In a move that has almost never happened before, the Ukranian developer GSC Game World has decided to release a very early build of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shaodw of Chernobyl that predates the final release by two and a half years.
The version of the game – ‘xrCore’ build 1935, dated October 18th 2004 – is available from several links online, but visit here for a reliable download.
Several levels that were cut from the final game, including Dead City, Swamp and Generators, are available to play in the build. It’s described as “playable”, although GSC says emphatically that it doesn’t guarantee stability or fitness, and won’t provide technical support for it.
The build offers a window into one of the more famous recent examples of development hell. The ridiculously ambitious post-apocalyptic first-person adventure was announced in 2001 and originally
pencilled in for a 2003 released date.
Last year, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky was released, which puts the player in the centre of the action one year prior to the original game.
A group of stalkers has for the first time reached the very heart of the Zone – Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and brings about a cataclysm on the brink of a catastrophe. An immense blow-out of anomalous energy changes the Zone. There are no more reliable and relatively safe roads. The entire levels vanish in the outbursts of anomalies. Stalkers and even expeditions die or end up sealed on the lost territories. New areas, which remained unknown since the time of the Zone emergence, appear on the Zone map. The Zone continues to shake with blowouts. The Zone is unstable. The anomalous activity is at its maximum.
Changes of the Zone map known to stalkers shake the fragile balance of forces in the Zone. Among the groupings, there flare up hostilities for the new territories, artefact fields and spheres of influence. There are no more old enemies or friends – now everyone is for himself. The Factions War has started between the groupings.