In today’s Xbox showcase, Ukrainian developer GSC Gameworld treated us to our first look at their upcoming title S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. They are keeping their cards close to their chest, but one detail that was confirmed is that its launch — on consoles at least — will be an Xbox exclusive. Whether this means it will stay that way or will become multi-platform at a later date, I cannot say. It also did not state if the PC release will happen at the same time as the Xbox’s.

The short film was undoubtedly impressive and captured the franchise’s foreboding atmosphere perfectly. It didn’t, however, provide many details. It was not, for example, made clear if it was created in-engine or pre-rendered. It certainly did not show off any gameplay.

So, what can we take home from this? If we give GSC the benefit of the doubt and assume the footage was captured in-engine, then S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will be a visually impressive game, in a downbeat and dreary fashion. It certainly looks near-photorealistic, which is ideal for a franchise that prides itself on its immersion. The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. seen at the end of the video appears to be wearing NBC gear that is more ‘army surplus’ than some of the more exotic outfits of the earlier games, perhaps hinting at a doubling down on the believability of the franchise.

 

Artifacts and Anomalies are back and have had a significant upgrade, thanks, in part, due to the game’s Unreal Engine 4 derived physics. An electro anomaly triggered by a thrown bolt had a repulsive effect on the surrounding world objects, sending them flying outwards. An aerial gravitational anomaly appears to be pulling in and then crushing flat the abandoned vehicles nearby, which in turn causes the water to be disturbed. Anomalies with effects such as these are something fans have wanted for some time.

The reveal gave little away in terms of story, but we did see an exciting mix of both old and new locations. Pripyat with its famous Ferris wheel is one returning location, and the rookie village is another – although it looks in notably worse shape than it was before. The real world Duga 2 array is also shown.

It appears the game will combine the familiar mix of above-ground areas and underground labs. We briefly glimpse what seems to be a fully functional and intact X-Lab, complete with grotesque embryonic humanoid mutants growing in tanks. Above ground, we shortly see what appears to be wild dogs or wolves, suggesting the Zone’s mutated fauna will also be returning.

No release date has been given as of yet. Earlier teasers hinted at a 2021 release date, but that may have slipped due to COVID-19. Rest assured, once GSC announces the release date, we will make sure you are among the first to know.

Excited for a new entry in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise? How will it feel to return to Pripyat? Let us know!