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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 seems like it will be well worth the wait

Key art for Stalker 2.
GSC Game World
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

Rumblings about a sequel to the cult classic S.T.A.L.K.E.R, an atmospheric, yet janky supernatural shooter set within the radioactive zone around Chornobyl, have been around since 2010. The current version of the sequel from GSC Game World has been discussed since 2020. It was initially going to launch as early as April 2022, but due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its development has been rife with delays, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl was pushed back again and again, all the way until this September.

With only a few months to go until launch, GSC Game World finally had the game playable at Summer Game Fest this year. I went hands-on with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, and it’s shaping up to be a brutal survival shooter that will be well worth the wait.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Серце Чорнобиля — Трейлер «Час Можливостей»

During my demo of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, I played through the first 30 minutes or so of the game. From the get-go, it’s clear that the game takes place in a brutal and unforgiving world, with the player character physically threatening the very person who’s helping him sneak into the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. From there, I had to slowly sneak through cracks in walls as I hid from helicopters flying overhead that were looking for intruders. I also saw some of the supernatural happenings of the Exclusion Zone, too, and immediately felt like something was off and unsafe. I was eventually able to get into the Exclusion Zone safely (for now), and my next task was to look for a bunker with the information I needed.

Of course, everyone was dead when I got there; that seems like it will be a common sight in the Exclusion Zone. After recovering what I needed, I was back out in the harsh outdoors environment and got to see some of its supernatural occurrences for myself. There are radiated puddles players will sometimes have to navigate through to pick stuff up, and small electric currents can overtake parts of the ground when certain objects are activated. That’s not to mention the deadly mutated creature I eventually had to fight, as well as the equally deadly humans.

A crashed helicopter in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.
GSC Game World

All of that alone makes S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 a very tense game, but GSC Game World goes a step deeper and reflects that intensity through survival gameplay mechanics. If I walked too far into a radiated area, I’d get radiation poisoning that would eventually kill me if I didn’t drink something. If I was shot, I needed to bandage myself as quickly as possible or risk bleeding to death. There’s also a hunger system that will require players to eat eventually if they want to survive. With limited inventory space for weapons and all the items that can help alleviate those health-draining effects, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 constantly made me feel like I was at risk of dying.

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Thankfully, that’s exactly the kind of feeling I wanted to get out of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. A survival shooter with horror undertones should feel this unforgiving, even in a brief 30-minute demo. GSC Game World had a clear vision for what it wanted S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 to be, and despite all the horrible tribulations that the development team has had to face during development, it looks like they powered through and delivered something that is unabashedly their unique vision. That should make this game worth the 14-year wait.

While I know I’m going to die a bunch, I can’t wait to play more when S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl launches for PC and Xbox Series X/S on September 5. It will be available on Xbox Game Pass from day one.

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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