I'm using supernatural in the purely literal sense. In that usage, it's not a synonym with "magic", it just means something beyond the scope of what can be explained with current science. And since science in the Stalker universe cannot fully explain it, it is "supernatural". Whether factions believe it's evil magic, or aliens, or crazy sciencey shit, or whatever doesn't matter.
>If you think Slav-operatan is all that's left after taking away a few aesthetics
No, you're right, because if you took away those "few aesthetics", there wouldn't even be slav operating to begin with.
The entire story and setting is built around the idea of a massive, supernatural phenomena gripping the area and populating it with dangerous (but lucrative) artifacts, usually guarded by anomalies, mutants, crazy cultists, etc. You remove the supernatural and have just a bunch of people killing each other in a post apocalyptic Eastern Europe, and it is not remotely the same.
That is not to say that some people don't play Stalker for exactly that, but those people do not fully get the game. Stalker's entire atmosphere and storyline relies upon the supernatural, as both a driving force behind myriad gameplay mechanics, as well as its narrative.
So if what you are saying is "Stalker is much more than its core gameplay mechanics, setting, and narrative", I'm sorry, but that tells me that you don't fully appreciate what makes the series what it is to begin with. Now, could you have a game with good (or even superior) atmosphere, storytelling, gameplay, etc.? Certainly. But you would not have a Stalker game, and that is my point. And if you can't appreciate that gutting the majority of what make a game what it is would change that game into something else, then I don't think I can continue this discussion any further.
And this is a massive derailment anyway, because as far as I am aware, the developers never claimed this was a new Stalker. I'm just arguing against the OP's shit assertion.