Everyone knows the best part of Stalker is the groceries. Sure, I vaguely recall something about fending off armies of mutated horrors with clanky old Warsaw Pact rifles, but I think most of my time in those games was spent frantically scarfing down doktorskaya sausage while bullets whistled overhead and hungry beasts tracked my scent.
It's for this reason, I have to assume, that the latest step in GSC Game World's marketing campaign for Stalker 2 is a Stalker-themed supermarket in eastern Kyiv (opens in new tab). Filled with produce themed after the games (alongside completely standard fruit, veg, and meat, which is possibly even weirder than the Stalker brownies) and decorated throughout in post-apocalyptic rust-chic, the new store promises to let you do your weekly shop while reminiscing about all the times you hunkered down in a drainage pipe and cured bullet wounds with bread. You can see a few photos of the store below.
The supermarket is the product of a partnership between GSC and Silpo, a chain of Ukrainian stores that specialises in themed experiences like this one. In the past, Silpo has built cyberpunk supermarkets, anime supermarkets, in one instance (which I'm not convinced isn't a fevered invention of my own dying brain) even a store themed around GTA: San Andreas (opens in new tab). It's permanent, too; GSC's Zakhar Bocharov tells PCG that the supermarket is no fleeting pop-up: "It will be around for, like, forever. As long as the shop is there, it will be a Stalker-style shop".
Like so much else, the store's opening was disrupted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February this year. In fact, although the supermarket already looks plenty Stalker-ish to me, there are still elements of it that haven't been installed yet because of wartime disruption. Plans for installations that mimic Zone-style anomalies and statues of Stalker's slavering monsters have had to be postponed because of the ongoing conflict. They'll hopefully come as part of a planned "visual upgrade" scheduled for some point in the future, says Bocharov.
I had to re-read a lot of things about this project when I first came across it just to convince myself it was real. I tend to associate the suburban tedium of a supermarket more with Fallout's post-apocalyptic setting than with Stalker's, so the sight of a coffee counter modelled after Sidorovich's bunker from the first game had me briefly concerned I'd developed videogame news cabin fever. It's plenty real, though, and I suppose the next time I'm in Kyiv I will make dutiful pilgrimage to Berezneva Street to stock up on kolbasa. Then I'll look for a drainage pipe to sit in while I eat it.