S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a series of first-person shooter survival horror video games developed by Ukrainian video game developer GSC Game World for Microsoft Windows. Based very loosely on the Strugatsky Brothers' novel Roadside Picnic and its 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky's film adaptation Stalker, the games are set in the area surrounding the Chernobyl accident site, colloquially known as "The Zone", in an alternative reality where a second explosion occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant some time after the first and causes strange changes in the area around it.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games take place within "The Zone", an alternate history version of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In the world of the games, experimental labs were made in the Exclusion Zone which allowed scientists to experiment with psychic abilities which arose following the disaster. Their experimentation resulted in a second disaster, causing physical and meteorological phenomena to manifest throughout the Zone, as well as the mutation of fauna and some humans. The Zone is littered with such "Anomalies": hazardous entities which seemingly defy physics, having various effects on any object entering them.
Anomalies also often produce items known as "Artifacts", objects with special physical properties such as anti-gravity, or absorbing radiation. People enter The Zone in hopes of finding such items for personal financial gain. These people are known as "Stalkers". While a great number of Stalkers work alone, various factions populate The Zone, each with their own philosophies and goals. For example, the Duty faction believe that The Zone is the greatest threat to humanity on the planet and are intent on destroying it by any means possible; by contrast, the Freedom faction believe The Zone should be accessible to all.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine maintain a cordon around The Zone, attempting to prevent any unauthorised personnel from entering. Additionally, Ukrainian Spetsnaz units conduct special operations within The Zone such as surgical strikes on Stalkers or to secure specific targets. Other hostile entities within The Zone include humans and other creatures mutated following the two disasters, many of them possessing aggressive psionic abilities.
The protagonists of each game have their own goals separate to those of the various factions, however they are presented opportunities to aid in the plans of others. Generally, the ultimate objective of each game involves reaching the centre of The Zone, a task complicated by the various threats and hazards present therein.
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