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Crysis, Meet STALKER: CryZone - Sector 23

I had a jolly good time with Crysis, mostly just watching things fall over and cooing with delight, but if I could have changed one thing about it I would have made it less about wearing a nanosuit and punching people through buildings and more about being STALKER. Nothing against Crysis, it’s just my way of looking at things. In my least impressive moments I’ll rabidly argue that Peggle should be more like STALKER. Turns out I’m not alone, on the Crysis front at least, as a group of Russian modders by the name OWL Game Studio have been working on a Zone-based anomaly-ridden bleakness of an experience called CryZone: Sector 23. The stabilisers are coming off and it’s going to be a standalone game.

The stabiliser analogy doesn’t quite work actually because the stability, the struts that support the structure, undoubtedly comes from the engine and the setting. It’s already moved from CryEngine 2 to CryEngine 3 but if the game is going to be sold for real cash money (EDIT: it’s going to be free to play), it’ll be rather important to stop claiming that its atmosphere is achieved “through the use of resources and the setting of the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. by GSC”. Go with “vaguely inspired by that one game with the snorks and the whatsits.”

Planned features include stalkers with “unpredictable…freedom of action”, Far Cry 2 styled wounds and healing, destructible everything, and new everything else. Despite the inclusion of post-narrative freeplay there’s also an emphasis on plot, which involves a man gone mad with grief over the death of his son. This naturally leads him to venture into the Zone’s ‘blind spot’, where electrical equipment refuses to function and unknown mutants lean on piles of debris, whistling nonchalantly and waiting for their prey to arrive.

In the reasoning behind the creation of the no-longer-a-mod, there’s a slightly troublesome tendency to harp on about how technically superior CryEngine is in comparison to STALKER’s X-Ray engine. Of all the things I think when playing STALKER, ‘I wish the rendering was more impressive’ is way down the list. In fact, it’s not even on the list because the list is mostly made up of ‘there’s a strange beauty to this, that’s for sure’, my serenity shall soon be shattered but right now, I could happily live here watching the world go by’ and ‘oh please no, it’s horrible, why is this happening to me’.

There has been a playable beta of the CryEngine 2 version, back when it was still a mod, but the move to make it a game in its own right may mean there’s a long wait before Sector 23 is available. While we’re waiting, why doesn’t someone smarter than me make a mod of that DayZ mod to insert anomalies and mutants into it. Thanks!

Let’s see how lovely all the unloveliness looks.

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