Finally, if you can’t be bothered with the scripted stuff, certain missions ask you to do semi-random stuff like clearing out warehouses and mutant nests or seeking out rare radioactive artifacts that, rather than rendering you sterile and making your hair fall out, offer a variety of RPG-ish upgrades. All around you, meanwhile, is what developer GSC Game World call “A-Life” - a landscape teeming with packs of creatures and humans who roam and behave according to their own whims (whims that generally involve killing each other or maybe running away).
Low-powered weapons and general insecurity about exactly what you’re supposed to be doing plague your opening hours, but after a little while you realize that the action is very much a blend of Far Cry and Deus Ex. The inventory system and “any which way you can” mentality of JC Denton merges with the unpredictable, sniper-centric and really freaking difficult stylings of Jack Carver, making for some excellent action that gives you moments of extreme self-congratulation as you pull off swift headshots here and there. The need to salvage bullets and med-packs from your deceased foes’ backpacks, meanwhile, adds a subdued survival element that’s completely lacking in most modern-day mainstream shooters.
The setting, too, is brilliantly weird and stunning in its design. From the ominous click of your Geiger counter, to absurdly stunted and warped trees with radioactive fuzz hanging from their branches, to an otherworldly yellow bleaching effect that consumes your screen in heavily radiated areas - you’ve honestly never seen anything quite like it. The game world is without a doubt the best thing about the game, and is hands-down our favorite shooter environment since the original Half-Life. Just make sure you’re packing a fair amount of RAM - we’d say more than the recommended 1GB ourselves, since load times are awful.
OK, so, ten hours into the game, we’re creeping towards a downed helicopter in a sickly forest - not because the story wants us to, but because we know there’ll be goodies there. We’re surrounded by a fine radioactive mist, and as we rummage around in our inventory for an anti-radiation injection, we see a blur of movement on the periphery of my monitor - something running between the trees, apparently circling us. Alerted, we worriedly look around and see another skinless dog dashing through the trees parallel to our path. We run to a nearby rock, hoping to escape to higher ground, but get savaged from behind before we get halfway there - and killed. As the “Game Over” motif swims into view we notice one of the dogs dragging our corpse further into the woodland. Now that, my friends, is extremely cool.