Out of Chernobyl

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As I write, the whole world is a blur and I see it in a daze, almost as if I've downed three bottles of Cossacks vodka on an empty stomach (I have no "tourist's delight" in my backpack). I have just finished S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky and my eyes are having a tough time readjusting to the 'reality' of my tiny room and the energy-saving bulb. My last posting on Clear Sky was over a week ago and having started on veteran, I had to keep going ... and i gave up ... i gave up playing for over three days when I was getting mowed down by an army machine gun every time I was making a dash for the Cordon. In true S.T.A.L.K.E.R fashion, it was obviously pitch dark. That's when I realised that Clear Sky is hard, very hard - even harder than its predecessor. The enemy AI is more intelligent and surprise surprise, even the bandits are much more difficult to kill. The mutants didn't pose many problems except for the modified version of the psy-monster and that was because I hardly had any bullets, bandages or first-aid kits. In a bizarre piece of gameplay, I actually finished off the hulking monster with a few well-aimed close-range headshots from my Browning (the Ukrainian version). I'll tell you my story(ies) later ; my dealings with Freedom and Duty will make a long chapter but Clear Sky lets you participate in the faction wars and participate I did. After all, what's a good mercenary for. One of my toughest battles was with the monolith chaps in a construction site. Man, this game is good - but it is also damn unfair. The AI can land grenades exactly where you stand and stalkers are not known to be nimble (even though there is one who bears that name). The ability of the enemy to get their shots on target even when it is pitch dark was also irritating at times. The secret I learned was to save , save and save. So save I did. Or else, i would never have killed Strelok. I even had to check a Youtube video of the ending to see how anyone got there. I know how: they played on 'easy'! Anyway, for anyone who gets that far, as soon as you get the Gauss gun, low crouch and get Strelok in your telescopic sights and fire at his head. Try to land about eight to nine shots on target even as Strelok moves. I could not take him down on the bridge and therefore, had to chase him. I passed through a teleport device and landed straight in the middle of three monolith snipers. The result, predictably, was immediate death(s). Here's what you do to get past them: run zigzag to distract their aim and then crouch (low, if possible) behind a metal sheet. Change guns (the horrible gun you have when you cross the portal is absolutely useless) - i used a vintar sniper rifle. Take out the monolith chaps one by one and do so very quickly. Otherwise, there will be someone throwing a 'granata' and then you will see your body in mid-air. By the way, at this stage, let's hope that you have at least one health pack left. This is because you will have to cross another portal and take some shots on the way. I responded with bursts from my Tunder but that was more in anger than anything else. Past this portal, run for cover, get your Gauss gun out and wait for Strelok (yourself, in the previous game). Your boss (irritating as most bosses are, except mine who's really sweet to me) Lebedev constantly whines that it is time for 'Strelok shooting'. Incidentally, I tried to blow Lebedev up with three grenades from my Tunder grenade launcher but to no avail: bad AI here. Anyway, ignore Lebedev and concentrate on the game boss, instead. Land about six to seven shots on the moving target and the game's done. I took some sniper fire and was losing blood, as the game ended. It did not really matter though ... but let's not give away the end. Join me in the Zone and I'll spin you a yarn.

Meanwhile, I'm a merc again but this time in Africa. Far Cry 2 is still sitting in my overcoat pocket. More gaming to come.

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