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Escape from Tarkov Game review

Revisiting 26 April 2020, 14:06

author: Darius Matusiak

A wannabe fighter pilot, racing driver, and a spec-op; an adventurer and a space marine – hence, a gamer. I’ve been playing games since Wing Commander, and writing since Destiny.

Escape from Tarkov – Difficult Love, Love Nontheless

Escape from Tarkov is still a technical mess after all the years. It makes you more stressed than relaxed, it keeps taking things away, it's completely unpredictable. And yet I still love this game.

The review is based on the PC version.

The gameplay in Escape From Tarkov resembles a visit to a shady neighborhood with an expensive watch on your wrist. A lone inexperienced traveler will go missing without a trace, and a group of battle-hardened hard-liners may also come out battered – if at all. It's a game that doesn't explain any of its complicated systems and mixes lonely rookies with veteran teams armed to the teeth on the same map, not to mention the bugs, trimmed content, and network code in need of patching. Tarkov can be a real frustration simulator – and yet, I can't get enough of it!

Escape from Tarkov – Difficult Love, Love Nontheless - picture #1
Free hugs inside? In Tarkov, every step is dangerous.

Even before the battle royale genre became wildly popular, Escape From Tarkov offered somewhat similar rules, only much more hardcore and authentic. After all, survival is all that matters here, too, and rallies are unpredictable. However, the creators were able to enrich the formula with a far-reaching purpose, making regular gameplay worth it without seasons. Then there's loot, whose value is particularly big. And, most of all, guns – lots of guns. The encounters are incomparably more realistic, engaging, and intense than in all of the competing games. All of this makes winning (i.e. escaping the map) much more satisfying than winning in other games.

WHAT CHANGED SINCE 2017?

  1. old maps were expanded and new maps added: Woods, Interchange, Reserve, The Lab;
  2. a hideout introduced – it's your own base, which you can upgrade, gaining bonuses for your character;
  3. AI bosses were added, with valuable loot;
  4. side quests from vendors were introduced;
  5. there's also a flea market, where players can trade items found on raids;
  6. quality of starting equipment was largely reduced, while quick buying of high-end gear requires much higher level;
  7. a host of new accessories and weapons;
  8. numerous modifications were made to the RPG, survival, and combat systems, such as separate stamina bars for arms and legs.

Gunshots

The sound of gunfire in Escape from Tarkov is like blood in the ocean, except instead of sharks, it attracts veterans looking for easy prey. In green players, on the other hand, it quite often causes virtual paralysis, unheard of elsewhere. Any kind of movement seems a bad idea, especially towards the gunshots. Few games simulate firefight so realistically. One bullet can put anyone down, silenced guns are still very loud (as in reality), and shotguns are effective at medium distance, rather than an arms' length.

Gunplay realism is provided by sophisticated details – accurate aiming down sights, muzzle flare revealing your position, good sound design, lots of ways of controlling posture, guns sticking out of cover. On top of that, we also have various effects of gunshot wounds that require different healing items, which are, of course, scarce. A decent bulletproof vest and helmet can of course help, but they usually just give you an additional split-second to react to an ambush. If an attack doesn't end swiftly, the outcome will be completely unpredictable. Even defeating all enemies’ means nothing if we can't get to the map's exit – the "escape" isn't part of Tarkov's title just for kicks.

Escape from Tarkov – Difficult Love, Love Nontheless - picture #2
EFT lets you play with AI-controlled bots – and that's not common.

THE ONLY RULE IN ESCAPE FROM TARKOV

Tom Clancy's The Division Dark Zones are a good analogy of Escape from Tarkov: optional PvP, loot, and bosses controlled by the AI. But while in the game form Ubisoft, players are often indifferent to each other, or even cooperative, the rule of the day in Tarkov is KOS – kill on sight. Don't count on mercy or help.

With all these mechanics and rules, Tarkov imposes a completely different style of play – careful, slow, quiet, but also completely decisive. I can't count how many times I've been hit by a random bullet – whether through my own stupidity, ignorance; through a thermal scope, sometimes a few feet before the finish line. None of the frustration, however, could kill the satisfaction of first wins against higher-level opponents or reaching the escape zone. In battle royale, emotions climax when there are only three or four players left in the arena – in Escape From Tarkov, the tension persists from the beginning to the end of the ten-minute rally, as soon as we get our main character out on the field.

Escape from Tarkov – Difficult Love, Love Nontheless - picture #3
Geardo paradise – the gunsmith mode!

I'm a geardo, duh

I also return to Tarkov for the loot that can be acquired or unlocked after reaching a certain level. There's no pink skins or even forest or desert camouflage for weapons. Apart from various junk related to grinding or quests, the main equipment – namely weapons and tactical gear – are authentic products of real companies, recreated in the game with remarkable accuracy. So, you're not chasing after stickers and gun charms, but rather real equipment that genuinely changes the way you play.

However, I'm a geardo, a collector of military equipment, so I rate this functionality of the game in a special way. Hence, I love the customization, and stacking as much gadgets as possible on the M4 is for me a game of its own. The Gunsmith mode in Escape From Tarkov is simply second to none, and soon, a similar option is expected to appear for tactical vests. This kind of loot makes it worth going through the potential failures and grinding in rallies.

Escape from Tarkov – Difficult Love, Love Nontheless - picture #4
Quests are but a paragraph long, but they let you learn the game better.

MARKET DAY

"AAAAA... 50 million for entry card!" Another separate minigame is the Flea Market – a type of dealership where player sale items – from a handful of screws to rifles with a set of accessories, and the most expensive items like admission cards to certain rooms. Prices are set by players themselves through demand and supply. When creators gave away certain items on Twitch, their market price dropped significantly. Some even spend more time trading than in the field – buying low and selling high.

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