I think maybe the last post deserves a bit of explanation. I wanted to include this post with the original, but it was getting too long already.
What made that encounter with the bandits compelling was its unscripted, random nature. STALKER is a shooter designed around the open world of the Zone. For most of the game, you're wandering about a living, breathing world, crisscrossed by enemies, NPCs, and animals going about their business. There are few scripted encounters. It is the anti-Call of Duty.
I was out exploring the Garbage, on my way to take care of a mission for Sidorovich. He's a grubby bastard, but his money is good. He says he wants the road opened to a different part of the Zone, fine, seems simple enough.
It's night and, without night-vision goggles, I couldn't see shit. Even the trees and hills are vague shapes, so I have to rely on my hearing to make sure a boar or a pack of dogs don't sneak up on me and take a bite out of my ass. I didn't want to turn on my headlamp, in case someone with a gun spots the light.
Case in point, I spied a light bobbing ahead of me and off to the left a little, maybe 50 meters away. I crouched down behind a tree and trained my binoculars on the light. Ah, bandits. Maybe four or five, clustered together in a tight little military column, going to pass not 10 meters from my hiding spot. This is going to get interesting.