Everything we know about STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl

STALKER 2 is now dropping in 2023 – an update that won’t come as much of a surprise as developer GSC World is based in Ukraine. A recent developer update shed incredibly sad light on how awful the development conditions the team at GSC Game World has been working under ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, and yet somehow we also got a new trailer for the game too. 

STALKER 2 is a first-person shooter set in a harsh and horror-tinged environment, sending players to the Chornobyl Anomalous Exclusion Zone with one goal: Survival. The series made its debut in 2007 with STALKER: Shadow of Chornobyl, which was later followed with 2008’s STALKER: Clear Sky and STALKER: Call of Pripyat in 2009; across these three games, the franchise grew a loyal fanbase around its forward-thinking design and tense supernatural shootouts. We’ll be hoping that STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl is able to bring that action into the modern era when it launches in 2023 for PC and Xbox Series. While we wait, keep on reading for everything we know about STALKER 2 so far.  

STALKER 2 trailer – watch it here

Our first proper look at STALKER 2 in action was released as part of the Xbox + Bethesda Games Showcase in 2021. The five-minute trailer gave us a look at creepy underground labs, beautiful open world spaces, and the tight gunplay GSC Game World is engineering. Watch the first STALKER 2 gameplay trailer above. 

And then, as part of the Xbox and Bethesda Extended Showcase in June 2022, developer GSC World dropped a surprise new STALKER 2 trailer, along with a development update that detailed how difficult life in Ukraine has been since the invasion started. You can watch that on YouTube (opens in new tab), but it’s by no means an easy watch. 

The new trailer isn’t so much focused on gameplay, but instead on the game’s underlying story. 

STALKER 2 release date delayed

Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

STALKER 2 was originally gearing up to launch on April 28, 2022, but was then delayed until December 8, 2022. While development was temporarily paused, a result of Ukrainian developer GSC Game World needing to shift its focus at the outset of the invasion, the studio has since reported that the game is back in active production. However, Stalker 2 has now been delayed into 2023, with no firm date set for the sequel. 

STALKER fans have been waiting a while for this sequel. It was first revealed in 2010, but underwent development turmoil, leading to a 12-year production cycle. The initial game was actually canceled in 2012 before being re-revealed in 2018 as the version we know today.

Though it’s been known simply as Stalker 2 for quite a while, developer GSC Game World has slightly renamed the forthcoming sequel. It’s now called Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl, as revealed during Microsoft’s E3 2021 showcase. 

STALKER 2 pre-order

Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

You can get your Stalker 2 pre-order in now at your favorite retailer. If you do, you get the following items:

  • Extended campfire content
  • Exclusive weapon skin
  • Exclusive armor skin
  • ‘Early bird’ multiplayer badge

There are also multiple purchasing options including the Deluxe Edition, which comes with in-game cosmetics, along with an Ultimate Edition featuring the story expansions and season pass. 

STALKER series explained

Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

The Stalker series takes place around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, with each entry focusing on various characters trying to survive after the catastrophe. Due to the destructive events caused by the nuclear reactor disaster, mutated humans and animals began springing up — along with artifacts, which are known for giving special powers like stamina regeneration or radiation reduction. 

Those who enter the Zone specifically in search of these artifacts are known as stalkers, hence the name of the series. As you play, you come across many of these artifacts. 

Stalker will send you back to the Zone once again, as you attempt to survive. “The Exclusion Zone has changed dramatically after the second explosion hit the reactor in the year 2006,” an excerpt from the game’s website reads.

“Violent mutants, deadly anomalies, warring factions have made the Zone a very tough place to survive. It turned out that the center of the Zone hides the source of incredible power representing a serious threat to the inhabitants of the Zone.”

Stalker 2 gameplay

Stalker 2

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

We’ve gotten a couple looks at STALKER 2, but the most recent trailer was shown off at Microsoft’s E3 showcase. It was a fairly lengthy trailer, featuring a first look at gameplay and many of the characters and areas.

The E3 trailer switches between brutal gameplay segments and a group of survivors at a campfire, which will serve as your sanctuary when you’re not out in the open world. During the action-packed moments, we get to see how the main character Skif uses a weapon and its attachments.

For instance, Skif begins by firing an automatic weapon while using its iron sights before picking up an optic with more precise crosshairs. Take note of the deliberate animation of Skif picking up and equipping the attachment. You can then see how the weapon becomes much more effective during battle.

The trailer features more action than fans might be used to, but that doesn’t mean the survival elements are going away. You’ll need to balance stamina and hunger while maintaining your radiation meter. Think Fallout mixed with Metro.

As for its size, it will be “one of the biggest ones yet,” allowing full exploration of its open world. In previous entries, the stages were large, but never truly felt open world — but instead were designed as stages connected to one another.

But above all else, first-person shooting will be at the forefront as you defend yourself against mutated enemies, along with other humans. 

STALKER 2 story

Stalker 2

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

As with the previous entries, STALKER 2 will lean into player choice, not just in the short term, but in the long term as well. 

“Discover the vast Chernobyl Exclusion Zone full of dangerous enemies, deadly anomalies, and powerful artifacts,”  GSC Game World says (opens in new tab). “Unveil your own epic story as you make your way to the Heart of Chernobyl. Choose your paths wisely, as they will determine your fate and shape the future of the Zone in the end.”

If this installment is anything like the last, there will be various endings depending on choices you make throughout your play through. For example, if you let certain NPCs die, you might not get the best ending. The endings can also differ based on how much cash you have in-game, or which factions you choose to join. Ultimately, this encourages replayability since there are so many possible outcomes. 

In previous installments, the one thing that always remained constant despite the different endings was the expansion of the Zone. 

The Zone will be ever-present in Stalker 2. 

Of course, developer GSC Game World hasn’t revealed much about Stalker 2’s story at this point, but we’ll likely find out more as we get closer to release in 2022.

Will STALKER 2 be on PS5?

Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

The release of Stalker 2 is momentous for many reasons. Aside from its lengthy development cycle, this also marks the first time the series will appear on consoles. It’s coming to Xbox Series X and S, as well as PC.

It will make full use of the newest hardware, with ray tracing and beautiful visuals being a main focus. Thanks to the power of Microsoft’s new systems, Stalker 2 seems like it will be a gorgeous-looking game. Stalker 2 is also launching on Xbox Game Pass on day one, so more players will get their hands on it upon release.

But, unfortunately for PlayStation owners, they’ll have to wait for the game to come to PS5. The Verge (opens in new tab) recently reported on documents that show Stalker 2 has only signed a three-month exclusivity deal, so perhaps the wait won’t be too long.

Don’t forget to check out more titles to add to your mental calendar in our upcoming Xbox Series X games and upcoming Xbox One games lists.

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