STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl - updated hands-on

Spoiler Alert: DON'T attack bands of slavering dogs. DON'T run into radioactive anomalies. DON'T try and loot dead bodies in the middle of a firefight. And, whatever you do, DOUBLE DON'T attack the military. In fact, as a S.T.A.L.K.E.R., you need to be very, very cautious indeed. Otherwise you will die.

We've just spent the last hour getting hands-on with developerGSC Game World's long-awaited shooter - for shooter it is, more so than RPG - and we're dusting off our hoodie and returning from the irradiated wasteland of the Chernobyl Zone somewhat the wiser and to bring you our field report.

On initial impressions, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is reminiscent of Deus Ex, but minus the character development. Perhaps this is due to the interface, the context-sensitive chat system used to converse with NPCs, or the inventory system, but whatever it is, we can't shake the feeling that the Ion Storm classic has influenced the game to a certain extent.

Events kick off in dingy underground room with walls panelled with rusty metal, and a chubby trader is about to hand us our first mission. He babbles on, telling us about our PDA that contains a map and mission data and referring to us as the "marked one." He reveals we're suffering from amnesia and that, for reasons yet to be fully revealed, we're rather keen to track down a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. known as Strelok.