Years before STALKER was released i have looked forward to it from an early trailer and interview i saw explaining the game and all of its content.
At the time the game had cutting edge graphics, the gameplay looked amazing and non linear (which is what i like in games) it looked original and it looked overall fun.
I got the game upon its release and had a good enough PC to run it on full spec (apart from full dynamic lighting, which just wouldnt work)
On full spec the game didnt look quite as good as games that had been released at that time as this game had been in production for a long time, but you could tell from its depth that it was worth it.
You start off as a STALKER who has lost his memory, a little unimaginative, but thats only the initial plot. Almost instantly you get introduced by your main sauce of mission, a guy who runs "the shop" he will set you on your first mission which will drop you into some pretty intense combat.
You start the game with nothing but a suit and an empty inventory screen. Pretty much right off the bat you gain ownership to a pistol and some ammo and get put on your first mission.
This introduction to the game really sets you up to know what to expect from the following long well thought out experience.
First you will notice the graphics, not overly impressive but with the amazingly well thought out level design its easy to see that any more graphics strain might cause the game to have slow down. Things such as leaves will blow infront of your face, wind and rain affects, the day and night will change according to the time of day, its an impressive engine.
STALKER has an FPS with RPG elements, similar games such as Deus Ex and System Shock 2 and as such has a lot of NPC interaction. Every character around the "zone" is free to talk to and get information from, some will trade and others will give you side quests.
About 10 or so minutes into the start of STALKER you will have gotten used to the controls and will be on your first mission. This will introduce you to the combat system. At first impression it seems very hard to actualy hit anything, and that you may die rarther easily, but after sticking it out you will find that as you collect better weapons and adding scopes and so on you become a better shot and more powerfull, its almost an alternative way to gaining levels.
The game itself is set in a post nuclear environment caused by Chernobyl which gives you literally miles and miles of freeroaming terrain for you to explore where numerous clans roam and fight against each other whilst trying to battle off whordes of well thought out mutants.
Your main role in STALKER is to infaultrate differnt locations, such as large areas of land, underground bunkers, science labs or old decaying buildings etc... to retrieve information which allows the story to unfold.
Along your travels you will encounter various differnt types of mutants in different well designed environments, the most impressive of which are these kind of telekenetic mutants who actualy mess with your vision and hearing, which you as the player experiences, the screen can go to a kind of black and white and sound can go muffled leaving a steady beating which in some cases can be quite spookey.
STALKER is the kind of game that maybe slow to start off with but after a couple of hours of game play, you just cant put it down. Encaptivating story, combat that gets better and better as the game goes on, more interesting characters, mutants and weapons, larger more brilliantly crafted environments to explore.
One of the best games, if not the best, i have ever played.