STALKER is different in style and execution from pretty much any shooter you’ve played. From one angle it’s defiantly (and brilliantly) different, and from another it’s willfully obtuse. We’ve been exploring the exclusion zone for several days now and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves - more so than we have done in quite a while, in fact.
If you choose to buy STALKER, you need to be aware that this is not a super-silky Hollywood production - there are rough edges and it’s not tied up with a pink frilly bow. Despite this, despite the epic wait and despite the amount of scissoring that’s obviously gone on, we’ve still ended up with an excellent shooter. With that in mind, let’s delve deeper.
It begins with you, a token FPS amnesiac, waking up knowing only that you want a guy called Strelok dead. You’re not just anywhere either - you’re in a living, breathing representation of the forbidden zone that lies around the more infamous reactor at Chernobyl. A trader who lives in a hole asks you to do some odd jobs for him, including tracking down a few people, and everything progresses from there. First stop is a village full of guttural men, and then you’re out into the wastes.
The game isn’t endlessly free-roaming à la Oblivion, but instead is divided into ten or so separate levels with loading zones in between. The general direction of travel is north, as the storyline urges you farther and farther towards the Chernobyl reactor, and leads you on a merry dance through underground laboratories, undead Stalker-infested swamps and many and varied army bunkers. As you move from map to map there’ll normally be things kicking off that you can help out with too - defending a barricade from a rival faction’s onslaught perhaps, or protecting a warehouse full of friendly Stalkers from the military.