Escape from Tarkov is a close quarters PvP multiplayer arena style game developed by Battlestate Games. You assume the role of either a private security soldier, or a scavenger as you battle other players is an endless quest to dominate the area, and gain supplies. We’d like to take this moment to thank Battlestate Games for issuing us a free copy of Escape from Tarkov for this review.
As you load into the game, it gives you some backstory as to what has happened to Tarkov, a city in the fictional Norvinsk region of Russia, that has been thrown into chaos following a battle between two private security companies, USEC and BEAR. After the region was evacuated, USEC continues to occupy Tarkov to prevent BEAR from discovering the dirty secrets of its parent company. While USEC and BEAR occupy one another’s time, scavengers search the city for guns, ammo, food, and other supplies.
First and foremost, this game looks really good. Like, super good. The graphics are reminiscent of the Metro series, which is fitting, as they have similar settings and locations. The lighting is atmospheric and creepy, and the weapon models are well crafted and textured. But where this game really excels is in its sound design. Players must take careful steps and keep their ears open, as every sound they make, and every step they take could mean giving away their position to other players. Even the ominous crack of gunfire in the distance sends chills down the spine of the lonesome player.
Upon launching the game, EFT gives the player the option of choosing which Private Military Company (PMC) they wish to work for. USEC, owned by the notorious Terra Group International, which actively engages in ethically questionable activities, and BEAR, a Russian group created to uncover any evidence of the Terra Group’s illicit deeds. While these have little to no influence on gameplay, it is nice to know why these people are shooting at one another.
When jumping into a game however you are given a choice to jump in as a scavenger (SCAV), or your PMC. Scavengers will spawn in with a random assortment of gear, ranging from small pistols to assault rifles and shotguns. Your PMC however, is fully customisable and can be outfitted with any gear you’ve found in Tarkov.
The inventory screen can be a little overwhelming to new players, presenting a lot of information onscreen, but no tutorial or navigational aids. Equally as confusing is selecting the right ammunition for your chosen weapon and placing it in the correct slot. The game will not allow you to reload your gun unless you have placed the magazine in your tactical vest, and not in your backpack. Such things are infuriating to discover, having fully decked out your character only to have him unable to slap a new clip into his AKM.
The objective of each game is to stay alive, loot weapons and ammo, and kill other players (and liberate their weapons and ammo). Each of the playable maps has an exit which can be accessed when a player feels they have gathered enough loot. Once the timer expires, the player can leave Tarkov with the supplies they gathered. A similar mechanic to 2016’s The Division, where players will gather equipment within the dark zone, and protect themselves while they extract with their findings. However, if a player is killed, they risk their supplies being stolen by other players.
This adds an interesting risk/reward system for gathering loot. Do you go in fully equipped, and risk losing it all if you fail, or do you go in as a scavenger with no risk to your items, but easily hunted and killed? To balance things out, if a player escapes as a scavenger, a twenty minute cooldown is put in place to stop highly skilled players from farming too much loot.
Fighting other players is simultaneously tedious and gratifying. Finding another player who is occupied with looting a corpse makes for an easy kill, but if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself in the same position. The gunplay feels very real and gets frantic quickly. I found myself taking a few bullets and dashing to cover with an injured leg, desperately looking around for my assailant. Upon dispatching my would-be assassin and looting his corpse, I was finished off by an unseen third player who proceeded to take my hard earned items and race away.
While still in beta and not without its occasional bugs and quiet lobbies, Escape from Tarkov proved to be an overall enjoyable experience, highlighting an emerging gold nugget in a landscape of poorly produced, quick to the shelves FPS titles.