Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl – Everything we know so far

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 screenshot
(Image credit: GSC Game World)

Stalker 2 is taking us back to the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, and it has quickly become one of our most anticipated upcoming horror games. Developer GSC Game World is yet to set a Stalker 2 release date, following a delay caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although we do know that it's set to be a new game for 2023. And it's worth getting excited, because everything we've seen of Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl so far indicates a massive step forward from the legendary original trilogy.

From its stunning open world to its meticulously crafted weapons, horrifying mutants and awe-inspiring anomalies, there's every chance that Heart of Chornobyl will be one of the must-play upcoming Xbox Series X games of the new year. So keep reading to learn everything we know about Stalker 2 so far.  

Stalker 2 News

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

What is the Stalker 2 release date?

The Stalker 2 release date is set for 2023. GSC Game World is yet to put a firm date on it just yet, following a series of delays caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war has impacted production of Stalker 2, so we expect the game to remain TBC 2023 until GSC feels confident it can hit a firm delivery date for PC and Xbox Series X.

Stalker 2 platforms

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

The Stalker 2 platforms have been confirmed for PC and Xbox Series X. While the series has traditionally been PC only, GSC Game World is shooting for a simultaneous release across the two platforms. The studio says that it is "doing our best to ensure an equal level of game experience and immersion, regardless of the gaming platform." We can confirm that Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl will be available on PC via Steam, Epic Game Store, and the Microsoft Store, and that it'll launch on Game Pass on day one.

Will Stalker 2 be on PS5?

Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl is only confirmed for release on PC and Xbox Series X, but that doesn't mean that it won't launch on PS5 in the future. In fact, confidential Microsoft documents were released (opens in new tab) as part of the Apple vs. Epic court battle which suggest that the Xbox Game Studios window of exclusivity is just three months long. So you never know, a Stalker 2 PS5 release could be in sight, but you'll need to watch this space. 

Stalker 2 trailer

The Stalker 2 gameplay trailer, which you can watch above, works to set the tone of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone and outline some of the major innovations GSC Game World is striving for with Unreal Engine 5, photogrammetry technologies, as well as full body and facial motion capture. GSC promises that the high level of fidelity and atmosphere evident in the Stalker 2 trailers is representative of what will be delivered in 2023.

Stalker 2 story details

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

The Stalker 2 story will take you to the Heart of Chornobyl – deep within the dangerous Exclusion Zone. This game is a sequel to the events of the original Stalker trilogy, although developer GSC Game World has said that no prior knowledge of the series is necessary to enjoy and understand Heart of Chornobyl. While details are light right now, we know that we'll be playing as a character named Skif, and that our actions will have both short-term consequences and global outcomes on Stalker 2's non-linear narrative. 

Stalker 2 setting explained

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl is set within the dangerous territories of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. You should expect to see familiar locations such as Cordon and Pripyat and new locations such Duga, although GSC has teased that there will be "hundreds of other familiar and new locations will be up for exploration." The studio is yet to confirm whether areas such as Limansk, Zaton, Yanov, and Kopachy from Stalker: Call of Pripyat (2008) and Stalker: Clear Sky (2010) will return. 

What we do know is that Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl will feature a fully seamless open world for the first time in the series' history – expansive areas were split between specific access points in the original trilogy. GSC believes it is "one of the biggest open worlds in video games to date", with more than 60 square kilometers of space to survive. As a result of the expansive Chornobyl Exclusion Zone created here, the studio says it'll take "more than 100 hours of gameplay to explore its secrets." 

Stalker 2 Gameplay

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl will be part large-scale first-person shooter and part intricately designed immersive sim, and the results look impressive. While GSC Game World is yet to give us the opportunity to go hands-on, we have been able to get a good sense of what to expect from the Stalker 2 gameplay trailers and comments from the studio. Firstly though, it's worth focusing on the survival aspect – because staying alive in the Zone isn't supposed to be easy. 

Stalker 2 will include a full day-night cycle, and dynamic weather to ensure the world continues to shift around you. You'll need to mitigate this while keeping on-top of survival mechanics like hunger, sleeping, bleeding, radiation effects, and as you attempt to detect and circumvent the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone's Anomalies. 

GSC Game World says that it has prepared a total overhaul of its A-LIFE system too, with A-Life 2.0 designed to simulate life in the Zone in as realistic a way as possible. In most open world games, life exists within the player's field-of-view. With Stalker 2, the studio is promising that Factions and Mutants will be fighting for "living space, migrating, capturing new places, or retreating to safer areas" – meaning that, in theory, no one route through the Zone will ever be the same. 

Stalker 2 combat and AI

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

If you can survive the elements, you'll then have to go up against a large variety of Mutants (lengthy exposure to radiation is never wise) and Factions of other human S.T.A.L.K.E.R.S. who have entered the area looking to recover valuable artifacts and sell them to the highest bidder beyond the borders of the Zone. You can even spot one of those artifacts in the Stalker 2 reveal trailer, where 'Jelly' can be seen located in the swamps – a mysterious property that's said to have a regenerative effect on stamina. 

GSC appears to be really expanding upon the strong first-person shooter foundations that were put down for the original trilogy. The studio is promising aggressive, intuitive AI that will push your tactics at every opportunity, as well as over 30 weapon types – each with its own set of modifications. Skif will be able to install some of the weapons mods out in the world or even while in combat – such as the silencer or a scope – although "more complex and advanced upgrades will be available only through a technician."  

Stalker 2 will feature new Anomalies, Factions, and Mutants

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl will be a blend of old and new. While this is a standalone sequel set in a modern world, it is building atop the foundations of the original game so expect to see some familiar faces and Factions – although given the pervasive danger of the Zone, it's hard to say who has survived over the years. The same can be said of the Mutants, many of which may be ostensibly recognizable but ultimately warped beyond recognition due to extended exposure to the Zone's litany of mysterious Anomalies and radioactive areas.  

Speaking of Anomalies, we've only seen hints of what's to come so far. If you pay careful attention to the Stalker 2 trailer you'll likely spot returning gravitational anomalies 'Gravity' and 'Carousel', as well as an all new Anomaly Detector – the GILKA 01. If you're new to the Stalker games, or are yet to read Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's classic Roadside Picnic novel, you should expect to rely on unique detectors to help navigate areas of the Zone – if you're wondering why there's a few scenes with Skif throwing nuts and bolts in front of him, that'll be why. 

Stalker 2 multiplayer

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

We know that many of you are wondering whether there will be Stalker 2 co-op or multiplayer support. While GSC Game World is yet to detail the functionality exactly, the studio has confirmed that "multiplayer will be added to the game with a free update" after Heart of Chornobyl releases in 2023.  

Stalker 2 development

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

Stalker 2 has had a long and storied development. The project was actually first announced in 2010, with a release date of 2012, following the successful release of Stalker: Call of Pripyat. However, reported financial issues within developer GSC Game World ultimately led to the game being canceled in 2012 and the closure of the studio. 

GSC reformed as an entity in 2014 to develop real-time strategy sequel Cossacks 3. Four years later, the studio announced that Stalker 2 was being put into production on Unreal Engine 4. Little other information was shared in the years between 2018 and 2021, beside the occasional in-engine teaser, before Stalker 2 was given a full reveal at the Microsoft and Bethesda E3 2021 conference, which is where GSC confirmed that development had moved to Unreal Engine 5 and that it was targeting an April 28, 2022 release date. 

Stalker 2 delays and name change

Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl was originally supposed to launch April 28, 2022, although it later became one of the more notable video game delays of the year. In January 2022 it was announced that GSC Game World had delayed the game until December in an effort to "fulfill our vision and achieve the desired state of the game."

However on March 2, GSC was forced to delay development indefinitely, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine – the studio is based in Kyiv, and many of its employees joined the war effort. During this pause, GSC changed the spelling of Stalker 2's subtitle to 'Heart of Chornobyl' from 'Heart of Chernobyl', which reflected the difference between the Ukrainian and Russian spelling of the infamous power plant near the city of  Pripyat. 

Development of Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl was resumed in May 2022, with GSC noting on Discord that "the work is in progress." A month later, in June, the studio released a development diary as part of the Xbox and Bethesda E3 2022 showcase explaining that while some of Stalker 2's development would continue in Kyiv, "much of the game’s development will take place" in a new office established in Prague. As part of this announcement, Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl was given a 2023 release date.

Stalker 2 system requirements

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

Stalker 2 minimum system requirements

OS Version: Windows 10 / Windows 11
Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X / Intel Core i5-7600K
Memory: 8 GB
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
Disc space: 150 GB SSD

Stalker 2 recommended system requirements 

OS Version: Windows 10 / Windows 11
Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X / Intel Core i7-9700K
Memory: 16 GB
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 8GB / NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER 8GB / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
Disc space: 150 GB SSD

What does S.T.A.L.K.E.R. stand for?

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

(Image credit: GSC Game World)

While the internet will commonly refer to the game as 'Stalker 2', the proper spelling is actually S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. It's a backronym for Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, and Robbers. You're welcome.

Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.