You can learn a little more about the story, and your characters thoughts on events, by reading the Diary section of your PDA but these entries never really make up for the lack of a more cohesive plot. There are reportedly multiple endings depending on your actions, but one can only hope those are better than one I saw which was a severe anti-climax.
It’s a shame too because, although the story is rather uninspired, the journey is an enjoyable one filled with plenty of tension and excitement. As you progress through the game you get a real sense of your actions having an effect on the game world, with the various factions clashing head-on as you open up the more inaccessible areas of the zone.
The game’s problems aren’t restricted the plotline either, with inconsistent A.I a particular annoyance. On the whole the A.I is okay, but on occasion it displays moments of utter stupidity or, even worse, signs of complete failure. Allies also have the forever annoying habit of pushing you out of the way, often into unfriendly fire!
Another example of the remaining bugs is objects from the environment, be they barrels or dead bodies, disappearing and reappearing for no apparent reason. This particular problem isn’t too troubling, but is an example of the kind of low level bugs that remain in the game.
That said, for a game on this scale these are relatively acceptable problems and I didn’t come across any game breaking glitches. It took me around 20 hours to work my way from beginning to end, but this figure could range anywhere between 15 and 50 hours depending on how you want to play the game. Ultimately, if you get into S.T.A.L.K.E.R it should keep you occupied for a considerable amount of time and the more you put in, the more it gives back.
It’s been a long time coming, but for the most part it has been worth the wait. S.T.A.L.K.E.R may not be quite the revolution it was once heralded as and it has its fair share of problems, but there’s a great deal to like about the gameplay and the wonderfully realised environment in which it is set.
It’s a game that could well divide opinion for a great deal of time. Some may consider it an instant classic, but the reality is it’s a very good game that just falls short of bringing all its constituent parts together. I’d heartily recommend playing it, if only because it’s a fresh take on an often stagnating genre, but it narrowly misses out on greater glory.