When all its pistons are firing, Escape From Tarkov is a profoundly affecting experience. Having never experienced combat in real life, it’s hard to judge Tarkov’s success in depicting warfare realistically. That said, it’s equally hard to deny that the people over at Battlestate Games have constructed a thoroughly convincing facsimile.
In Tarkov, you could find yourself in a desperate, messy firefight in the woods, narrowly manage to put down a handful of Scavs hunting for the contents of your packs, then drag yourself, bleeding and stumbling, to an exfil point and your only hope of escape. And then you could discover that only 3,000 roubles will buy you passage, and you’re rather cash-strapped at the moment. You could keep searching for a way out, or perhaps for medical supplies, but you’d know deep down it’s hopeless. You could walk, you could lie down, the result is the same: you bleed to death, alone and afraid in some godforsaken pocket of the Russian Northwest. And that’s precisely why Escape From Tarkov is playing at something exceptional.
- What is Escape From Tarkov? A hardcore survival shooter with various genre influences, including battle royales and MMOs. Players take on the role of Scavs and ex-PMCs in the fictional Russian city of Tarkov, battling for resources and the chance to escape.
- Reviewed on: PC
- Price: $44.99
- Developer: Battlestate Games
- Publisher: Battlestate Games
- Release Date: July 28, 2017 (Closed Beta)
- Website: https://www.escapefromtarkov.com/
- Multiplayer: Online
There is No Escape
Similar to another Russian game, Pathologic, Escape From Tarkov establishes an oppressive atmosphere of desperation and peril. Indeed, Tarkov sometimes feels more like a survival horror game than a military shooter. Creeping through the woods on a moonlit night, dreading what the shadows might hide, feeling eyes bore into you at every turn. Out of context, what genre would fit that description? Furthermore, you must manage your hunger, thirst, fractures, bullet wounds (jamming morphine and whatnot into your arm doesn’t suddenly piece your bones back together, funnily enough), etc., if you want to get out alive. On top of the constant danger and your character’s inherent fragility, the story (flavor might be a better word) is fittingly depressing.
There are no attempts to paint your actions as heroic or daring. The violence at play serves no greater cause, none of the sacrifices made contribute to any noble endeavor, none of the suffering bears any meaning whatsoever. You’re a maggot feeding off of some humongous dying beast, and the best you can hope for is survival. Now, all of this is not to say that Tarkov wants for thrills. In fact, I felt palpable tension and adrenaline from a simple sequence: filling a Scav’s guts with buckshot, scrambling to loot his corpse, and sprinting for the exit. Moments like that, or serendipitously discovering a lighthouse exfil 30 seconds before being declared MIA, surpass many High Octane Action Game™ set-pieces with regards to the thrill factor.
Escape From Beta
Excitement aside, and moving forward, it would be nice to see some tweaks and additions. For all my talk of immersion, the game doesn’t always deliver on that front. Too common is a bug where NPC Scavs will run in place, stuck on the environment, unable to be shot or interacted with whatsoever. Furthermore, load times can spike considerably, and even after updating my drivers, multiple raids took longer than ten minutes to load (and sadly, a few of those ended quicker than they’d begun…). Additionally, to chime in on a mini-controversy around the game: Battlestate, just add playable female character models.
Especially knowing that DLC is planned, and particularly with Russia’s history of women serving in the armed forces, this is a failure to prioritize effectively. And with all these Scavs running around, many of whom are desperate civilians from Tarkov, you’re telling me not one of them is packing an extra X Chromosome? Unlikely.
Finally, the game is begging for a tutorial; everything from essential details like the key to check your ammo (no HUD to keep track for you) to basic controls for central mechanics like trading goes unexplained. The game is hardcore enough without forcing people to find vital information on YouTube.
High Ground View
Escape From Tarkov is a genuinely promising title. You don’t need me to tell you that, considering the way it’s exploded onto Twitch, or the way gaming outlets are churning out articles about it (guilty as charged). But to offer a more idiosyncratic point: there’s something weirdly satisfying about successfully killing multiple assailants, only to bleed out minutes later. Then, of course, there’s the visceral thrill of hearing rounds from a submachine gun chew up the concrete at your feet, scrambling to cover, pinpointing your enemy’s position, then flanking and neutralizing your foe with a hail of bullets. And once you’ve scurried back to your hideout, there’s an absorbing process of inventory management, trading, and weapon modification waiting for you.
It will certainly take some work between now and release for Tarkov to reach its full potential. That said, and unlike in the fictional, eponymous city, there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic.