So, I'm 13 hours into STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
and am having a blast, despite it being a very unforgiving game when starting out. For the first 6 hours of that, I was hitting Quicksave every 3 minutes, and it's still a necessary evil.
It's basically a Open World Stealth RPG FPS. Stealth is probably the most important word in that description. You often have to skirt bunches of enemies, as well as keeping an eye out in all directions for more coming up behind. You can't really run into any situation with all guns blazing. A bullet to the head will kill you, so you spend a lot of time crouching behind rusted vehicles peppering your enemies with short bursts of gunfire.
The Open World bit is a bit of a misnomer - it's not 'pure' open world, but a series of areas connected by loading screens. However, it is very gritty and 'realistic' - a bit like I imagine the DayZ mod for ArmaII is like right now. The world is well realised and gives you plenty of scope for setting ambushes, flanking enemies, slipping by in the dark, or approaching on your own terms (I can't wait to get a sniper rifle) etc.
Then there's the RPG and FPS bits. The RPG elements are linked to inventory management (a fairly stingy weight limit means that even though you have access to loads of gear at the start, you can't carry very much at all. In fact your endurance is linked to what you carry, and sometimes you have to physically stop and rest before you can go on, if you're overloaded), quests, building relationships with different factions etc. There's all kinds of shit going down too around dealing with hunger, radiation, bleeding wounds etc.
The FPS bit is really good - you start the game with a pistol, with which you are lucky to hit anything, and progress to a shotgun, with which you are lucky to hit anything if it is more than 2 feet away. There are no points to put into accuracy or anything like that, so getting better with individual weapons is as a result of developing player skill, which feels quite rewarding. Eventually, with a great deal of luck, you'll acquire an automatic rifle, and the game gets really fun then, as you stop being an easy target and start dishing out the Pain. I acquired my rifle when I was in an attic looking for a stash and an army patrol came through. I managed to ambush two of them with my pistol, and from then on I was in business. It also helped that I got some artifacts - weird radioactive anomalies - that increased my health by 800%.
The AI is a bit stupid - it's ok when it is out in the open, but in confined spaces, soldiers will keep walking through the door you're standing outside with a shotgun. Also, they don't seem to deal well with attacks from above, so if you take to the rooftops you can slaughter entire bunches of enemies with impunity. But those bits are rare enough that being able to take out the whole next wave of enemies at once is a real pleasure. The game's AI is constantly battling each other too, so your main source of wealth is from looting the literally dozens of corpses littering the land.
There's plenty of downside too, in that you don't know what's going on most of the time, or even how to tell friend from foe (for example you can approach the army at certain checkpoints, but of they meet you out in the open they attack), so you do die a lot. I guess if I had read some tips at the start I would have saved myself a lot of pain. Although you are hindered by the fact that when you type 'Stalker, how do I recognise enemies' into Google, the results have a tendency towards, "Are you being Stalked? How to spot a Stalker" etc.
But, for an open world stealth rpg fps...it's pretty awesome.