Mod Spotlight: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Series

A few breaths of fresh air in The Zone.
Cheeki Breeki, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s! We've heard you're planning on some trespassing. With the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Series DRM-Free on GOG.com for only $14.97, who could blame you? After all, The Zone calls out to all of us, promising great loot, lasting friendships, awe-inspiring views, and frequent rushes of adrenaline. The experience with all three of the games, the original Shadow of Chernobyl, the prequel Clear Sky, and the sequel Call of Pripyat is deeply immersive, enthralling, and ultimately fun. Yet, there are no things in this world that couldn't be improved, and for PC games, it's very often a matter of weeks before mods start to show up, enhancing gameplay of even the most spectacular games. Here are the most impressive modifications for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Series games, that we find well worth your time (and the little effort it takes to install them).
When a team led by a popular contemporary artist, the painter Paul Dolgov, takes on the task of updating not only the visuals, but also the inner workings of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games, good things happen. With his S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Complete set of mods, Paul has earned himself a place on GamingBolt.com's list of 15 Modders Who Changed PC Gaming. And rightfully so, we might add, as the extent of improvements his mods were able to introduce, with the help of the modder community, is simply astounding! Just take a look at the gallery of Call of Pripyat screenshots below, or Shadow of Chernobyl and Clear Sky directly on Flikr.
Here are just some features these modifications include:
- Complete graphics overhaul with hundreds of modified textures, new high-end rendering options, such as ambient occlusion, motion blur, and depth of focus, a re-designed HUD and menus, and even a new particle system.
- Freeplay mode allowing for endless exploration of The Zone, with random, un-scripted events, after the main campaign ends.
- AI improvements giving the NPCs more realistic behavior, so they avoid dangers on their own and--on the other hand--so they don't notice the player over unrealistic distances.
- Weather and day/night cycles remastered to feature dynamically changing conditions, high-res nightsky, and wet surface simulation.
- New sound and music, including over 80 acoustic guitar arrangements that you can listen to by the campfire.
- New gameplay features, like third-person view mode, faction reset option, field repair kit, a sleeping bag and much more.
Head out to Paul's websites for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Complete 2009 1.4.4, Clear Sky Complete 1.1.3, and Call of Pripyat Complete 1.0.2 to learn more and download the mods. Just keep in mind, that those three heavily modify the game, delivering an experience that much differs from the vanilla S.T.A.L.K.E.R. This also means you won't be able to apply the mods to an existing savegame, but start your adventure over after the overhaul. Bothersome as it might be for some, those modifications will award your trouble tenfold.
Admittedly, the mods featured in this editorial, while being excellent impressive work, don't necessarily give you the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. experience that was intended by the game's creators. Luckily, there's a lot of other mods that update the game without much actual alteration. There are also those that change it even further. We invite you to share your own S.T.A.L.K.E.R. modding experiences and recommendations in the forum thread below!