What road to take?
Type: Singleplayer (in theory!)
Developer: 10 Chambers
Publisher: 10 Chambers
Release date: 9 Dec, 2019
My curiosity with GTFO went beyond its rather amusing name. The fantastic debut trailer already had sold me – it gave me a vibe of what I was hoping Aliens Colonial Marines was going to be: a tense, communication-heavy co-op experience.
Now that the game is in my hands, how does it feel?
Precisely like I expected – a unique blend of stealth, action packed shooting ultimately rendering a game that overflows and drowns in its own tension, a remarkably unique experience that, while in Early Access, has insane potential for one of the best co-op experiences I’ve played, should the Rundown system and future content interest its community.
The Elite SoQ Team Prevails!
Gameplay – Tactically Fantastic and Ominous
After a deafening scream confirms you booted the game (I’m not joking), the game presents you with its (rather extensive) options menu, the quit button and finally, the Rundown.
The Rundown is your “Campaign” in GTFO – Rundown 004 is specifically comprised of 8 levels, 2 for each A, B, C and D phases which increase in difficulty (and variety of paths and enemies).
Now you may ask – “Why do you mention Rundown 004 specifically?”
One of the biggest quirks of GTFO in particular is the Rundown system which presents you a set of levels (around a particular theme – the current one being a datacenter), much like a campaign. These sets of levels are available for a set period of real time, usually spanning a few months.
The game released with Rundown 001, after a big update, Rundown 002 was made available, then Rundown 003 and now 004 is available alongside the typical “huge update” that accompanies the new Rundown.
The big problem of the Rundowns is the fact that they are temporary – if you think you can buy the game and play all Rundowns, think again: only Rundown 004 is available which is not new (You can only play the currently active Rundown set of levels). Rundowns work as Seasons, basically – the overall “campaign” theme changes, new content drops and even Rundown SPECIFIC weapons AND gear are available. The awesome semi-automatic Combat Shotgun is, for instance, one of the Rundown specific weapons you can bring with you to the levels. Once the Rundown ends, both these currently active 8 levels and all Rundown specific weapons and gear are removed from the game to make space for a brand new Rundown with its own levels, objectives, weapons and gear.
The Rundown system is unique and rather controversial to say the least. The fact that I’ve personally missed 3 Rundowns is quite disappointing since I can only imagine the variety of both environments and weapons I missed, alongside the fun I would have when playing with friends all the objectives and level themes/layouts I will possibly never get to play again. Rundown 004 is really fun which is what makes it hurt the most. On top of this, I feel like if these 4 Rundowns were still available, the content of the game would be astronomically high to the point I would even argue a solid value at a traditional AAA 59,99€ price tag (it is not – it’s only 34,99€).
It’s not all bad though; I also must point out I like the fact that a brand new Season/Campaign comes along every few months and breathes a lot of life to the game due to the rock-solid tactical gameplay I’ll describe later on, paired with a very dedicated community. The excitement to boot the game again and have a brand new set of levels to explore and be mercilessly murdered in has palpable excitement I bet not many games can beat.
While I understand that the concept of the Rundowns is fresh and is still being tweaked and perfected, I find myself split on my opinion about it as late buyers missed A LOT of content that Early Buyers have had (for free) – it’s not like most Seasons in games where you missed minor updates and a battle pass – you legitimately missed guns and gear you could use, on top of a full campaign.
If that’s fine to you and you still want to buy the game without feeling the need to play previous content, then by all means purchase it but I understand not everyone may be fond of this. It also depends if previous Rundown will even be re-used – maybe through community feedback where previous Rundowns will be remade into a balanced state when Version 1.0 drops, resulting in a “Rundown Collection” release; I’m doubtful of this assumption of mine but I can’t lie as I find that would be an absolutely fantastic content per price ratio not many games can compete with.
Overall, make up your mind about the Rundown system. I find it very unique and I love the idea of it making the game feel fresh every few months – while I’m not totally sold on the idea of previous Rundowns being literally deleted, it’s not something I’m all that bothered with – especially since Rundowns have lots of content tied to them – the game can arguably be worth it just for the current Rundown, honestly.
Moving on to the gameplay itself – GTFO drops you and 3 more friends (the game DOES NOT scale with players – if you’re a party of 2 you might as well quit the game or queue for matchmaking as 2 players will lose faster than you can even aim down the sights of your weapon) on an underground complex level. A main objective is set and you’re off. Crouch down and prepare to stealth as a single noise or mess-up will wake up any sleeping/distracted enemies you may try to stealth through.
And combat isn’t pretty…
GTFO is predominantly supposed to follow a loop of gameplay that usually can be described as stealth past enemies until you need to progress through an alarm-protected passage – activating the passage results in an attack and careful and tactical usage of both your gear, ammo and overall team positioning is CRUCIAL for your survival (not even success, just basic SURVIVAL). Even in the first level you’ll be wiped the first time around frequently unless you’re a veteran and know how the game operates.
Once the main objective is complete, you can return to your starting point to extract or complete side objectives – side objectives have a threat level associated with them (the easiest one being “Hard” – I wish I was kidding). Completing side-objectives will be REQUIRED after a while in the Rundown as certain threat-level objectives must be completed in order to unlock deeper levels of the underground complex of the current Rundown. You can’t beat the entire Rundown with just the basic main objective so personal and team tactical improvements are required because not only will higher difficulties make you sweat bullets and blood out of every orifice but you’ll also die…
Seriously, GTFO is no joke, there is no tutorial at all in the game (a gripe worth pointing out – not even a training range or a gun testing room) so the first time I was still learning how everything worked I got wiped in minutes. The game doesn’t hold your hands at all – if you missed an objective you had to pick up right under your nose you better backtrack to pick it up. More stupidly, items and consumables have NO DESCRIPTION so if you inject yourself with a syringe – don’t abuse it or you may risk reactions or infections you don’t want to get in the middle of a fight; I think there should be some lore or item descriptions or even a bestiary to better understand the game mechanics and universe (or a simple tutorial – anything, really). For a game almost a year into Early Access, I expected something remotely helpful in-game besides a third party wiki/forum post. There is a fine line between “no hand-holding” and simply being frustratingly obtuse and refusing to explain mechanic, in my opinion.
Overall, I do like my hardcore games and GTFO hits a sweet spot of losing but coming back to fight better, stealth better, change tactics and loadouts, understanding level layouts and overall become better and be more patient. It’s a multiplayer experience I consider to be very fresh and replayable due to the variety of gear, random generation of level contents (level layouts are the exact same but loot containers, enemies and objective positions are all random) and overall difficulty that rewards those who stick with the game and learn it. A full team of friends for full communication are heavily recommended but I’ve had a few experiences with randoms and most went positive – what some lacked in brains made up in impeccable aiming and vice-versa. The community is great overall and I never found myself disappointed because someone was toxic or griefing which is brand new for me (I hope it stays that way too).
There isn’t new weapons and gear in the levels so your loadout is all the offense you can bring – you may find some items such as syringes, medpacks or ammo packs but as far as offense is concerned all you have is your loadout: a main weapon (more ammo pool but less effective) and a special weapon (stronger but very small ammo pool – use it for big enemies or last resort situations), a tool (a turret, a scanner, a foam launcher to protect doors or slow enemies, etc.) and a melee weapon (all the same and see to only change cosmetically).
And get ready to use you melee. A lot.
The stealth hardly involves getting past undetected – it rewards instead the silent murder of enemies. Clean, swift and well communicated kill help your success a lot so get ready to sync your hammers and bash 4 enemy head into the floor otherwise you’ll have a nasty horde after you.
Speaking of bashing heads, should you have to go loud or an alarm phase trigger – aim for the head at all times! Body shots are horribly ineffective so scoring a clean headshot is recommended; it’s not an easy task sadly, as enemies move fast and have multiple ways of moving – some crawl, others crabwalk and others simply walk or sprint. Melee or ranged, even the most basic enemy poses a real threat to you so respect the AI and their senses and play seriously at all times, one failed swing or a hasty impatient move can cost your team one life… or all.
Overall, GTFO could have a bit better gunplay in particular – guns have poor reloading animations and some even feel a bit stiff to shoot (hitmarkers are also very distracting) but they feel phenomenal to shoot and I can’t praise how good it feels to survive a shootout after cleaning a horde with well aimed headshots with the DMR (my personal favorite main weapon at the moment). The Rundown system can annoy some people but the current campaign is great and has enough content to warrant a purchase, should you have a few friends to play with (unless you’re fine communicating with randoms in matchmaking).
Yes, matchmaking! Rundown 004 introduces a basic version of matchmaking too – you can’t party with friends and queue, you can only solo queue so you have to queue at the same time with friends if you’re not 4 and need 1 or 2 randoms to complete the lobby. Queueing at the same time has worked for me but I can’t imagine matchmaking staying in this barebones state for very long – an update is much needed.
GTFO is arguably in its best state yet and I have no problems recommending it for the great, tense and tactical-dependent gameplay…
… should you be able to run the game well…
Graphics – Tanky Framerate Ordeals
Being a Unity game, GTFO already was scary to boot and in intense sections it disappoints as hoped – on my aging 1060 6Gb VRAM and i7 7700K, the game will drop to 15-20 FPS for no real reason – hordes are never than big in terms of numbers and there aren’t many effects on the screen at a time – even a friend using a 2070 SUPER was having framerate issues in certain loud combat sections so the game needs a hefty performance update overall.
But how does it look?
Great! It’s not groundbreaking but it’s a really well crafted game – all assets look great, fog and enemies look phenomenal and provide an eerie atmosphere that not many games can even rival. The strength of the game is setting you in the creepy atmosphere of the current Rundown and effectively forcing you to interact with the environment (hacking doors, breaking locks or even using command line arguments to find and query objective items – the computer science engineer in me was crying of joy when I found this for the first time) and using your items to improve any chance of survival you can.
Overall, tension is great due to the solid gameplay, great enemy design and the graphical fidelity of the game only enhance this atmosphere and tension. Gun animations are in need of a big overhaul/improvement as I state before, though.
Grieving Till Finally Over
Lacking any music to speak of, GTFO nails sound effects and overall atmospheric audio cues. Enemy growls, locks breaking or simply alarms going off give a panic and intensity not many games can convey and it’s this pairing of tension through graphical quality (playing with light and darkness, enemy designs, presence of fog and other lighting and graphical effects) and really atmospheric sound design that elevate this game beyond most other cooperative experiences I have had in a long time.
GTFO is easy to recommend if you have money to spare – at 34,99€ it’s a risky buy but if you can convince 3 friends to play with you I can’t recommend enough you all grab it. Despite the Rundown system eliminating significant portions of content, the constant addition of fresh levels, weapons and gear as well as objective and enemy variety are enough to warrant this game the purchase for a long time investment. A gold mine of a game, can’t wait for V1.0.