The survival shooter genre has dominated Steam for a few years now, but one of the most interesting new titles isn’t being sold there. It’s called Escape From Tarkov, and it’s only available directly from the Russia-based developers at Battlestate Games. The Windows PC game is an ultra-hardcore, military simulation-grade first-person shooter. It features utterly brutal gameplay and an in-game economy to match.
I’ve been following Escape From Tarkov (EFT) since I first heard about it in 2016. The fiction of the game pits two teams of military contractors against each other in a remote Russian village. The game has been in closed beta for a while, but I returned to it this past weekend for the first time in a year to find a stable and satisfying experience.
What makes the game so exciting is that, while matches are session-based, with small groups pitted against each other in a world populated by AI enemies, gear is persistent. Whatever you have on you in a battle can be looted once you die, meaning that even the newest players carrying the most basic gear can see a huge payday with a few well-placed shots.
But in order to keep what you’ve found, you must make your way to one of the map’s exits. There are multiple exits for each faction, making ambushing and counter-ambushing a valid strategy for skilled groups.
The cost of entry right now is $33.74, down 25 percent from the base price of $44.99. For that you get a half dozen pistols, a pair of loaded AK-74s, some basic equipment including medical supplies and enough in-game currency to get started. Given the pace of play and the amount of online study required to make it in and out of a multiplayer game alive, that’s more than enough to give you a few weeks of enjoyment.
The development goals for this game are pretty ambitious. For firearms aficionados, understand that the game is as wide as it is deep. There’s a bunch of Russian and NATO-style small arms, each with swappable optics, furniture, gas blocks and even trigger assemblies. There’s an Elder Scrolls-style leveling system that includes perks for just about everything you do in-game. EFT also features a small collection of vendors, each with their own unique set of missions that will allow you to curry favor and lower prices with them. There’s also a linked set of campaign missions in the works, one that will connect its series of maps into a unified narrative experience.
As far as the guts of the thing goes, EFT has got all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a high-end military simulator like Arma 3. You can jump, lay prone and lean. You can breach a door multiple ways, including quietly easing it open to peek around corners. Directional audio plays a key role in situational awareness. The damage model is extremely detailed. Individual limbs can be wounded and healed using an assortment medical supplies such as first-aid kits, morphine and even splints. There’s a full ballistics model, including penetration and even ricochets.
If you’re thinking of picking the game up, there’s a few ways to get up to speed. When you start a match, there’s an option to play solo on an empty map or against AI opponents. Spend the time to get the lay of the land before you jump into multiplayer, or you’re going to be very frustrated.
There’s even the option to join a game as one of the AI. That means you can leave your main character behind and just have some low-risk fun. The trade-off is that you’ll spawn with a random collection of weapons, severely limited ammo and potentially evn a few wounds.
While the closed beta is still available, Escape From Tarkov is still in development and does not currently have a release date.