Escape from Tarkov (PC) Preview

By Tomas Barry 14.10.2017

Review for Escape from Tarkov on PC

Although survivalist, elimination-based shooters, from DayZ to Battlegrounds, are all the rage, there's a more raw and visceral edge to Battlestate Games's Escape from Tarkov, that helps distinguish it from the crowd. Set in the fictional war-torn state of Tarkov, which sits between Russia and central Europe, this gritty multiplayer first-person-shooter has an unfamiliar blend of different mechanics, and frames them with a more authentic concept of risk versus reward than is usual in this genre. In Escape from Tarkov, there are no reliable safeguards against death, meaning that everything on your person, every piece of gear the player has chosen to take along, or has scavenged during the session, will be lost. This hard-line approach, which is seldom embraced in these multiplayer experiences to quite this extent, really does accentuate the sense of peril players feel as they navigate large-scale environments, and try to make it to an extraction point alive.

Battlestate Games has been working on this project for some time, now. It was first made available in closed alpha form at the end of 2016, while the closed beta has been going since July 28th of this year. Escape from Tarkov is one of those games that requires a lot of patience and persistence, as well as good self-control. It leans towards a simulative experience, more so than any other elimination-based shooter of its kind, but as such, despite its punishing nature, each session feels like an exciting chance to learn things and develop better ideas and tactics, especially on how to react to another player's presence. There's so much going on, not just in terms of survival elements, but also in terms of potential player tactics, that it might seem like an impossible task, at least until its several layers begin to sink in.

Screenshot for Escape from Tarkov on PC

There's very little hand-holding here, so being dropped into a map with no gear and no clue, at least on the first few occasions, is a very intimidating experience. The threat of death, and of losing all your gear, is always at the forefront of the player's mind. In fact, the developers expertly play on this anxiety, evoking a near-constant sense of paranoia, especially as one carefully walks down that last corridor before the extraction point, with footsteps reverberating around, and with just a minute of time remaining! Unlike similar titles, in Escape from Tarkov, players must make it to an exit to bank their loot, which is a more realistic sequence of events, and more reflective of a real operation than is usually the case. And of course, this adds an insane amount of pressure to each session, and seriously amps up the adrenaline factor in a conflict.

Beyond getting caught in a firefight, players need to keep an eye on elements such as hydration, nutrition and exhaustion, and even monitor and manage any injuries sustained, via a surprisingly in-depth and realistic recovery system. There's so much to get to grips with, in fact, and such a significant amount of trial and error involved whilst coming to understand these mechanics, that players expecting a fluid experience instantly may well feel quite deterred. That's a shame though, because once the steep learning curve of Escape from Tarkov is in the past, it's probably difficult to return to the more mundane likes of Call of Duty, where the player's lives just don't carry the same sense of purpose and value.

Screenshot for Escape from Tarkov on PC

However, in the absence of any in-game tutoring, or of any introduction providing a more substantial instant-grounding in its mechanics, the only real option for players is to trawl through the official sites for the relevant helpful topics. While everyone is free to access this community-sourced help, one would prefer not to have to resort to this. The level of depth offered by Escape from Tarkov will no doubt hook those looking for such complexity in a multiplayer first-person shooter, but by the time it reaches full release, there needs to be a more organic way for these elements to be understood and interpreted. Should a player have a friend to pair up with, who can explain mechanics such as how to heal a wound, as and when those issues arise, then it's no doubt going to be an addictive experience right off the bat. However, it seems unfair that the lone wolves are put at a disadvantage.

With all that said, there is some leeway. As well as the primary character choice of an American USEC or Russian BEAR mercenary, players can also enter the world as a scavenger, with a less powerful, seemingly random set-up, whose lives will be gambled much more readily. This seems good for individual players looking for big pay-outs, or aiming to safely and gradually haul in useful loot and gear. They can also see how many other players are currently present, which sometimes will disappoint, since not every server is as populated as it could be. However, once the main mechanics are properly understood, heading out as a scavenger isn't a particularly appealing option. The only other helpful tool Battlestate Games affords learners is the ability to hop into maps offline, which is something everyone should make use of first.

Screenshot for Escape from Tarkov on PC

The raid sessions themselves last anywhere between an hour and ninety minutes, with an average of about twelve to sixteen players, plus the AI scavengers to contend with. In maps with plenty of open spaces, such as Forest, it's a seriously engrossing experience - flickering from being alone to suddenly hearing a skirmish down the hill, or worse yet, hearing a bullet flicker, really gets the adrenaline going. This is when Escape from Tarkov is at its best, though it seems clear that small parties of two or three have the most fun, since they can assess each conflict situation more efficiently, which often come down to whether you can locate the enemy before the reverse. In the more close quarter maps, such as Factory, things get incredibly tense and in order to survive you absolutely must have some honed skills. Good armour and the rest helps too. There is also a substantial skills tree, with metabolism, stress resistance and memory factors, to name just a few, illustrating how deep all these elements seem to get!

From a graphical point of view, Escape from Tarkov looks brilliant, with lots of neat details such as the individual stems of plants being squashed one by one as players crawl through the grass, a detail which make it feel very cutting edge. While the range of environments isn't too imaginative, there's no doubt it's one of the best looking first-person shooters around. In addition, the sound seems to be top class, particularly the way that everything reverberates so accurately at close quarters, from footsteps, even down to droplets of water landing in nearby puddles. Playing with headphones really highlights the quality of the sound, and it's an integral sensory tool for detecting others (so be quiet yourself!). In combination, the visuals and audio certainly pack a visceral punch.

Screenshot for Escape from Tarkov on PC

Final Thoughts

The game's raw difficulty and lack of tutoring means that it may take some time for the penny to drop, but once absorbed, Escape from Tarkov shows itself to be a very ambitious and addictive experience with huge potential. While the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield seem to have long ago lost the ability to titillate with truly fresh ideas, fans of those series will find themselves drawn to the visceral experience here - if they can fathom its complex survivalist mechanics. While it's routed in realistic combat the way Arma 3 is, it's more about small teams (of two or three) and stealth tactics, rather than anything of grander or more explosive style, like Battlegrounds. That said, because of the cost of death and the fantastic atmosphere the visuals and audio strike up, Escape from Tarkov is quite the adrenaline rush, with vast potential if its community can be substantially grown and more content injected. This is definitely one to watch.




Battlestate Games


First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


There are no replies to this preview yet. Why not be the first?


Comments are currently disabled

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?

There are 1 members online at the moment.