Disclaimer: For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by the game’s PR team. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this game. The game is also in beta, so the final product may differ to the one I reviewed.
Escape From Tarkov is a “hardcore and realistic online first-person action RPG/Simulator with MMO features and a story-driven walkthrough”. The game is in a closed beta currently, but promises a story driven multiplayer scenario, and an immersive combat experience. With a large world and an in-depth gun customisation menu the game seems promising, but just how good is it?
The game is set in the fictional area of Norvinsk, specifically the Special Economic Zone. In Tarkov, one of the largest cities in the area, one particular company found themselves at the centre of a political scandal. This somehow escalated into war with four armies fighting one another, including UN peacekeepers and two private military companies. The war became so bad that the borders of Tarkov were sealed, leaving those in Tarkov trapped and unable to escape.
The game (currently) follows the two private militaries. BEAR were allegedly employed by the government to uncover evidence of the corporation illegal activities. Whereas USEC, employed by the corporation at the centre of the scandal, are there to stop USEC and hinder the investigation.
In terms of story, that’s all I know so far. I personally have not found anything to explain to me what happened in Tarkov, but that may just be me. It will be interesting to see how this story develops. In all honesty though I don’t think this is a game people will be playing for the story; this one is all about the gameplay.
The gameplay in Escape From Tarkov is above anything else I have played recently. Think of it as an ultra-realistic Dark Zone from The Division. You get in, search the land, loot, kill, get out. The character movement feels fluid and I don’t have any complaints regarding that. The shooting in this game is some of the best I have seen. It feels smooth, and the guns feel like real guns. When you fire then it doesn’t feel like a point and click, you can almost feel it when you fire the gun. The modding of guns is the most in-depth I have personally ever seen. Every element of a gun can be customised to be the exact component you want, but that does come with some negatives which we’ll get around to.
Even the small details were considered. When reloading you can press R to reload as standard. Or, you can double tap R to do a faster reload. The downside of this being that the magazine gets thrown on the floor, inside of placed back inside the tactical rig. With no magazines in the rig it is not possible to reload the gun. So in a firefight this may be a good tactic, but then it’s also important to remember to pick that magazine up from the ground. Then there is the door entry mechanics (or at least that’s what I am calling them). When entering a room you don’t have to simply open the door. You can; open, breach, breach and clear, flash and clear, knock. There are plenty of options. It’s the little things like that that make this game feel so immersive. You feel like you are in control of everything.
Players will encounter other players in the world of Tarkov. These may be in the forms of BEARs or USECs, but players may also encounter Scavs. These are basically civilians of Tarkov that remained behind despite the conflict. Their sole purpose is profit. Player controlled Scavs spawn with a random loadout, and if you escape from Tarkov alive as a Scav you can move the gear you have collected to your main character’s stash to keep. AI controlled Scavs do also exist in the world, which adds to the intensity as you are unsure if the person you are seeing is a fellow gamer or an AI. Even then they may not be friendly.
Now the game has one major downside, as far as I can see. The main issue however being the permadeath element of the game. Anything you take into a raid, you have the ability to lose. When you die, you lose every piece of equipment that was in your possession. Now you can insure items. This allows you the chance to get the items back. That is of course assuming they haven’t been taken by another player. In my case I died, but had my items insured. The NPC I had insurance with sent out one of his men to get the items back for me, assuming they were still there.
However, when I logged on next he had retrieved some of my items but, because I had exceeded the time limit to collect my items, he had sold them on. I can imagine this becoming somewhat irritating, as you would maybe not use your best gun through fear of losing it. I had no issue with permadeath because of the insurance, but I wasn’t given a timeframe when I was messaged by the NPC (in-game) and told that he was going to get my gear. Maybe some form of mobile companion app would help this issue? Or any way that means a player can be aware of exactly when their loot is retrieved? Otherwise the insurance is somewhat pointless.
Overall the gameplay of the game is great, but it does have some minor tweaks that could be made. I had a blast playing it but I can see me losing my good gear, potentially even if I’ve insured it, becoming tedious and annoying.
Visually it’s a stunning game to look at. The audio however is where the game stands out for me personally. While walking through the areas there is just silence, and this means you hear everything. Footsteps and gunshots are easy to hear, and also easy to locate. This is something that is essential to your survival, but is by no means something new to the world of gaming. I honestly don’t have anything I can fault the game on in terms of graphics and audio.
So what are my thoughts on Escape From Tarkov? I personally am really interested to see where this game goes. I do find myself enjoying the game, but the game needs more content first. It’s odd, but the game feels very bare. At this moment in time it feels like a shell, which is weird as the game is in beta so I expected it to be almost fully fleshed out. The game is promising things like auctions for players to bid on gear, and certain areas in the game aren’t even available in beta. There’s also promise of story quests for players to follow, and I feel like once we have this the game will be much more enjoyable. A nice backstory to the looting would really help Escape From Tarkov. I feel like playing this game with friends (at least 1 so you’re a duo), is the way to go. A squad, patrolling the areas and escaping Tarkov would be the ideal experience for this game. It is playable alone, but due to the silence of the wilds it can become somewhat boring rather fast.