Combat, too, is very good - whether you’re deep in corridors or out on the wider vistas of the surface. We’re not saying individual grunt AI is spectacular, but they certainly don’t disappoint either. During earlier parts of the game it’s sometimes difficult to perceive whether or not your bullets are connecting, but the satisfaction grows alongside your firepower. As such, the introduction of bullet-absorbing Stalker zombies may be a bum note, but the monster menagerie is otherwise on key, dripfeeding glowing nasties into the game at a measured rate rather than going for outright overkill.
Overall, there’s no doubt that the combat (and the whole game) gets more and more satisfying the longer you play. The guns just keep getting better throughout, and the higher-powered weapons of STALKER are special. We struggle to think of the last time we played a game with a meatier arsenal than this - it might even be as far back as Far Cry. The necessity of ammo-juggling makes every bullet count, and when that bullet strikes cranial matter, both you and the ragdoll system know it straight away. Extremely satisfying stuff. The health system is also a welcome relief from the surge in magically regenerating war heroes we’ve seen of late. If you get shot even once you bleed, and if you carry on bleeding you die, meaning bandages are essential. If you’re particularly close to death, meanwhile, an entire med-pack can be used to regenerate - though if you’re just feeling a bit off-color you can usually find a Ukrainian sausage to munch.