Gaming is generally meant to be a nice way to let off a little steam. You can shoot some baddies, maybe get a nice story, and if you get yourself killed, you just load a save file, and pick up where you left off.
Escape From Tarkov is not that kind of game.
Escape from Tarkov is unforgiving. If you’re a spoiled FPS player expecting aids like crosshairs, ammo counters, and a little icon on your map that tells you where you are and what direction you’re going, stick to CoDBlops. This is absolutely not the game for you.
Tarkov is a game that is about as close to being placed in a real post-apocalypse as you can get, without actually physically being dropped into the exclusion zone in Pripyat. There’s not too much of a story; at least not yet. All you really need to know is that you’re in the ruins of Tarkov—a once busy Russian city now in pieces due to armed conflict.
The point of the game is to infiltrate the city, scavenge for supplies, gear, and mission items, then find one of a handful of exfiltration points and escape; all while avoiding or eliminating hostile scavengers (Scavs), as well as other real-world players that are out to get the same things you are and the gear you bring into the raid with you. Fail to extract, get killed by a player or die by the hand of a Scav, and you lose all the gear you brought in with you—all of it—okay, you get to keep your melee weapon, but everything else is gone.
The game isn’t entirely evil. It does give you a chance to get your items back, but that way is by no means guaranteed, and more often than not, someone else will come by to pick your gear up before you do.
The real draw of the game though is realism. Your map is made of paper, with the terrain, buildings, and other landmarks drawn in with a pen. If you can’t read a map or don’t know where you are to begin with, tough cookies, the game makes no concessions. Take a bullet to the leg? Depending on what you were shot with, you have a chance to bleed to death. Better bandage that up and take a painkiller so you can move around normally for a few minutes. The kind of round (hollowpoint, armor piercing, ball) affects not just damage, but the effects of protective gear you have on you, as well as bleeding and injury chance. You even have to take bullet drop into account once you start shooting at range.
Player movement is highly controllable. There’s the usual standing, crouching, and prone, but there are different levels between standing and crouching, and picking the right height that exposes just enough of yourself beyond cover usually spells the difference between nailing a shot and getting a load of 00 buck in your left lung. If your target doesn’t seem to be dropping to the hollowpoints you loaded in your magazine, swap out the mag with the steel-core rounds, and you might have better luck. It’s insane.
Speaking of bullets, there are a lot of firearms available in the game. From the little 9×18 Makarov, to industry standard M4s and the ubiquitous AK-47, all the way to little known AK variants, such as the Vityaz, the legendary VSS Vintorez, and AK-74 SU. Each firearm is accurate down to ammo you need to feed it, so if you have no idea what to feed an SKS or AKM, you’ve got some reading to do. Not only is this a great game for gun nuts, it’s actually a pretty good way to learn a lot about modern firearms.
Your player also has skills that are developed by playing a particular way. For example, running around a lot in-game develops endurance, which lets you run around more before getting tired. The skills are perishable, so if you stop doing things a particular way, the game slowly takes that ability away from you.
Survive enough times, and you start to accumulate enough loot to make a fair buck. Scavenged items can be sold to merchants for money. The money can then be used to buy better gear, and there’s a lot to buy. Apart from vests, packs, and of course guns, the game gives you a hyper-realistic accessory system. Weapons have a dizzying number of accessories. A lot of components and accessories that can be swapped out in real life can be changed in the game. If you’ve ever wanted a 74SU with an Eotech, polymer handguards, a suppressor, wooden grips, a taclight, no rear sight, and an AFG, with a plain receiver cover, this might be the title for you. Bakelite mags and Polymer mags also come as options. Unlocking better items is achieved by completing scavenging quests assigned to you by the same in-game merchants.
Apart from playing as your primary player, you can enter the game as a Scav. It plays about the same, except AI Scavs aren’t immediately hostile, but you don’t get to pick your starting gear, or spawn location. On the plus side, any gear you successfully exfil with is yours to keep and transfer to your main character’s inventory. It’s a safe way to farm, though Scav runs are only possible once every half hour.
The game is pricey for a title that’s currently in beta, but it’s an extremely polished beta, and worth at least the USD 45 you’ll pay for the basic version. As Escape From Tarkov pushes closer and closer to final release, additional features are expected to come out, such as a marketplace between players, an auction house, and more missions to play for and fill your stash. Is this a game for everyone? Absolutely not. I’m dead certain a lot of hardcore FPS players will find the grind too much, and the stakes too high to be fun. But for a few, particularly masochistic armchair operators (maybe if you think PUBG is too basic), this is definitely a game to try.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE February 2018 Issue
Words by Ren Alcantara
Developer: MachineGames | Publisher: Bethesda Softworks | Platform: PC