STALKER: War Of The Mods

By Alec Meer on October 2nd, 2009 at 12:38 am.

Get away from my pixel shaders

The original, ever-seminal STALKER’s longevity is impressive – the fan/mod community just keep on jiggery-pokering it to astonishing effect. Perhaps it’s a result of the game’s singular gestation – so much content and concepts from its long development jettisoned for the final release, and a superficially wobbly engine positively bubbling with power and potential once the surface muck was wiped away. It is and always will be an important moment in PC gaming, and I’m starting to wonder if it might be becoming almost a weird sci-fi cousin to the original Operation Flashpoint: a game that’s, over time, redesigned so thoroughly by its community that the original form is almost forgotten.

First STALKER’s community needs to join hands and sing It’s A Small World, though – for instance, there are two competing projects for the status of ULTIMATE STALKER MOD…

He'd be so much less lonely if he had an omni-mod

First up is one I’ve posted about before, the incredigood STALKER Complete 2009. Its creator/compiler (for much of it is other folk’s graphical mods, made to play nice with each other) Pavel Dolgov has dropped me a line that brand new version 1.4 came out a few days back, which he describes on its ModDB page as “One of the most exquisitely beautiful experiences ever to grace a gaming system.” I’ve not had a chance to fire 1.4 up myself yet, but going on the version I played a few months back, I doubt that statement is anywhere near as outlandish as it sounds. Here’s some Youtubery of a slightly older version, though sadly much is lost to video compression:

The major improvement for v1.4 is installation – it’s now a single archive, compatible with the Smart Mod Manager app, and he’s working on a easy-as-walking .exe installer within the next few days. You can grab all 560Mb it from here, as well as read the almost scary list of changes. Graphics, sound, AI, bugs, weather, UI and even the degree of free-roaming all get an overhaul. It’s quite the piece of work.

Except the folk behind the new L.U.R.K. mod (which a reader known only as Moritzio kindly pointed our eye-organs at) reckon they can “the best possible experience for S.T.A.L.K.E.R”. While hearing the LURK began as a 4Chan effort instills a certain amount of terror that it’ll be filled with Paedobear references and the like, it turns out it’s a very serious, very dedicated project. The name’s a good’un, too. In terms of the all-important graphical question, as I’ve not had a chance to try it first-hand yet, how about you decide?

(More comparison shots here).

LURK’s also about AI and balance tweaks, a bunch of new/improved weapons and, most intruingly, a full-on stealth system – something STALKER has always been crying out for. Here’s some aspects of it on show:

Of course, it’s thus changing the nature of the game significantly, whereas Complete is much more about shininess and minor tweaks. What I’d ideally like is a way to run both, turning various bits on and off as I like. It would be super if the two teams involved joined forces, but nonethless, let’s be grateful for their incredible work in keeping one of the most fascinating games of the decade alive, well and delightfully pretty. Well, as delightfully pretty as a bleak, violent post-nuclear wasteland can be.

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71 Comments »

  1. Torgen says:

    You know, I bought this on a Steam sale some time ago, yet have never played it. Perhaps one or the other of these mods will convince me to finally give it a go.

  2. nutterguy says:

    I have used Complete 2009 (or was it 2008?) before and it was amazing…
    Is LURK really any good?
    If you had to pick one which would you play Alec?

  3. abhishek says:

    Even though it’s old, I would say that Oblivion Lost also deserves mention in a list of candidates for the status of ‘ULTIMATE STALKER MOD’.

    • GJLARP says:

      Aye it is a sin not to mention Oblivion Lost in this list.

    • Cooper says:

      Aye, I was gonna say it’d be wrongnot to mention OL. IT’s not to everyone’s taste as it’s ver hardcore – but it makes some amazing changes. Especially to the Alife system – it starts to feel like a truly autonomous world. The weapon and combat mechanics changes really make firefights a gruelling experience.

      I have an OL save at the bar I just use for running around and doing some of the side missions. I keep meaning to put in another fresh install and play Stalker Complete. Will probably do that this weekend.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      My favourite mode ever, for anything. So good that GSC appear to be stealing parts of it for their new STALKER game.

    • Nighthood says:

      I also used to think Oblivion Lost was great. Then I discovered that Blowouts kill NPCs required for quests. There are a whole other host of problems too, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Junior says:

      All the best parts of OL have been taken from other mods, and it’s far from hardcore.

      AMK is a tougher, more rounded experience, and it has better blowouts too.

  4. whitebrice says:

    I’ve played through Shadows of Chernobyl too many times to get excited about these. As much as I love the game, I think it’s starting to wear. I’ve been wondering if it’s Clear Sky that’s soured me to Stalker in general, because I pretty much played SoC constantly until CS came out.

    Gotta say, though, I still have hope that Call of Pripyat will capture me the way the first game did though.

  5. Skalpadda says:

    Oh poo.. now I’ll have to reinstall the old girl and give her another play through again :)

  6. Icarus says:

    Don’t forget that AMK. 2.0 is going to come out in a little while and in both Russian and English this time.

  7. Muzman says:

    AMK AMK AMK. For it is my duty to the overmind. It is interesting in itself that the Kitchen Sink mods (AMK and OL. Although since OL is kinda derived/expanded from AMK, it’s a Kitchen Sink with extra …kitchen)
    they have stepped aside in peoples minds lately for ones like these two, which are more purist tune-ups.

    Complete, for all its visual focus, and while it is very nice, still managed to screw up the artful and naturalistic contrast balance of the the original game. You can see an example in the ludicrous glare in that screenshot above.
    Bringing Stalker ‘in line with modern games’ is a noble enough goal but there’s certain aspects where Stalker is right and mainstream games are wrong and fashion be damned. (plus I gather that tweaking this game is quite tricky so it could just be that)
    Anyhoo; Complete was a fun playthrough of the stock game that’s been tidied up, even without realistic weapon damage (which I usually insist on). It’s worth checking out. I still wish for some hybrid mod with realistic weapons, all the AI/grenades/blowouts/looting/anomalies etc from AMK and the weather & scenic stuff Complete used.

  8. Hug_dealer says:

    i love stalker. Everything about it. The interior environments and atsmophere is bar none the most scary survival horror to grace gaming.
    http://www.moddb.com/mods/lost-alpha
    keep an eye on this, it is frome the guys from Oblivion lost, and proboi story.
    They are bringing back the original gameplay.

  9. Javier-de-Ass says:

    “it might be becoming almost a weird sci-fi cousin to the original Operation Flashpoint: a game that’s, over time, redesigned so thoroughly by its community that the original form is almost forgotten.”

    let’s not go completely crazy here. no one is going to forget the incredible experiences that were the vanilla versions of operation flashpoint or stalker. the mod communities for these games are really insane, but the games they’re building on were never blank pallettes or whatever. that sentence would work for something like rfactor, these are not even close to that.

  10. Miker says:

    I just picked up STALKER on D2D’s sale, and decided on Complete 2009 for my first playthrough, mainly because LURK makes drastic changes to the vanilla game. Some I appreciate, like stealth, but some are just hardcore, like removing all the unique armors that can be found in the game (you have to buy them for mucho dinero now). Also, Complete 2009 runs better, whereas LURK will chug in some places, even at a lower resolution.

  11. ZamFear says:

    Judging from the screenshot, it looks like LURK changed the guns to right-handed versions. No more brass in the face :)

  12. Miles of the Machination says:

    I’ve been using this mod for my second playthrough and it is jam packed with unbridled awesomeness. It really improves the atmosphere of the game by tweaking lighting and textures, adding the authentic weapon names, new stashes, new diaglogue options and a whole ton of extra gameplay options that do nothing less than give you another reason not to buy Clear Sky and just replay the original… Sorry, I have a bit of overflowing frustration knowing that I poured 27 hours into that disappointment. I would even recommend it for a first playthrough since it only makes improvements. But the original Stalker is still amazing, no mod can improve upon the pants brownifying effects of the underground facility sequence, and it trully delievers an original experience.

  13. yns88 says:

    LURK is still in relatively early stages of release, so there’s bound to be loads of problems. Sadly, right now the only good way to get discussion in about the game is through daily threads on /v/.

  14. Serenegoose says:

    So… I was just reinstalling STALKER to give it an actual playthrough this time as opposed to the half-arsed shot I did last year. And then I check RPS, and what do I find? -definitely- adding complete 2009 to the list, and thank you -very- much for what looks like an amazing find.

  15. lumpi says:

    As I see it, “mods” for STALKER seem to mainly be huge remakes of the original game, with bugs fixed, gameplay streamlined and graphics improved?

    I remember trying STALKER when it had a free week on GameTap. The experience, although they surely used the latest official update a good year or two after the initial release date, was an incredibly, show-stoppingly buggy one. I learned then, that enjoying STALKER without mods seems to be close to impossible. Shame GameTap DRMed every modding possibility out of the game.

    Still, I’m always a little confused when people talk about STALKER “mods” (expecting some class-based spaceship-pirate ninja battles) while these “modifications” are actually the kind of game fixes that should have come with the original game in the first place. Why doesn’t GSC Game World pay them a little and release this as an official update?

    • ZamFear says:

      That may have been GameTap’s fault. I tried out Psychonauts on GameTap, then bought the boxed version. On GameTap, it crashed all the time, but the boxed version has been rock solid.

      STALKER, with 1.0005 patch still has its issues, but is pretty stable, at least in my experience.

    • lumpi says:

      Possible. I never had any problems with Psychonauts, though.

    • sinister agent says:

      I learned then, that enjoying STALKER without mods seems to be close to impossible.

      Quite. I don’t regret buying many games, but stalker is one of them. By far the most disappointing and infuriating game I played this year. I’d have a crack at the mods, but frankly I can’t be bothered fiddling with a game for hours when there are plenty that aren’t utterly broken in the first place. A shame, really, as the setting was novel.

  16. Justin says:

    I was watching the Complete 2009 video and thinking “yeah, it’s pretty, but it’s just better textures, etc.” and then I saw the lightning anomaly in the tunnels, and instantly was all “can I buy a better video card just for this? Yes!”

    Either Call of Pripyat will be a wonderful, fun sequel, or the first Stalker is just going to be this wierd fluke that lives on and on and never quite gets duplicated in style. Crossing my fingers.

  17. Dance Comm says:

    first time I played stalker I was horribly disappointed when I learned that everyone had bionic eyes and were linked into a hive mind, but LURK’s video actually shows npcs flanking, and searching for the player.

  18. Ian says:

    Well, it’s always a pleasant surprise to hear more news about S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
    The creator of the L.U.R.K. mod is going to keep adding in various community fixes, plus he’s shown interest in using assets from Call of Pripyat, so the mod isn’t a one time deal.
    I just wish GSC would man up and actually release an SDK.

  19. Gene says:

    I would love to see oblivion lost and stalker complete compiled into one giant mod. That would certainly be the best stalker experience.

  20. Tony says:

    LURK is pretty good, but my love is AMK.

    Because I am a masochist and AMK will kill you dead at the drop of a hat.

    That being said, I loved Redux for its feel of the weapons and I hated OL because it felt way too arcadey. And AMK has better blowouts.

  21. Centy says:

    It’s just a great excuse to play through the game twice to see which one is better.

    I’m making my way through Complete now with 1.4 and it is very nice LURK will be getting downloaded and installed soon for my next run through before I tackle Clear Sky and then Call of Pripyat will be out yay.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Grey Cap says:

    How is AMK 2.0 coming along? Anyone know when/if it’s coming out?

  23. Heliocentric says:

    Look at this.Look at this and tell me that games like empire total war and games like it blocking modders is not a terrible thing.

    Mods are awesome, i spend more time playing mods than original product, most of my favourite games are mods. Stalker do well to learn from these mods and ensure modders can keep teaching them.

  24. Vivian says:

    AMK was the only mod i’ve tried that MADE you sleep (you started to act drunk if you didn’t get enough sleep), but as it also added indestructable bloodsuckers its not everyones cup of tea, I suppose.

  25. pignoli says:

    New verison of complete eh?

    Back to the Zone for me then…

  26. Ian says:

    Still never done a full run through. I was put off by a combination of my feeble skills and the superhuman accuracy of the bads. Loved the atmosphere though, which is why on Ye-o-Olde Talk-o-Tron I started a thread asking which mods I should try to help sort it out a bit for me. Never did, yet. *shame*

  27. neems says:

    Anybody know a way of fixing the dodgy shadows that I seem to get with any patched version of stalker (weird, angular shadows appearing over my shoulder as I turn)? I got it on my old 8800 gts, and I get it with my new(ish) HD 4870. It’s not the mod, I get it in Vanilla as well, the only way to avoid it seems to be to leave SHOC unpatched. Which doesn’t bother me particularly, except the mods won’t work :-(

    • Centy says:

      - if you experience “shadow glitch”, where shadow artifacts are following you around, go to “user.ltx” and make changes to these lines:

      r2_sun_near 20.
      r2_sun_near_border 1.

    • neems says:

      God bless you my son.

  28. [21CW] 2000AD says:

    Most of the things in these 2 mods seem to be changes to the presentation (Graphics, sounds, etc) but not much to the gameplay. Past mods like Oblivion Lost added a shedload of gameplay chanages.
    Has the Mod DB just tried to sell these two mods as graphics updates? Do they have a lot of gameplay changes like OL?

  29. eyemessiah says:

    If I reinstall STALKER again then I will be on my 4th or 5th attempted playthrough.

    Maybe this time I won’t ragequituninstall. Maybe…

  30. toni says:

    there is no competiton. that’s just stupid sensationalismn. both mods are more about the “old” stalker experience, only buffing up graphics and fixing glaring bugs. the interesting mods change the game completely and open up all options for A-live, blowouts, artifact activation, hiring npc’s and so on.
    complete and LURK don’t feature those. LURK’s stealth is good but still broken, it’s visuals are not good as in : the weather, ambience and sunintensity to murky, all is grey in grey and nights are pitch black which makes you wonder why they even bothered with the textures. But since we have the smart mod manager it’s easy to switch between all mods back and forth.

    btw, I’m playing CALL of PRIPYAT and it is a return by GSC to the glorious days of SOC. Clear Sky is forgotten, STALKER is back.

  31. Jonas says:

    Hm the basic graphics in Complete look significantly shinier and more eye-pleasing, but there’s something about those weapon animations in LURK that I really really like. It makes me want to load up the mod and just play James Bond with a pistol like in the video. And I always was a sucker for stealth.

    Are there any mods that remove the scary mutants? The scary mutants scare me :P

  32. drewski says:

    OK, I haven’t played through yet, at so far I’ve found the difficulty plenty hard enough in the vanilla Stalker, so if all I want is pretties and minor gameplay/AI/etc tweaks, which freaking mod do I play?

    • Miles of the Machination says:

      It honestly depends on what you really want out of the game, personally, I found that while veteran in the 2009 overhauls is still hard, the gameplay feels a lot more balanced, and is closer to the vanilla stalker experience than the other mods, most of which make dramatic differences to the core gameplay. So I would recommend 2009 for your first playthough, it’s pretty, it’s fun, yet it still feels like classic STALKER.

  33. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    Do any of these mods switch off the mission timers? That really irritated me about the vanila game.

  34. ZeeKat says:

    So these aren’t that revolutionary. Only minor improvements in Complete 1.4, L.U.R.K doesn’t seem too original as well – tweaked NPC’s detection’s nice touch though. Still waiting for AMK 2.0, I think they planned to stick alpha maps there, that would be fun.

  35. Hypocee says:

    The stealth system and AI tweaks work so well that people don’t notice when you fire bullets into their bodies!

  36. jsutcliffe says:

    Excellent timing. I was just thinking of trying another playthrough of Stalker as I’ve never modded it before. I had been planning to dig out the previous RPS article about modding it this evening. Thanks for this!

    Question I could probably answer for myself if I could be bothered looking for the answer: Would it be possible just just install the game from the CD and then install the Stalker Complete mod, or do I need to dig out sources for all Stalker patches to bring it up to date first?

  37. stormbringer951 says:

    How apt. Kanyahlos stole ideas, actual scripts and files from the AMK and Priboi Story mod teams and adapted them for his own Oblivion Lost mod. You’ll find that GSC are borrowing from the AMK mod team and dez0wave.

    Supermod Pack must be mentioned, as well as Priboi Story. L.U.R.K. is supposed to be quite good, I’ll try it out sometime.

    The most played mods are Priboi Story, Rebalanced, aliVe, Oblivion Lost and AMK.

  38. Overwatch_UA says:

    I got Call of Pripyat yesterday, haven’t played it properly yet though. But hey, good news!!! There are lots of people here in Ukraine and Russia, who’ve already completed the game and most of them agree this one is “THE STALKER” =)

    GSC pointed out in lots of interviews that they want to earn fans’ respect back after Clear Sky. I guess they succeeded and there are lots of happy gamers on the forums giving 9/10 and 10/10 points to the game. It seems those hand-made quests impressed gamers the most. So scraping generic randomly-generated tasks was the best choice GSC could’ve made, because suddenly instead of the main meagre storyline you get a rich and varied world with lots of interesting events happening.

    The only thing I worry about is you guys might get a different experience if the translation will be somewhat cheesy. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      Wow — I had no idea it was close to release. Excellent!

    • ZeeKat says:

      Great to read that – I hope publisher will stick with usual model of translation for Polish edition (previous instalments were great in that regard). Can’t wait for Polish release.

    • Miles of the Machination says:

      So, if you picked it up yesterday, then what’s this business with the release being postponed to February 2010? I must find a copy.

    • Overwatch_UA says:

      I got the game so early because I live in Ukraine. In post USSR countries 2nd october was the release date. US and Western Europe (except Germany) will get the game in Q1 2010. I don’t know what’s the motivation behind this decision, but I think GSC will eventually tell us later.

      On the bright side, you’ll get the game totally bug-free, we’ll do all the necessary testing, guys! =)

    • Muzman says:

      From what I hear they just rushed it into their biggest markets. Stalker did best in Germany and Rus countries so they went there first, leaving the other localisations until later.

  39. cpt.whistlepants says:

    First off, there isn’t a lot of innovation with supermods other than AMK and Priboi Story. OL’s saving grace and the reason it was so popular was because it was more stable. As others have stated, OL is a merge of other mods work(ie,AMK and PS). Don’t get me wrong, I still think its better than vanilla Stalker.

    Stalker Complete set a bar for visual mods. He was bombarded when people started asking him to incorporate other mini-mods into his mod. He should just stick to the visuals, imo.

    LURK has a ways to go, its not quite there. It has a dedicated group behind it now. We will see how it matures.

    In closing, I feel S.T.A.L.K.E.R is the best fps in this decade. No other fps in the past 9 years has enthralled me as much and stayed on my hard drive as long. Its a lion/male fps

    • Muzman says:

      OL was more stable than AMK? Bizarre. OL was a chaotic mess compared to AMK. It barely functioned as a game. AMK was, for my bandwidth, the perfect middle ground between the tidied up vanilla game and the original Oblivion Lost feature list. A reason for its lower popularity eludes me.

  40. Kadayi says:

    Will complete work with old saves or does it require a new play through?

  41. Miles of the Machination says:

    Yeah, complete 2009 works for old saves on patch 1.0005, but I would definitely back it up beforehand just in case.

    • Kadayi says:

      Thanks. I don’t think I have the nerves to run through the labs again, although I expect they will look lovely. Still when I get back to Stalker I think I’ll give Complete an install. ;)

  42. Linfosoma says:

    Gameplay wise I like LURK a lot, but I can’t see anything, even during the day.

  43. Adam Vandenberg says:

    Not sure why I’m asking here, but is there any way to increase the mouse speed in the UI panels? I can turn up the sensitivity for the “game” part of the game, but the UI speed is unbearably slow.

  44. MS says:

    First timer with Stalker and Oblivion Lost.

    Anyway, I forgot that OL removes the endings in order to allow for “Free Roam.” I realized this fact after going through all the portals (i.e. the “reject C-Consciousness” path”), and the last portal just plops me in the middle of a highly radioactive field with a controller. I’m guessing that I’m screwed, but is there any way to get back to the NPP?

  45. Skye Nathaniel says:

    I spent a week last year learning how to edit the various script files in Stalker so that I could tweak weapon and armor stats to create a more survivalist experience where even later-game armors wouldn’t allow me to soak up dozens of bullets, as seems to be standard. My favorite part of the game was always the beginning, when equipment was poor and I felt so vulnerable; thinking about how to assault a position was far more important than my capacity to line up headshots. It seemed tactical and realistic. Do any of the available mod packs lend themselves more to that kind of experience?

  46. Miles of the Machination says:

    Introducing a completely new contender. I don't think you couldn't really call this a STALKER mod, but it seems to be a complete overhaul of another game to create a Diablo esque stalker experience with remarkably faithfulness to the original design http://www.moddb.com/mods/stalker-mod

  47. Chode says:

    I was an early follower of the development of STALKER, and among those disappointed by thethe final product.

    But Complete 2009 has really dragged me back into this game. I’m really loving it this time.

    Thankyou RPS for the motivation to try this unpolished gem again.

    • Dominic White says:

      While I liked STALKER for what it was, I was actually surprised it didn’t get more angry internet backlash. Normally, when nerds hype themselves up unrealistically about a game – even if the devs come out and openly say that things have changed – there’s a large number of people who seem hell-bent on comparing the game on shelves to an imaginary game that never got made that exists only in their head, rather than anything actually real.

      I remember it happening with Fable. I followed the dev diaries and wasn’t surprised at all by the end product, but it seems that most people just latched onto a few early (VERY early) concepts that got dropped from the final product, and flipped out because it wasn’t their dream-game.

  48. Skye Nathaniel says:

    I think it’s due to the nature of the problems. Whereas, with something like Bioshock, detractors’ complaints focus upon intentional aspects of craft and design, in Stalker we found a buggy and somewhat unfinished game that nonetheless displays the kind of ambition reminiscent of classic computer gaming. This contrast seems to be affirmed by the positive reception of Stalker Complete 2009, since Complete intentionally leaves the game design unchanged and simply polishes it up.

  49. telephone answering service says:

    Surely “Oblivion Lost” is the best!

  50. Mer says:

    It looks like the Complete 2009 has been attracting attention from reviewers…and they think its the best mod out. I agree too lol. – http://www.brighthub.com/video-games/pc/articles/99603.aspx

    - http://www.pcgameshardware.com/aid,684645/Stalker-Complete-2009-Excellent-modded-graphics-for-Shadow-of-Chernobyl-Update-New-screenshots/Practice/