Looter Shooters are nothing new, I’ve been playing them for several years. The Division, Destiny, Warframe and Borderlands are all games I’ve enjoyed. Additionally, there are plenty more good examples that I’ve not played. Up until now, I’d have told you Destiny was my favourite. However, these past couple of months, it has dawned on me that there is a much greater looter shooter out there. One that provides the quintessential loot satisfaction that we crave. I’m sure many will disagree with me and some will even say that it’s not a looter shooter, but I don’t care. Escape from Tarkov is the best looter shooter.
I first played Escape from Tarkov around 2 years ago. I’d seen people playing it on YouTube and thought it looked fantastic. That being said, when I did first play it, I never considered it to be a looter shooter. It’s not that I thought it wasn’t, more that I hadn’t thought about it. However, now that I do, it clearly slots into that genre.
You start with minimal gear, enter a raid, try to complete missions, or kill AI and players, get the loot from then and get out. Tarkov is all about the loot and there is no greater feeling than stumbling across that thicc boy stuffed full of guns, ammo and other treasure. Obtaining loot in Tarkov is a unique experience. Even once you have some stowed in your backpack you still don’t really have it. You still need to make it out of the raid alive.
Take this recent example as a perfect case. I was doing a Scav run – which is where you essentially take control of one of the AI Scavs with minimal loot and then play normally. I was on the Woods map, making my way towards an exit when ahead of me perched on a rockface I noticed a player twitching around. He clearly hadn’t spotted me and was aiming over me into the logging area behind me. I crept up to the cliff armed only with a pistol and proceeded to shoot at him. Some how I manged to take him down – he looked well geared from his appearance and should have dealt with me swiftly. It wasn’t until I searched his body that I fully realised the booty I’d just ‘won’. A fully kitted out M4A1 with a night vision scope, one of the biggest backpacks in the game, and some of the best gear I’d seen in the game. I’d easily just found over 600k worth of loot. For reference, I started the game with about 250k, and my most expensive gun to this point was worth about 70k. He was stacked! The adrenaline not only from taking him down, but also from finding this much loot was overwhelming. I was literally shaking.
I still needed to make it out though. I knew the exit was about 300 metres away. I could run for it but running makes a lot of noise. Instead I creep along through long grass and bushes. Taking my time to listen for anything nearby. After what felt like I lifetime I made it to the exit and successfully extracted.
To someone who hasn’t played the game that might not sound like a big deal. But after 10s of hours of playing I’d never seen so much good stuff in one place. I’d never felt so ‘rich’ and that M4 is still sitting in my inventory waiting to be used.
You see, the thing with Tarkov is that as rewarding as it is to get that loot, it’s equally as bad to lose it. The guy I killed could’ve been just like me, fairly low level, just got their hands on good loot, then just like that it’s all gone. The risk vs reward plays a huge part in the game. You know that by taking better guns and armour with you on a raid will give you more survivability. Equally though, you could quite easily lose all that in the blink of an eye. In Tarkov they call it gear fear. Where you have nice gear to use but are too afraid of losing it so don’t.
To make a looter shooter good, you need the looting aspect to feel good. With Tarkov it’s unrivalled. In most other looter games, you get new weapons and gear drop for you by completing missions, handing in quests, bounties and grinding for the best stuff in game. With Tarkov however, a lot of it is based on a mixture of skill and luck. Skill comes from knowing the maps, knowing where good loot can spawn, where enemies patrol. Furthermore, knowing where players spawn, where they can exit. Also having a good aim is quite important. All of this plays a part in the skill of the game. The luck comes in to play with what you might find on other players or scavs, whether an area has been looted before you.
Escape from Tarkov isn’t an easy game. You will get sniped from someone you’ve never seen. An AI scav will 180 no scope you in the face as you try and creep up on them. Other players are probably better than you – sorry, it’s just how it is. If you play with a friend be sure to have good comms otherwise you will shoot your friend (sorry Ross).
However, when you do find a good piece of loot it feels a lot more rewarding to me than other games. In Tarkov I feel like my loot is more earned. Sure, you can buy weapons, ammo and armour from vendors and the flea market. But that’s no fun and usually comes with an inflated price. The challenge of getting loot in Escape from Tarkov is what makes the game fun and ultimately what makes the feeling ever more enjoyable when you’re successful.
Some of my most satisfying extractions from a raid haven’t been when I’ve got loads of kills, quite the opposite. When you’ve come under a lot of fire, taken a few hits, used all your bandages and painkillers and are limping your way to an exit. That can be the most satisfying. Just getting out alive with what little you’ve managed to scrounge can be just as fun.
Escape from Tarkov has been a labour of love for the developers. It’s been slow, but steadily it’s becoming an excellent video game.