A dreadful place. Easy to vanish without a trace there, no matter how lucky you have been in life so far. Whoever gets close to the Brain Scorcher immediately goes insane, turns into a zombie and starts stalking the Zone restlessly. A human shell is all that's left. No-one has ever returned with a sound mind. - Shadow of Chernobyl PDA description
The Red Forest is accessed by the player after they get the Psi-helmet from Sakharov, which protects them against the Brain Scorcher's psi-emissions. The main objective there is to disable the Brain Scorcher in the Lab X-19 in order to gain access to Pripyat.
The Red Forest is a dangerous area - not only most of the time the player will have to shoot their way towards the objective, but most of the available cover is heavily irradiated, making the Anti-rads a must-have. As well, the player will be confronted by snipers and heavily-armed fighters. Therefore, a sniper rifle and an assault rifle with sufficient ammunition is advised.
There are two ways the player can go towards the Brain Scorcher - either they can follow the road or cross through the forest. The road is the fastest way, but has most of the resistance here - i.e. all the Monolith fighters. The forest road is longer, but has less resistance (only the aforementioned mutants), at the cost of being the most irradiated part of the map, as well as being filled with anomalies of various kinds. The forest way leads towards a grate that gives the player direct access to the main road.
The Brain Scorcher itself is a large bunker protected by no less than 20-30 Monolith fighters, including snipers. As well, in the vicinity of the antennas, the player will see apparitions caused by the intense psi-emissions. The bunker has a secret passage leading towards Lab X-19.
After the player deactivates the Brain Scorcher, the area is populated by Loners, who usually set their camps on the roads to the antennas. As well, as the player comes out of Lab X-19, the area is raided by the military, leading to a large cross-fire between Monolith fighters and the soldiers. Later, as the player approaches the road to Pripyat, the player can witness a three-way firefight between Monolith fighters, as well as teams of Duty and Freedom experts - whoever wins will guard the entrance to Pripyat. As well, the southern entrance is usually raided by a small group of soldiers.
In Clear Sky, the player goes to another part the Red Forest, pursuing Strelok. There is a tunnel that leads to the other part of the Red Forest, featured in Shadow of Chernobyl, which Strelok destroys so that Scar cannot apprehend him. Prior to the emission that begins the game, it was deemed impossible to get to the Red Forest, due to anomalous fields and due to the Brain Scorcher blocking the other parts. The emission opened pathways to the Red Forest, and some Stalkers ventured into the Red Forest hoping to strike gold. The Red Forest is home to Forester. It also has a bridge that leads to Limansk, which needed to be lowered so that Clear Sky and Scar could advance through Limansk and into the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
The Red Forest in Clear Sky is different from the Shadow of Chernobyl version. Instead of being filled with armed Stalkers (most likely the Monolith), it is home to many mutants, such as Psy dogs, Bloodsuckers, Snorks, and a lone Pseudogiant in the Symbiont anomaly, along with huge clusters of anomalies and a large area of radioactivity. Stalkers have also occupied some of the territories; Renegades and Bandits have occupied the old mine that leads to the Compass and also the bridge leading to Limansk itself, Duty fighters established outposts near Forester's tower and will occupy the Renegades' mine later, and Loners have made a camp near the entrance from the Garbage. They offer a mission to the player to establish a camp near the Symbiont anomaly.
Originally, in Shadow of Chernobyl, it was going to be called Radar (left-over proving this is a road-sign in Freedom HQ in Army Warehouses), and was similar to the Garbage as it had peculiar line-shaped garbage piles; and hardly any trees.
It should also be noted that in Build 1935, the current entrance to Pripyat used to be a direct road to the NPP.
In Shadow of Chernobyl, when the player first comes under fire from an RPG-7u, there's a different road that goes North toward a Monolith outpost. After the outpost there's a tunnel similar to the entrance to X-19. Inside that tunnel is a door which is the same as those found inside secret labs. The door cannot be opened, and it is not mentioned in-game. In Build 1935 this was the entrance to Lab X-10, an earlier model of Lab X-19.
Originally, Shadow of Chernobyl was going to include another part of the Red Forest, in the same vicinity as the part featured in Clear Sky.
In Shadow of Chernobyl, a diary of a Monolithian refers to this area as the Dark Forest and Black Forest.
The Red Forest used to be known as the the Wormwood Forest until the Chernobyl Disaster era took place.