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Redemption Song: Clear Sky Complete

There aren't many things that could possibly lure me back to STALKER: Clear Sky, knowing the series' troubled second game is bookended by far finer titles. One of them, however, is hearing that Artistpavel, the acclaimed modder who compiled the spectacular Complete 2009 tweak'n'fix'n'upgrade collection for the original STALKER, has just released the first iteration of Clear Sky Complete. You'll probably want to treat your graphics card to this.

STALKER Complete 2009 makes the first game (which turned three years old just last week) look far better than either of its successors. Honestly, it's quite the little marvel. This rather suggests Clear Sky Complete will look similarly incredible - and the promise of bug fixes and interface improvements, on top of the patches released since release, should mean it's a whole lot more palatable than the raggedy thing it's known for being. I can't help but wish it was being released for the superior Call of Pripyat, but patience is the least we owe chaps who slave away on mods out of the kindness of their own hearts/obsession. In CSC's case, that's tons of people.

While Artistpavel has gone to incredible efforts to ensure all these disparate new textures, lighting effects, sounds, bug fixes, tweaks et al play nice with each and with a game that's well-known for being tempramental, most of the mods CSC contains were made by other, similarly talented chaps. You must solemnly salute them all. There isn't a complete breakdown of CSC's entire contents yet, but the idea is that it improves the aesthetics without altering the intended experience. These modders had time and energy that developers with a deadline hanging over them do not, and that's why they can create such fine things. You can get a good sense of what they've achieved by browsing the many screenshots over on Pavel's Flickr account.

CSC in its current form requires a spot of the old manual extraction and installation, but there's an auto-installing executable version promised for the near future. Waiting for that would be lazy, though, so give the current release a whirl and let us know how it stacks up against Complete 09. It'll cost you 323Mb, and it's here. It requires the latest version of Clear Sky (1.5.10), and works with Steam and Direct2Drive versions as well as the boxed copies.

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