight mods, but you can grind through without them.

  49. sinister agent says:

    Quite a tempting offer, including a bunch of games I’d love to play and one I already know is excellent. I have no interest at all in inviting more adverts, but they’re not forcing anything on me, so I hope you all enjoy them instead. You gits.

    I hope this doesn’t mean they won’t eventually appear on gog, mind.

  50. lumpi says:

    Free this week only

    Worth mentioning indeed?