The long-awaited next-gen follow-up to 2007's S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl finally showed some gameplay at Microsoft’s E3 2021 showcase. Heart of Chernobyl is the subtitle, and it’s due out on April 28, 2022.
Fans of the series have been waiting for years after a number of false starts on the development of a true “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2,” so today’s generous five-minute video reveal feels like reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.
The gameplay shown so far looks like exactly what you’d expect of a next-gen follow-up to Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky, and Call of Pripyat. One early segment has your character navigating a swampy field packed with deadly, mostly invisible anomalies. The character throws bolts to test the ground ahead of them while their handheld meter beeps madly. We see just what danger they’re in when a crab-like mutant creature gets sucked up into a vortex anomaly and ends up completely dismembered.
To the brave go the spoils, though, as our heroic stalker eventually succeeds in navigating the gauntlet, finding a precious, powers-granting artifact at the heart of one anomaly.
Other clips show off some combat. At a glance, the gunplay looks tighter than before, and with more attention to all the little details of the gun models. (I wonder if they’ll be able to license real weapons this time, or if it’ll once again fall to fan mods.) We also see the character interacting a little more directly with their environment, physically picking up items from atop a crate.
Another scene shows dialogue with an NPC, who is much more animated than most S.T.A.L.K.E.R. NPCs of the past. He gets up from his desk and starts dancing around to classical music. Looks cool! And speaking of NPCs, the entire trailer is framed by a group of gruff Zone raiders ragging on each other around a campfire. Yep, that’s my S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
One of the final scenes serves as a reminder that Heart of Chernobyl aims to be quite a good horror experience, too. The hero’s exploring a typically decayed underground lab when sudden movement causes them to fire. But they’ve already lost, as the tentacle-faced bloodsucker appears behind them with a roar, just before the scene fades.
All told, this first glimpse at S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl in action looks like precisely what fans of the original trilogy were hoping for. Let’s see some more.