To conclude my short article on S.T.A.L.K.E.R I'll start by saying that THQ and more specifically, the developers Game World have a lot to answer for if the rumours are true - apparently there are Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 textures within the game.
But, many have pointed out that developers use textures from other games as a fill-in until their textures are complete. It appears to be more of a mistake than deliberate.
Looking at the game itself, I was pleased to find that it ran smoothly at 1280x1024 at pretty much high-maximum settings on my rig. However, after applying the 1.001 patch, I found that my frame-rate dropped to an almost unplayable rate. After spending 20 minutes or so experimenting, I ended up with high settings at 1280x1024 but with standard (DX8) lighting. No more nice sunshine shining through the gaps in old rickety buildings; no more flames leaping at me as I pass a campfire.
It's a pity, though perhaps the next patch will sort out the performance issues - otherwise I'll be looking into an 8800 series sooner than I expected.
The storyline appears to be taking shape, even after only a few hours of gameplay. Actually, if you install the 1.001 patch, all previous saves are null and void, requiring you to start afresh. So, whereas I've probably spent 5 hours in total so far, it amounts to around 1 hour actual progression since this morning.
My only disappointment with the game is that all the side-missions seem to echo the run-of-the-mill rpg missions you see in SWG and the like. Go here, destroy this lair; go there, deliver this package; find this, return it to me. They'll probably become more apparent as the game progresses - and at least they're allowing me to pick up a nice stash of weapons, med kits and cool items (Russian Vodka anyone?).
I'm enjoying S.T.A.L.K.E.R a lot more than I expected and it's more addictive than the aforementioned Oblivion. Only time will tell if I like it enough to complete it...