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STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl for Xbox, PC: Story, release date and everything you need to know

STALKER 2 (Image credit: GSC Game World)

Update 6/13/2021: Updated with news about STALKER 2's full title, release date, price, and gameplay.

The STALKER series has always been a popular choice for PC gamers looking for a strong non-linear shooter that features horror elements, but the franchise hasn't aged particularly well. This had left many hoping for a more modern STALKER experience that offers quality graphics, refined gameplay systems, and a more detailed and rich open world. STALKER 2 is the answer to those desires — and this time around, STALKER is coming to Xbox, too. Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming title.

STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl's development and reveal

STALKER 2 was initially revealed back in 2018 on GSC Game World's Twitter account. Since then, the developer has been working hard on the game, developing it in Unreal Engine and using photogrammetry for environments and motion capture for animations, according to a Q&A.

During the Xbox Series X July 2020 event, we got our first look at STALKER 2 in a new trailer for the game, which you can watch above.

What is STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl's story and setting?

Source: GSC Game World (Image credit: Source: GSC Game World)

STALKER 2 is set in a fictional version of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in which the power plant mysteriously exploded again in 2006, causing strange supernatural events that defy all scientific reasoning and spawning horrifying mutated beasts that began to roam. According to a trailer's video description, the protagonist is named Skif.

As a result of the second explosion, special items called artifacts were created. These artifacts provide special effects to the people who hold them, such as protection from radiation or increased natural healing. Due to how valuable these artifacts are, many have made a living sneaking into the Zone to collect them to sell to the outside world. Some have formed factions within the Zone as well, such as Duty, which is a group comprised primarily of ex-Ukrainian military soldiers who want to protect the world from the dangers of the Zone. All of the people who operate within the Zone's borders are known as Stalkers.

In the aforementioned Q&A, GSC Game World stated that the game will feature an "epic, non-linear story" that will be driven by player choice in both the short term and long term. This is on-brand for the STALKER series, as the three previous games — Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky, and Call of Pripyat — all had stories that were influenced heavily by player choice. GSC Game World also stated that you won't need to have played those games to enjoy or understand the story of STALKER 2.

During E3 2021, it was revealed that STALKER 2 was renamed to STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl.

What can we expect from STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl gameplay?

The STALKER series is characterized by its horror-shooter gameplay blend. In the original STALKER games, encounters were designed to feel intense and nerve-wracking. Whether you were fighting scary supernatural mutants or squads of heavily armed mercs, you always felt like you could die at any moment because of how dangerous the Zone was. Therefore, properly using cover and maintaining your guns and armor were critical to success.

There were also some light survival elements, such as hunger and radiation levels that you had to keep in check with food and drugs. In terms of structure, the games were non-linear, as the world consisted of smaller maps connected together to form an open world.

Based on what we know of STALKER 2, it will follow in the previous games' footsteps and deliver a similar type of experience. GSC Game World describes the game as "a unique blend of FPS, immersive sim and horror with a really thick atmosphere" and states that it will offer "one of the biggest open worlds to date." Additionally, the game has also been described to have "fast-paced change of scenery, ominous landscapes and the ever-present feeling of an inevitable danger accompanied by a barely-distinguishable guitar soundtrack." GSC Game World also confirmed that, in addition to everything seen before in the older games, new locations, mutants, artifacts, and anomalies (supernatural environmental hazards like electrical fields) would all be coming to the game as well. There are plenty of new weapons, outfits, and factions available for players to interact with and use too, according to a recent developer diary. GSC Game World is also committing to making STALKER 2 as mod-friendly as possible, which will please the PC gaming community.

The trailer shown for STALKER 2 at the Xbox Series X July event is said to be indicative of how the game will look at launch. GSC Game World confirmed that the trailer was built in-engine and uses models from the game in its Q&A, and also stated that it "demonstrates the same level of graphics and atmosphere we are aiming to achieve on release." We also know that STALKER 2 will support ray tracing. The new weapons and outfits shown off in aforementioned developer diary are also incredibly high quality. Hilariously, the game will even include a "custom teeth tool" under the hood that ensures every NPC in the world will have a unique set of teeth.

During the Xbox E3 2021 show, a brand-new gameplay trailer for STALKER 2 was shown off that featured plenty of frantic gunfights, dangerous anomalies, and interesting dialogue between various NPCs. Based on what we saw in it, it looks like STALKER 2 is a modernized version of the experience that captivated so many players long ago.

STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl's release date, pricing, and platforms

Source: GSC Game World (Image credit: Source: GSC Game World)

Currently, the release date for STALKER 2 is April 28, 2022. This release date was announced during the Xbox E3 2021 showcase after the gameplay trailer concluded.

When it comes to price, we know that STALKER 2 costs $60 and will be available on Xbox Game Pass day one. Also, STALKER 2 is coming to both PC and Xbox Series X as a console launch exclusive. This marks the first time that STALKER has come to a console, which is no doubt exciting for Xbox fans. The game can also be preordered now.

Your thoughts

What do you think of STALKER 2? Are you excited to see what GSC Game World has in store for fans? Let me know in the comments. Also, make sure to check out the previous STALKER games on PC if you haven't already!

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

  • Difficult to judge any of the titles from CGI. And rumours suggest this was a target CGI reel. The game is 2022 at best.
  • I agree. GSC Game World has a shady and checkered past, and understandably people should be skeptical. Not that all the Stalker games are not great, they are, but they need to show an actual playable game.