STALKER 2: A Ruthless Journey Through Nostalgia
Skif finds himself in the moss with a mutant dog attacking him. As he pulls out a gun to defend himself, he realizes he’s out of ammo. With quick thinking, he kicks the creature into a nearby anomaly, resulting in its brutal demise. This intense encounter is my introduction to the unforgiving realm of STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl.
It’s been over a decade since the release of the last STALKER title, Call of Pripyat. GSC Game World is back, immersing players in an alternate history version of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. This treacherous area is filled with mysterious phenomena, valuable artifacts, and dangerous mutants. As a stalker, you venture into “the Zone,” navigating its challenges and interacting with its inhabitants, with choices influencing the outcome.
The game’s familiar mechanics are evident early on. After my altercation with the dog, a stranger hands me a metal bolt, a signature tool from the series. This simple object helps identify deadly anomalies. The visual distortions they cause, made possible by the Unreal Engine 5, are reminiscent of certain effects in Remedy’s Control. However, the demo’s performance had occasional hiccups, hinting at the need for further refinement.
Despite the technical issues, the game’s allure is undeniable. The world reacts dynamically to your decisions, leading to different outcomes in each playthrough. STALKER 2’s combat feels methodical and realistic. Enemies use intelligent tactics, emphasizing the importance of precision. The weapons feel authentic, complete with realistic recoil and loading times.
But what stands out are the game’s eerie moments. One time, I stumbled upon a barn where flames, known as Burner anomalies, shot up from the floor. Suddenly, grotesque creatures charged at me, their appearance suggesting a mutated fusion of various species. As I overcame them, I was constantly on the lookout for artifacts, a key element in the series.
My demo culminated in an intense showdown with an almost invisible creature, a Bloodsucker, near a group of armed men. As I battled the beast, the environment dramatically shifted, hinting at an approaching emission. Seeking refuge, I found myself in an incomplete building, signaling the end of my demo.
STALKER 2 clearly captures the essence of the series. While my experience highlighted its potential, it also hinted at the need for further development. The game’s release has been postponed to early 2024, possibly due to disruptions caused by the political situation in Ukraine, home to GSC Game World.
It’s intriguing that STALKER 2 will debut on Xbox Game Pass. The game’s dense atmosphere and commitment to its roots might challenge new players. However, for those willing to immerse themselves, it promises a unique experience not felt in gaming for quite a while.