The first game in GSC Game World’s post-nuclear FPS-RPG series is now available to install and play for free on online game service GameTap, but the deal isn’t completely without a catch.

If you’ve been waiting for a legal way to play GSC Game World’s STALKER series for free, you’re probably crazy. Nobody’s just going to drop a copy of STALKER in your lap just because you’ve been patient. However, if you don’t mind a handful of caveats, you can have your radioactive cake and eat it too, as GameTap is now offering the first STALKER game, Shadow of Chernobyl, for free.

So what’s the catch? It’s only available for a week – which, if you started now and put in a couple hours every day, would be enough to beat the game or at least see the good parts. And obviously you have to make a GameTap account and download and install the GameTap client. If you don’t like bright green borders and all sorts of spinny things in your user interfaces, this’ll be especially bothersome for you.

If you’re not finicky about those things, you might be finicky about the fact that because of the way GameTap works its magic, Shadow of Chernobyl doesn’t support mods. That’s a bummer for any PC game, but it’s an especially big one for SoC, which has an extremely vibrant mod community producing mods that smooth out gameplay annoyances, as well as some that can make the difference between running the game adequately and running it well.

But, why complain about free STALKER? If you can run the game and have the time, head over here and give it a shot. Really, were you expecting to just get handed a great game for absolutely nothing, without caveats? Get out of here, STALKER.

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