Playing well with others

When you first start playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s single player adventure, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out who (and what) else is out there. Because all of the different factions have their own motivations, it falls to the player to determine who is friend and who is foe.

Exploring the early levels, we ran across three competing factions of stalkers: Duty, Freedom and Loners. The Duty faction is composed of ex-military personnel who are driven by a desire to protect the world from the dangers of the Zone. Duty stalkers will actively hunt down mutant creatures in an attempt to destroy them. They will also trade artifacts with the scientists studying the Zone.

Freedom stalkers have something of an anti-establishment streak; these guys believe that the cause of the disaster is the stuff of government cover-ups and they will do anything it takes to get to the truth. Freedom stalkers want all information about the Zone to be freely available.

The Loners are the most unpredictable of the factions because they're simply in it for money, fame and survival. Loners will sometimes group, but they tend to do their own thing and don't like people who get in the way.

"The Zone is not the type of place you met nice, friendly people," said Guy Cunis, global PR manager for THQ. "Bandits are ever-present, looking for anything that can ultimately be turned into money. Stalkers work under their own motivations, guided by the faction leaders."