Hundreds of feet underground, there’s a wet mist filling the halls of an abandoned industrial complex. Switching between my several flashlights is useless. The air is so thick that bright, directional light simply scatters, creating a solid white wall of glare. I’m stumbling around blind when an amber orb blinks in the distance. Then a second light flickers nearby, and a third. Suddenly, there are ominous clicking sounds all around me.
“Don’t move,” says Svante Vinternatt, one of the developers on GTFO, the new multiplayer horror survival game from 10 Chambers Collective. I take my hands off the keyboard. That’s when the Sleeper turns, emerging from the fog.
It looks vaguely human from its feet to its shoulders, but instead of a head there’s a black, knobby growth that looks like volcanic stone. The amber light is coming from inside that growth, and it changes shape and intensity as the creature trills. From its posture, it looks like it’s yawning.
The Sleeper turns and lurches toward me. It rears back, and then lashes out with powerful arms. The room fills with gunfire. My headphones echo with shouting. Once the smoke has cleared I’m lying on the ground, my perspective sideways. One of the other developers comes over to revive me. About a dozen sleepers lay dead on the ground, but it only took three to take me down. It was only thanks to the quick thinking of my teammates that I made it out alive.
This is what it’s like to play GTFO, which enters early access on Steam on Monday. It’s one of the most interesting first-person shooters I’ve played in a very long time. Here’s how it works.
In the fiction of GTFO, players take on the role of prisoners under the watchful eye of a master named the Warden. The Warden sends groups of four prisoners on a series of sequentially linked missions, called a Rundown, with a goal to locate and extract valuable artifacts from an abandoned underground complex. Standing in the way are these Sleepers, a sort of cross between the fungus-infected zombies in The Last of Us and the deadly Witches in Left 4 Dead.
As players, expect to always be outnumbered. The goal is to remain quiet for as long as possible to avoid detection as you infiltrate the complex. To help you along, prisoners are given access to an assortment of high-tech tools and weaponry. For this first mission I selected a nearly silent melee weapon, a massive maul called a Gavel. I’ve also got an assault rifle, a high-powered but slow-cycling machine gun, and a launcher that sprays daubs of sticky foam. My other teammates have an eclectic assortment as well, including Alien-style motion scanners, automated turret dispensers, and more.
Vinternatt says that players won’t have to unlock these toys over time. There’s no grind to speak of in GTFO, and weapons and tools are freely available before each mission. The team at 10 Chambers promises a very traditional experience, and that ethos will extend to the game’s monetization scheme as well. GTFO will not have loot boxes, season passes, or subscription fees, and there won’t even be any weapon mods that unlock based on arbitrary experience points. The enemies are hard enough as it is, and players are encouraged to experiment in order to find the right combination of tools for each Rundown.
From there, players are given an objective. We were tasked with finding a numbered item in the complex’s inventory, so job one was determining its location. After the unfortunate incident where I was nearly eviscerated, we quietly cleared out a few rooms using only melee weapons before we stumbled onto a terminal.
Items — including health and repair kits, as well as the objectives that players are searching for — are all indexed inside a fictional operating system within GTFO. Developers built their own DOS-like command line, which forces you to do simple text-based searches in real time. Using the syntax correctly while under fire adds to the tension. You can even look over someone’s shoulder and watch them typing out commands on the in-game screen.
The entire interface reminds me of Duskers, the award-winning survival roguelike from 2016. The lock-picking system works in a similar way, with a light dexterity game that’s surprisingly difficult to complete once your adrenaline starts pumping.
Another challenge is simply orienting yourself to the environment. Map reading is a big part of that, and 10 Chambers has helpfully integrated simple tools that allow players to draw on a shared map. Moving from one numbered chamber to another is easy enough, but the multilevel route seems to twist and connect in unusual ways. Of course, if you live long enough to complete the objective, you’ll also have to find your way back out again.
Unlocking doors is the most tense part of each map. Once triggered, doors sound an alarm, which brings Sleepers running from all over the map. Players have to remain stationary for a biometric scan to take place, but in our Rundown the scan glitched out, spreading scanning positions all around a large room. With the party divided, surviving the onslaught was difficult, especially with limited ammunition.
Our only strategy was to position our tools in such a way as to create bottlenecks and fields of overlapping fire. At one point, the developers have me use my foam to reinforce a door on our left flank. I add a track of sticky foam in front of it to slow down the Sleepers once they break through. That should give us enough time to focus on the enemies streaming in on our exposed right flank. Meanwhile, a fallback position covered by an automated turret becomes our Alamo. Friendly fire is on, so not catching your teammates in the crossfire is always top of mind.
The team at 10 Chambers promises an ever-evolving set of Rundowns. Levels will only be available for a limited period of time before being replaced, never to return. So the game will always be different whenever you come back to it. It will also continue to be brutally hard. Developers say that during a recent large-scale alpha test, only a little over 1.2% of players that attempted the first Rundown made it out alive.
GTFO costs $34.99. There’s no matchmaking system and no friendly AI, so expect to need three friends in order to take on your first mission. 10 Chambers says it has a Discord server with about 80,000 registered fans ready to get started.