S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl is the next hotly anticipated entry in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise. The game is releasing over 13 years after the last entry in the series, and it’s making its debut on consoles as an Xbox Series X exclusive.
GSC Game World, just one of the many European developers, is currently in the midst of an aggressive invasion from Russian forces that have caused their entire lives to be disrupted. In their efforts to support their country’s freedom, the team has put development on pause to “help our employees and their families to survive.” Other game companies, such as EA and CD Projekt, have also shown support for the Ukrainian people by halting sales and representation of Russia in their games.
To get you up to date on the post-apocalyptic survival shooter, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl was set to release on April 28, 2022, but in January 2022, developer GSC Game World announced that the game would be delayed for a massive seven more months until December 7, 2022. In an unpredictable turn of events, GSC Game World was once again forced to delay the game after their home city of Kyiv was targeted by a Russian invasion. Due to the unprecedented circumstances, the team has put work on the game on hold until the conflict has been resolved. The team released a video detailing their experiences, stating, “The game development shifted to the sidelines. But we will definitely continue. After the victory. Glory to Ukraine.” You can check out their full message to fans, and the world, below. Be warned, this video does contain some disturbing footage of the real conflict in action.
Despite the terrible conflict still in process, GSC has put together an update and new dev diary detailing how they are managing to continue work on the game during the war. At this time, the game is now intended to release sometime in 2023.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl is an Xbox console exclusive. The game is launching on Xbox Series X and Series S, as well as PC. When it launches, the game will be available through Xbox Game Pass. Although a release date for PlayStation 5 hasn’t been announced, leaked internal documents revealed that the game will only be a console exclusive for three months.
That doesn’t mean the game is coming to PS5, though. Tetris Effect: Connected was also named in the documents with six months of console exclusivity. This updated version is coming to PS4 in July, but not PS5. GSC Game World says S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 won’t come to last-gen systems due to limited performance capabilities.
Microsoft showed off S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 during the Xbox Series X game showcase in 2020 with an in-engine trailer. It shows the grim, desolate wasteland through a series of striking images, setting the brooding tone the game will likely have. You can watch the first trailer below.
As far as the story is concerned, the official site invites players to “Discover the vast Chernobyl Exclusion Zone full of dangerous enemies, deadly anomalies, and powerful artifacts. 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.” This heavily implies that, much like the first game, your actions will make a big impact on how the narrative wraps up. Beyond that, not much is known about what the actual story will be aside from it being non-linear and focusing on bounty hunters seeking treasure in the Zone.
Another trailer was revealed during the Xbox Extended Games Showcase in 2022 that is all about an area known as the “Zone” that could potentially “reveal a whole new world” according to the voices we hear. When a truck drives into this area, all the electronics begin to malfunction, the road cracks, and concludes on a shot of debris floating around a small beam of light.
Microsoft debuted gameplay for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 during its E3 2021 press conference. The trailer cuts in scenes of gameplay with a group of survivors huddled around the campfire. You can watch it below.
The trailer shows off a lot of interesting gameplay systems. The first is the ability to grab attachments for your weapons around the environment and immediately attach them. It shows the player grabbing a scope and a silencer and equipping them right away without going through an inventory screen.
It also shows off several enemy designs, including an updated Bloodsucker design that looks strikingly similar to Cthulhu. True to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, the visuals look insane in the gameplay trailer. However, Microsoft didn’t clarify what system the gameplay was running on.
Following the announcement, GSC Game World released a commentary video detailing some of the interesting points from the gameplay reveal.
While we do see a lot of action, survival mechanics will still be involved. Hunger, radiation, and stamina all need to be managed in this open-world game.
Although GSC Game World hasn’t announced anything, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 looks like it will feature some kind of multiplayer. GSC is offering an “early bird” multiplayer badge as a pre-order bonus, and the Deluxe and Ultimate versions of the game feature multiplayer costume and weapon skins.
We don’t have any details on multiplayer right now. Fans have asked for co-op in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series for a while, but it doesn’t look like that’s the direction GSC is heading. With multiple skins and a unique badge up for grabs, it looks like multiplayer in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will feature some sort of PvP mode.
None of the previous S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games have received DLC, but that’s changing with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. The game is set to receive two story expansions, which are described as “additional large-scale expansions that continue or expand the main story.” The game will likely receive more DLC outside of the two expansions, too.
The Ultimate Edition of the game comes with the season pass, which entitles owners to “all the post-release downloadable content in addition to the [two] story expansions.” This edition also includes an exclusive side quest, hinting at possible side quests through DLC down the line.
In addition, we expect cosmetic DLC. The Deluxe and Ultimate versions of the game feature costume and weapon skins for single-player and multiplayer. GSC Game World hasn’t confirmed anything, but we’ll likely see cosmetic DLC after launch.
Pre-orders for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl are live now at digital retailers. Physical versions have been announced, but they haven’t gone up for pre-order yet. Regardless of the version, all pre-orders come with an exclusive pre-order pack, which includes extended campfire content, exclusive weapon and armor skins, and an “early bird” multiplayer badge.
There are several different versions available for pre-order. On the digital front, the Standard Edition includes the game, pre-order bonus pack, and exclusive Steam content. Here’s what’s included with the other digital versions:
- All Standard edition content
- Special extra quest
- Digital artbook
- Official soundtrack
- One costume and three weapon single-player skins
- Two costume and three weapon multiplayer skins
- All Deluxe edition content
- Three costume and seven weapon multiplayer skins
- Two story expansions
- Season pass
In addition, GSC is offering four physical versions of the game. The Standard version comes with the game plus pre-order bonus, a steelbook case, a letter from the developers, a souvenir zone permit, and a sticker pack. Here’s what the other versions include:
- All Standard edition content
- Zone map
- Faction patches
- Military token
- Multi-tool with fire starter
- All Limited edition content
- Deluxe digital content
- Collector’s art steelbook
- Art book
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R. figurine
- All Collector’s edition content
- Ultimate digital content
- Ultimate art steelbook
- Artifact Container lamp
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R. backpack
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