S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl: Everything You Need to Know

Key Takeaways
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is a direct sequel to 2009's S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, offering a true open-world experience with advanced visuals and gameplay, set in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.
  • Set in an alternate reality with a second Chornobyl disaster, players explore as Stalkers, facing mutated creatures, unusual weather, and human factions, with choices impacting the story.
  • Developed by Ukraine-based GSC Game World, faced challenges due to technical changes and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with a final release date set for 5th September 2024.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl, more commonly known as Stalker 2, marks the next chapter in the esteemed FPS horror survival franchise by Ukraine-based GSC Game World. The series has carved its own niche in the horror genre with its gritty immersion and realistic gameplay elements. In today’s gaming world, where titles often blur into each other, Stalker clearly stands out. That’s why it’s not a surprise that a sequel has been highly anticipated.

In the works for over a decade, Stalker 2 is a direct sequel to its 2009 predecessor, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. But this isn’t just about nostalgia. Stalker 2 promises a true open-world experience, marrying cutting-edge visuals with the raw essence that fans have come to love from the series.

Its development journey has been anything but straightforward, from technical switches like moving from Unreal Engine 4 to 5 to real-world challenges faced by its developers in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Nevertheless, with a release set for December 2023, all eyes are on what Stalker 2 will deliver.

Let’s dive in as we uncover everything you need to know about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.

What Story Will S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 Tell?

In S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart Of Chornobyl, players take on the role of enigmatic travelers known as Stalkers, who explore the hazardous Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. With Skif (the protagonist) as a guide, players can create their own path, making choices that shape the story and unravel the mysteries of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.

The game is set in an alternate reality where a second Chornobyl disaster occurred in 2006, two decades after the initial incident. This disaster resulted from attempts to harness the abstract concept of the Noosphere, the collective human consciousness.

In the S.T.A.L.K.E.R universe, the Noosphere becomes a tangible entity that can be manipulated. The experiments meant to eliminate negative human traits went haywire, causing the second Chornobyl disaster. This led to mutated creatures and unusual weather phenomena within the Zone.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl | GSC Game World

Stalkers face three main challenges: mutated creatures, unusual weather, and other human explorers with different motives. Various factions like the Bandits and Duty groups add complexity to the story. The protagonist, Skif, leads players through a non-linear narrative, allowing them to shape the Zone’s fate.

According to the developers at GSC Game World, like previous S.T.A.L.K.E.R games, your in-game choices will have a significant impact on the game’s story, and they will define your fate in the game. 

The developers have also revealed that players do not have to know the story of the previous games to enjoy and understand what’s happening in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, as it is designed as a standalone experience to be enjoyed without any prior knowledge of the franchise. This is great for newcomers looking to enter and navigate through the horrifying universe of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

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Where Exactly Is S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 Set?

GSC Game World has confirmed that the open world in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is going to be one of the largest open worlds ever created in survival games. It will cover an expansive area of approximately 64 square kilometers, allowing players to explore the terrifying yet beautiful world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. Familiar sites like Cordon and Pripyat are expected to make a comeback, alongside new destinations like Duga

STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl | GSC Game World

GSC Game World has also hinted at the inclusion of numerous other recognizable and novel locations for exploration, but details about that are still hidden. All the gameplay footage of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 released so far clearly shows how developers have harnessed the full potential of Unreal Engine 5 to create visually appealing surroundings in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. This aesthetic approach adds a lighter touch to the underlying horror-survival theme of the game.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 Gameplay

Update: GSC Game World has quietly updated the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 screenshots on digital storefronts showcasing an updated HUD.

Not only is the open world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 expansive, but the gameplay will also require players to invest over 100 hours to explore all the secrets the game is hiding. GSC Game World has ensured that players will have the same thrill as in the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R trilogy.

However, the advanced AI and game mechanics implemented in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will give players a tougher challenge. You are wrong if you think only Mutants, Factions, and Anomalies will be making your survival difficult in Chornobyl’s Exclusion Zone.

The game will feature a complete day-night cycle and dynamic weather, creating a shifting environment. And players must manage survival necessities like hunger, sleep, bleeding, and radiation effects while dealing with other threats coming their way.

GSC Game World has also revamped its A-LIFE system, introducing A-Life 2.0 to realistically simulate life in the Zone. Unlike typical open-world games where life mainly occurs in the player’s view, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 presents a dynamic world. Factions and Mutants (NPCs) will vie for living space, migrate, capture new areas, or retreat to safer zones, ensuring diverse experiences.

You may be wondering if the threats in the game have been amplified. It would not be fair if the weapons you are given are not on par to mitigate these challenges. Fret not, the devs have added 30+ weapons in the game, each capable of multiple modifications to become useful in those close situations where your base weapon is simply not enough.

While some basic mods like adding a scope to your gun will be doable on your own, the advanced modifications will require a technician.

GSC has yet to give players an extensive look at S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2’s gameplay, but that’s not too far. A demo of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl will be playable at Gamescom 2023, which will give the attendees a hands-on experience of the game.

Update: GSC Game World introduced the first playable demo of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 at Gamescom 2023. Those who got to try it are praising its realistic feel.

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Will There Be a Multiplayer Mode in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2?

It definitely makes survival easier if you’re with your friends, and a lot of players actually enjoy the addition of multiplayer in horror survival games (not you, Redfall). The popularity of this feature is the reason that Sony is developing a completely new multiplayer game for its popular horror survival franchise, The Last of Us

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl | GSC Game World

The devs behind S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 are also on the same page regarding the demand for this feature in their game, so you can expect the multiplayer mode to be added to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 as a free post-launch update, as confirmed by the developers.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2’s Troubled Development Cycle

Originally announced in 2010 as the successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, the development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 hit a roadblock in 2012, leading to its cancellation due to internal financial complications at GSC, which ultimately led to the closure of the studio.

However, the studio was re-established in 2014. In 2018, hope was reignited when GSC Game World announced that the development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was being restarted using Unreal Engine 4. 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl | GSC Game World

Between March 21st and March 29th, 2019, the game’s official site underwent a transformation. With changes in typography and animated concept art, fans were treated to glimpses of the mysterious world they were about to enter. 

The momentum escalated on July 23rd, 2020, when the first official trailer was unveiled on GSC Game World’s YouTube channel. Accompanied by new music and concept art, the trailer provided a tantalizing preview of the game’s atmosphere and gameplay mechanics.

Fast forward to June 13th, 2021, during the Microsoft and Bethesda E3 conference, GSC Game World announced the release date of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl as April 28th, 2022. The studio also revealed that they had switched to Unreal Engine 5, leaving UE4 behind.

However, the game’s journey wasn’t without further obstacles. On January 12th, 2022, GSC Game World disclosed a delay in the game’s release until December 2022, citing the need for “thorough testing and polishing.” 

And then came the biggest challenge of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2’s development cycle: in February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, causing a war between the nations that led to various human rights violations. As GSC was based in Kyiv, the developers working on the game were directly affected by the ongoing Russian invasion of their country. 

GSC immediately halted work on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 and indefinitely delayed the game. Amidst all of this, many developers working on the game also joined the Ukrainian forces to help fight the war, and unfortunately, one of the lead developers was killed while defending his country.

Despite these challenges, GSC Game World remained resilient. In a show of solidarity with Ukraine, the subtitle Heart of Chornobyl (changing Chernobyl to Chornobyl) was adopted on March 14th, 2022; they changed the Russian spelling version to the Ukrainian one.

In May 2022, GSC Game World shifted its headquarters to Prague, Czech Republic, ensuring the safety of its employees during tumultuous times. And now everything is going well as far as the development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is concerned and as previously mentioned a demo of the game will be playable at the upcoming Gamescom 2023 event.

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 Release Date

Now, as everything is going according to the schedule, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is expected to be released by the end of 2023. The Steam page for the game shows a placeholder December 2023 release window. However, recently, German Plaion, a gaming marketplace, listed the date of December 1st, 2023, for the PC version of the game on their website. 

Nonetheless, this could very well be a placeholder date, but it still points towards the December 2023 release window. It would be best if we wait for GSC to announce a definite release date for the game.

Update: According to a fact sheet posted by GSC Game World, the release window of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has apparently been pushed back. It is now targeting a Q1 2024 release window, which is not too far from the previously expected release window of December 2023.

Stalker 2 Release Date | GSC Game World

Fans are hopeful that this extra time will allow the developers to polish the game to near perfection and that they will be able to deliver a game that fans have been anticipating for years. GSC Game World has not released an official statement yet on why S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has been delayed. We will update you if the developers decide to let fans know about the reason behind the delay or if a definite release date is announced.

Update: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 finally has a definite release date, it will be released on 5th September 2024.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 Platforms

As S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is a next-generation game developed on the latest Unreal Engine 5, it will be released only on the current-gen Xbox consoles: the Series X and S, and on PC via Steam, Epic Games Store, Xbox Store, Microsoft Store, and GOG. The game will also be available on Xbox Game Pass from day one, so you can access it as long as you have an active subscription to Game Pass on either Xbox Series X|S or PC.

Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 | WIRED

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What About PlayStation 5?

PlayStation 5 is undoubtedly the most popular current-gen gaming console in the entire world (Nintendo Switch is from the last generation), so it naturally comes to mind: why is GSC leaving such a huge platform behind, where it has the potential to sell additional copies? 

Reportedly, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 would be exclusive to Xbox and PC for just 3 months. This information was brought to light after documents from the Apple Vs. Epic Games lawsuit were leaked. This means that Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, and Robbers (yes, that’s what S.T.A.L.K.E.R stands for) on PlayStation 5 do not have to wait long to experience S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 System Requirements

As a consequence of having been announced before the pandemic, the initially released system requirements for S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 are a bit outdated at this point. However, these specs have remained unchanged on the game’s Steam page for the past 3 years so it’s safe to say, unless the devs have made some huge strides, this is what you can expect on launch day:


  • OS: Windows 10
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X / Intel Core i5-7600K
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
  • Storage: 150 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: SSD
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X / Intel Core i7-9700K
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 8GB / NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER 8GB / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
  • Storage: 150 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: SSD
Stalker 2 System Requirements from 2020 | Reddit

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 Different Editions & Pre-Order Bonuses

Pre-orders for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl are now available on all supported platforms, and you have the following options to choose from:

  1. Standard Edition: Priced at £50 / $60 / €60.

  1. Deluxe Edition: Priced at £65 / $80 / €80.

This edition includes:

  • An extra story-based side quest.
  • Single-player content: 1 Costume Skin + 3 Weapon Skins.
  • Multiplayer content: 2 Costume Skins + 3 Weapon Skins.
  • Digital Artbook.
  • Digital Soundtrack.

  1. Ultimate Edition: Priced at £95 / $110 / €110.

This edition includes:

  • A Season Pass granting access to all upcoming DLCs, including 2 Story Expansions.
  • An additional story-based side quest.
  • Single-player content: 1 Costume Skin + 3 Weapon Skins.
  • Multiplayer content: 3 Costume Skins + 7 Weapon Skins.
  • Digital Artbook.
  • Digital Soundtrack.
  • Image: GSC Game World

If you decide to pre-order any of these editions, you’ll also receive the following bonuses:

  • Extended Campfire Content: Enjoy more guitar tunes and tales that enrich the game’s atmosphere around the stalkers’ campfires.
  • ‘Early Bird’ Weapon Skin.
  • ‘Early Bird’ Costume Skin.
  • ‘Early Bird’ Multiplayer Badge.
  • Steam Pack: Featuring an Animated Avatar, Animated Avatar Frame, and Animated Profile Background.

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2023 has been a good year for horror survival fans. There have been several good releases, with the most notable ones being the Dead Space Remake and Resident Evil 4 Remake, among others. And S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is one of the highly anticipated upcoming horror survival games of the year. 

We have presented all the information revealed about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 so far. However, we will keep you updated upon receiving any further information about the game. Expectations from fans for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 are high, and it is only a matter of time before GSC Game World announces a release date for the game.

What are your thoughts about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2? Are you looking forward to experiencing it? Let us know in the comments section below.


Abdullah Amin

Abdullah is passionate about staying up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in the gaming industry. With a strong background in writing and research, he is able to provide in-depth analysis and informative articles for a wide range of gaming audiences.