S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

This week in the US Direct2Drive is offering sales on some of Atari's best games, including 75% off Kings Bounty and the superb Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. Meanwhile today's Games for Windows Marketplace deal is selling STALKER for 99 cents. Read on for details.

Here's a round up of the Atari deals that will be happening on Direct to Drive in the US this week.

Now - Star Trek Online, 50% off, $9.95
Later today - Test Drive Unlimited, 50% off, $9.95
Wednesday - Haunted House, 75% off, $4.95
Thursday - King's Bounty, 75% off, $7.50
Friday - The Chronicles of Riddick Assault on Dark Athena, 75% off, $9,95

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena comes bundled with the superior Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Both offer plenty of well crafted action for budget price. The magical turn based kingdom builder, King's Bounty, is both a remake of the ancient predecessor to the classic Heroes of Might and Magic games, and a spiritual successor at the same time, spicing up the well worn old formula with a crazy sense of humour and a proper story.

On Games for Windows Marketplace the original STALKER: Shadow of Chenobryl is on sale for today only at the ridiculous price of 99 cents / 75p. Moody survival horror doesn't get much better than STALKER's post apocalyptic landscapes, and where the game once had a reputation for being one of the buggiest games around, a wealth of patches and an incredible modding scene have transformed it into a classic. At 99 cents, it's probably worth a look.

PC Gamer

The new general units for each race in Dawn of War 2: Retribution's single player campaigns will also feature in multiplayer mode. Relic have revealed some of the special abilities that will be available to the Tyranid Swarmlord and the Eldar Autarch.

Tyranid Swarmlord

Once you've upgraded your base to tier 3 you'll be able to deploy a Tyranid Swarmlord to the battlefield. In single player the Swarmlord has a direct connection to the Hive Mind, and is responsible for gathering Tyranids together to spawn an army. In multiplayer the Swarmlord won't be able to spawn troops personally, but units near him will move faster, and fallen allies can be reinforced without having to flee back to base. In addition the Swarmlord's four bone sabers make him devastating in close combat.

Leech Essence
The Swarmlord drains the life from surrounding infantry units for a duration which increases his health regeneration.

Blade Flurry
Unleashes the full strength of the Swarmlord, heavily damaging and knocking back adjacent infantry.
Eldar Autarch

Unlike the Swarmlord, Eldar players won't be able to train and deploy the Autarch from base as with ordinary units. Instead the Autarch takes the form of a special ability that can be activated once enough kills have been made. Upon activating the Autarch the play gets to hand place the landing points for a volley of grenades. Once triggered the grenades will be called in from the sky, once they've gone off, the Autarch crash lands to clean up the aftermath. Once the Autarch's work is done, she vanishes from the battlefield, ready to be called upon again at a reduced cost.

Fleet of Foot
Greatly increases the unit’s speed but reduces the Autarch’s damage output for the duration of the ability.

Soar through the air and land at the targeted location. Upon landing the Autarch increases the speed, damage, health and of nearby infantry units.

There's more information about the different units that will be available in Dawn of War 2: Retribution on Relic's Dawn of War blog. If you're interested in exactly how the Swarmlord will work in the single player campaigns, check out our preview of the Tyranid campaign.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

GSC have launched a competition asking entrants to design their own mission for STALKER 2. The best entries will be forwarded to the game's lead developers, and might even make it into the full game as a playable mission.

The competition is being run from the STALKER Facebook page, and asks participants to send in a description of the mission in a standard font, in less than half a page of A4. Here's what they're after, and what you stand to win:

Each entry must contain:

Quest name and description;
Mission details (what happened, what needs to be done);

"Contest benefits: The names of the contest winners will be included in the release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.-2 credits. The best ideas from the contest may be implemented in the new S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game. This said, the developers retain the right to change the quest looks or implementation, while preserving the key author's idea."

There's a short list of rules on the Facebook page, asking players not to submit entries that "have nothing to do with the subject matter" and are "obviously impossible to implement", which quickly put pay to my "radioactive power plant that hides secret T-Rex" idea. In bonus bizzaro news, it looks as though GSC want to expand beyond their recently teased TV show, and break into fashion, with this clothing line. Is post apocalyptic chic the next big thing?

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

The grim survival horror series, STALKER is getting its very own TV series. It's set in the Zone, and will feature many of the things that made STALKER great, like dark radioactive tunnels, deadly anomolies, and lots of angry men shouting at each other in Russian. You'll find the trailer embedded below.

The game was based on an Andrei Tarkovsky film, in turn based on an Arkady Strugatsky novel called Roadside Picnic, which makes this a TV show of a game of a film of a book. There aren't many mediums left for STALKER to conquer, but an opera set in the Zone seems like an obvious next step. For more information and a few images from the set, the STALKER teaser site is live. Meanwhile, here's the trailer.

Oct 1, 2010

War! Growliest of the Four Horseman. And he’s been invoked before his time. Technically, he isn’t required to do his thing (pulling the wings off angels and the heads off demons, mostly) until the war between heaven and hell kicks off in earnest, but in a celestial wrong-number incident with results worthy of a Roland Emmerich/Joss Whedon collaboration, he gets the call.

The first level of Darksiders sees you tear through heaven and hell’s frontline troops with visceral abandon as the war explodes across a human cityscape. This sets the scene for the game at large: a third-person hack-and-slasher in the Devil May Cry/God of War mode. It borrows wholesale from these console titles, and it’s plain from the gatepost that this is a cross-platform port: the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions landed at the start of the year. As a PC game, it has some obvious shortcomings which we’ll come to, but their impact wanes when the action and the story are as arse-in-the-air crackers as this.

War has unwittingly lent his might to the armies of hell. Rookie error! He’s duly called before the Charred Council, which sits between the two factions, for the inevitable HR enquiry. He’s sent back to earth to restore the balance, and what follows is a scintillating blast of action gaming where you crash through some surprisingly large and complex environments to face The Destroyer, hell’s head honcho.

Soul trader

As you rend your satisfying way through countless rotters, plucking off limbs and eviscerating with the cheery abandon of a man who loves his job, you consume their souls, which serve as currency. Redeem them for character upgrades, weapon-enhancing gems and new attack-moves with the demonic shopkeeper Vulgrim, possibly the campiest, touchiest devil ever devised, as he appears at locations around the game-world.

The game does a fine job of pacing combat with competent, multi-part environmental puzzles. Some are sprawling, and involve lots of backand- forth over the same ground as you work out what goes where, or carry key items to their destinations. But just as things border on busywork, you’re thrown into some batshit new boss-fight, or plunged into a series of challenges requiring specific combat techniques.

Darksiders understands that the feedback loop of hacking and slashing should be fun. The combat is deeply, instantly gratifying, and the constant drip-feed of upgrades is a carrot-and-stick device that just keeps on giving. But the bane of the console-port is the control system. While the WASD-and-mouse basics are nicely attuned, it’s clear the combat is built around a joypad. Some of the attack combinations require alien finger-contortions, and I found myself levelling up my simpler attacks for the sake of ease.

And the camera. Most of the time it works fine, until you start using ranged weapons, when it becomes nothing less than a total ball-ache. Hit Q to go into aim-mode, and the mouse switches to control a reticule rather than overall cameramovement. There’s a sudden feeling of restriction, until the reticule hits the edge of the screen, and the whole camera whirls the view around at breakneck speed. Not so good. And yet, it’s hard not to love. With its mad boss-battles and well-penned characters, Darksiders is bombastic, pleasingly unhinged, and the combo-hose of swordplay satisfies in a really chunky way. Good show.

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