so, i was wondering if anyone else is playing this game. it reminds me a *lot* like Oblivion in that it feels like such an open world that encourages exploration and freedom to choose your own actions.
there's also a quest system in place similarly to Oblivion. the biggest difference is that most of the quests don't have much depth to them outside of the quests related to the main quest. even most of the side-quests in Oblivion put you in a cave/dungeon to retrieve an item or whatever. in STALKER, most of the side-quest items/people are just out in the open. sure, you might have to fight a couple of people, but it just doesn't feel like there's as much depth to it. the main quest, however, is quite different. in fact, you often times have to go to various underground or various buildings for those quests.
the biggest difference is combat. if you don't normally play FPS games, then STALKER is going to be difficult to get into. its all about the gunplay; there are no swords in this one. what's different is the realistic ballistics system with the bullets. just like in real life, you'll have to compensate for gravity and, on occasion, the wind as bullets are apart of the in-game physics system (they can also ricochet off of some surfaces, so you do have to be a bit careful when friendlies are in the area). where its different from the "average" FPS is that you're character is not a tank. you have to utilize cover in a firefight (and there's plenty of cover available), and you'll also have to manage your health by bandaging your wounds to stop bleeding and apply healthkits when you're low on health (this is instantaneous, and there's no animations that your character goes through. you just press a button.)
the other major difference is how you "level-up", or lack thereof. essentially, you level up by using more and more powerful equipment. in the beginning, however, you're stuck using such incredibly underpowered weapons and armor that combat is very challenging, even when you effectively make use of cover (this does have to do with you receiving splinter damage from near misses with the poor armor at the beginning). what also complicates matters is that the AI is fairly intelligent in that they will try to outflank you, and they will also fire from behind cover. the AI also does not "stack", or increase in difficulty, as the game progresses. it starts out smart and stays smart. once assault rifles start becoming available, however, gameplay becomes a bit less challenging as you'll be able to take out your enemies from a much greater distance.
the biggest gripe i have with the game is the encumbrance system. its similar to Oblivion in that your limited by the weight of your items, but you're limited to 50kg before your endurance is affected, and you can't move if you exceed 60kg. this means that you're pretty much limited to carrying nothing more than your primary weapon (usually an assault rifle), a sidearm (usually a pretty useless pistol), the armor you're wearing, and the ammo for your two weapons. you have limited space for a bit of food (yes, you have to actually eat every once in a while), healthkits, bandages, and anti-radiation pills. this means that you can't use your fallen enemies' weapons as "loot" like you can with Oblivion (assuming you had a strong character, hehe). those limitations, by the way, will never change. you're stuck with those limitations throughout the entire game.
anyways, with all that said, the game is still a lot of fun. its refreshing to play a different kind of FPS where everything is much less non-linear as opposed to your average FPS. ya, there's a multiplayer element, but its not very different from any other multiplayer FPS that's out there. the real draw is the single player, and that's where you can spend a whole lot of your time.
so, if you haven't played it, then check it out. just make sure you pick up the 1.001 patch first, especially if you'll be running it on Vista.