Ukrainian developer GSC Game World first announced the post-apocalyptic survival horror shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 back in 2012. However, the game was abruptly cancelled shortly after. Now, a decade later, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has risen from the ruins and is slated for release in early 2024.
A Troubled Development
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise has seen its fair share of turmoil, and the road to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has been just as rocky. Financial difficulties led to employee layoffs during development, and plans for the game were scrapped in 2012. A former lead developer went on to found West Games and launched a Kickstarter campaign for a spiritual successor, but it was met with criticism and suspended.
GSC Game World reformed in 2014 to develop other titles before announcing in 2018 that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was back in production. This time built using Unreal Engine 5 and expanded to Xbox consoles for the first time in the series.
Invasion Brings Further Uncertainty
Just as things were getting back on track, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine cast doubt over the game’s future. Development was moved to Prague in the Czech Republic.
Amidst the conflict engulfing their homeland, the team incredibly has continued working on the project. The launch date was pushed from December 2022 to early 2024, but the fact that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 remains in active development is nothing short of remarkable given the circumstances.
What We Know So Far About S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl will be a first-person shooter survival horror game set in the Exclusion Zone around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Players take on the role of a scavenger exploring the dangerous ruins and mutated landscapes.
The game promises intense gunplay against murderous factions and mutated creatures, along with a non-linear story influenced by player choices. Resources will be scarce, forcing players to salvage equipment and craft improvised solutions.
Based on trailers and early footage, the world looks incredibly atmospheric, with eerie abandoned towns and bunkers juxtaposed against beautiful forests and marshlands – now littered with anomalies and hazards.
Exclusive to Xbox at Launch
In a major coup, Microsoft has secured S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 as an Xbox console exclusive at launch. The game will also be available on PC, but Xbox Series X/S will be the only home consoles it’s playable on.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will launch day one on Xbox Game Pass, opening it up to millions of subscribers. After three months as a Microsoft exclusive, wider console availability is expected but not yet confirmed.
For fans of immersive sims and best-in-class shooters like Metro Exodus, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 sitting in the Xbox and Game Pass catalogue is an exciting proposition and should expose the cult franchise to a broader audience.
With its troubled development, more delays cannot be ruled out. But recent updates from the team suggest S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is still on target for 2024. If GSC Game World can deliver on its ambitious vision, this could be a standout title of the year.
For now, experienced gamers and survival horror fans will be watching closely, hoping this game finally manifests into a proper return to the dark, atmospheric world of the Zone.