The latest issue of Russian gaming magazine Gameplay has an inside look at S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, the upcoming “stand-alone expansion” for the 2007 FPS S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl.

The May 2009 issue of the magazine describes Call of Pripyat as a sequel, beginning a few days after the events told in Shadow of Chernobyl. With the Zone now open and the game’s various factions vying for position, the military becomes more actively involved as well, sending in heavily armed troops to take full control. Naturally, “something goes terribly wrong,” and all the helicopters sent into the Zone mysteriously vanish. But where a massive military assault failed, one man – the right man – yes, that’s you – might just succeed in uncovering the truth.

This time around, players won’t be able to join factions. A few members of Duty and Freedom were able to penetrate into the “Backwater” and bandits still roam freely, and while players can accept missions from any or all of the three groups to help them achieve their goals, that’s as far as it goes. Side quests will be more varied and detailed than in the previous games; instead of the MMOG-style “kill five boars” missions, developer GSC Game World is creating roughly 70 unique side quests that will add significant new depth to the game.

Day and night cycles will figure prominently. The world will be considerably more dangerous at night as monsters become more active, but possibly more lucrative as well: Some quests will only be available in the dark hours. New creatures have been added while others, like the bloodsucker, will be reworked, and instead of being scripted events, “blowouts” will be random (and fortunately rare) events, changing the positions and types of artifacts and anomalies and giving players a good reason to remember where the nearest shelter is.

The article claims Call of Pripyat will address the “mistakes” of the first two games, Shadow of Chernobyl and the prequel S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky. “There won’t be helicopter bosses, infinite faction wars and other elements that are theoretically interesting, but doesn’t fit to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. at all,” the translated preview says. “Well-turned features like new detection system or weapon upgrading will be there too, but in overall look the Call of Pripyat is closer to the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. concept with dangerous, desolated and silent Zone where Stalkers are rare and gloomy loners, where’s no place for huge groups and tons of gunfights.”

The full preview, which touches on other topics including weapon and armor changes, the open-ended game environment and improvements to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s A-Life system, can be read at FPSBanana. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat is scheduled for release in fall 2009.

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