Shadows of Chernobyl: Pripyat in the Gaming World - Atlas Obscura
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Shadows of Chernobyl: Pripyat in the Gaming World

Editors Note: Among our excellent crack team at the Atlas, is one Ryan “Genki” Matsunaga a lover of all things media: gaming, film, music, comics and generally a brilliant fellow. Getting his degree in Digital Arts, Ryan loves video games, but as an Atlas Obscurian is also a devotee of real world awesomeness.

In a stroke of genius Ryan decided to pull the two together and find the places where they overlap. This the first in a series of “Shadows” posts where Ryan will be comparing environments from fiction (movies, video games, ect.) to their real world counterparts. Without further ado, Shadows of Chernobyl: Pripyat in the Gaming World.

Pripyat was the closest town to Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor, and was devastated by the reactor meltdown. Over two decades after the meltdown, this ghost town is still a freeze frame of the Soviet Union in 1986, with toys strewn about a schoolhouse where they were last dropped by children who are now fully grown (or dead). All clocks are frozen at 11:55, the moment the electricity was cut. It is this strange, creepy environment, that makes it a favorite local among game makers. Here are some of the games in which the town of Pripyat makes a notable appearance…

Half-Life 2

You might be saying to yourself, Half-Life 2? But that’s a science fiction title set in a fictional city years in the future! Very true, but a good look at the design of City 17, the setting of the game, reveals some of the inspirations behind the architecture.

It is clearly an Eastern European city, with definite Soviet Union-era inspirations. However, its ties to Pripyat are actually more direct. During the commentary track of the game’s second episode, the developers reveal that the hospital section of the game were in fact directly based on photos of the haunting Prypiat Hospital.

One look at some of these eerie photos will make Half-Life 2’s zombies seem strangely appropriate.

Much more, (including Call of Duty 4 and STALKER) after the jump…

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

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In Call of Duty 4 this quintessential ghost-town makes two appearances of definite note, and this time by name. The first is Call of Duty 4’s highly-acclaimed “sniper” mission, putting you into the boots of a SAS operative tasked with assassinating an ultranationalist terrorist.

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Both accurately constructed and explosively deconstructed, the Pripyat level of the game is a fan-favorite, and arguably the most memorable of the entire game. No small feat considering the level of awesome present in every level.

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From the white-knuckle tension of the early sequences on the outskirts of Pripyat, to the eerie creeps through the abandoned buildings of the city itself, to the balls-to-the-wall climax under the Pripyat Ferris Wheel, CoD4 turns this quiet ghost-town into an action-movie setpiece.

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

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. took it one step farther by incorporating the ominous Chernobyl power plant itself, and is set in an alternate reality where a second Chernobyl disaster causes supernatural occurrences in the area around it.

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The Pripyat of this game features intense street-to-street firefights against power armored cult-fanatics and ravenous mutated animals, once and for all proving that the only thing creepier than an abandoned city is one populated with things that want to kill you. If you manage to survive this, you can look forward to battling more heavily armed and armored cultists, the Russian military, and deadly levels of radiation as you work your way towards the plant’s deadly secrets…

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Aside from being a chilling, exhilarating and suspenseful experience, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s commitment to detail is remarkable. Giving you access to almost all of Pripyat’s most memorable places, the game is about as close as you’re going to get to visiting the real-life landmark without ever leaving your seat.

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