Open worlds, enormous environments with ray-traced reflections, grim irradiated environments, what looked like navigating a swamp while throwing bolts to uncover invisible enemies and even surprise in-game cameos. We finally got to see S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl in action, and of all the trailers from E3 2021, it was detailed, extensive, and exactly what S.T.A.L.K.E.R. fans would want.
One of the longest trailers of E3 2021 so far, S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 was given pretty prime billing in an Xbox-Bethesda showcase stacked not just with quality, but also plenty of surprises releases for 2021. And despite all that, it was S.T.A.L.K.E.R. that had the most complete combination of gameplay, cinematics, detail and environments. Only Forza Horizon 5 had more time on stage across its announcement and gameplay reveals; even Halo: Infinite didn’t get as much airtime as the Ukranian survival shooter.
On reflection, it’s not hard to see why. Views for S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 are completely outstripping almost everything else on the Xbox YouTube channel right now, with 267,000 views for S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2. The official announce trailer for Forza Horizon 5 isn’t far behind at 180,000-plus views, followed by the Xbox Mini Fridge at 127,000 views. Everything else is streets away: the official Starfield trailer only has 29,000 views on the Xbox channel, less than Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life (40k), or The Outer Worlds 2 (60k) and Halo Infinite multiplayer (43k).
While the official video had plenty of detail, an official Xbox Wire blog post that went live during the conference added more information. A new in-game faction was shown off a couple of minutes into the trailer, and fans of S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky will recognise one of the swamps as a vastly remodelled version:
The goo-like substance picked up during that section of the trailer is apparently called Jelly, and it’s used to recover the player’s stamina. The detector used to navigate around the swamps, meanwhile, is called Gilka, or “a stick” in Ukranian. You’ll be wandering around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone for most of the game, which will have an open world that is “one of the biggest” to date. (What that’s in comparison to isn’t hugely clear, though.)
Also, if you paid close enough attention, you’ll see Sergiy Grygorovych, creator of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R franchise. He’s actually sitting at the campfire with you, bidding Skif goodbye towards the end of the trailer:
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is due for release on April 28, 2022 across PC and Xbox. It’s a next-gen console title only, and will be available on Xbox Game Pass from day one.