It’s been a long time coming, but Escape from Tarkov’s Arena mode is finally here. After years of waiting we now have a competitive esports-style FPS game mode that sits alongside the main game. If you liked the idea of Escape from Tarkov’s realism and hardcore elements, but weren’t a fan of extraction shooters. Then this may have been what you’re waiting for. However, in its current state, it still needs a lot of work.
Arena is a tactical competitive FPS game. Currently offering a Team Deathmatch-style mode where you play first to five rounds and must eliminate the other team. If you don’t do that within the time frame and objective spawns which you must quickly – and I mean quickly, too quickly, capture it. If you fail that, then the map gets flooded with Rogues who then hunt you down.
Instead of building a loadout like you would in the main game. You have access to a load of preset loadouts. Split between various playstyles like CQB, Assualt, Scout, and Marksman. Each one offers a different style of approach to your fights. Whether you prefer the up-close action of CQB or Scout with shotguns and SMG’s. Or longer-range engagements with Marksman and Assault. There are a decent number of choices.
At the moment there is only a competitive mode rather than a casual playlist. Which seems like it should’ve been the other way around. Additionally, there are two ranked modes – Shootout which is a 2v2 or 3vs3 mini tournament. And Teamfight, a 5vs5 team elimination mode. With 5 maps to play on, there is an ok amount of variety here. So what is good and what is bad about it?
If you just to play Tarkov but can’t be bothered with the fiddly stash, sorting your loadouts every raid, and all that stuff then this is a good way to jump in and play. You don’t have to worry about loot. You can just load straight into a game and then pick the guy you want to fight with.
A good way to learn
It’s also a really good way to quickly learn some of the mechanics of the game like healing and other items like that. Additionally, you can get a taste for the gunplay all without having to risk any real loot you might have if you own the survival part of the game.
Tarkov has always felt satisfying when getting kills. Clicking on digital heads releases that hit of dopamine and you want to keep getting that. With the quick turnaround in matches, you don’t have to worry about the pain of starting another raid. You’re back in almost straight away and having fun shooting.
There are some clear issues with how the game is right now. That being said, I’ve still enjoyed what I’ve played so far. As a game offering a quick and easy way to play Tarkov I like it.
This one seems kind of baffling. There is VOIP in the game, but it’s completely proximity. Meaning not only can your enemies hear you talking. But if you’re not close to your teammate they won’t hear a word you say. As this is meant to be a tactical FPS you need to be able to communicate with your team. Not being able to do that seems mad.
Just looking at the loadouts you can unlock I can see this quickly becoming very unbalanced. There doesn’t seem to be a tier-based matchmaking at the moment. Which means you could end up being matched with someone who has unlocked the top-tier weapons whilst you’re running around with a basic loadout. You don’t stand a chance. I’m already going up against players who are a few tiers ahead of me and therefore have much better loadouts.
Maps too busy
Many of the maps have so many corners to check, and places to peak out from there is just no way you can cover all the angles either on your own or as a team. Which in turn makes some of the deaths feel rubbish. You don’t necessarily get outplayed all the time you just couldn’t look at the eight different angles quickly enough as you rounded that corner and the enemy was peaking from the 7th one.
Your team’s loadout
Currently, there is no way to know what your team has picked until you’re in a match. You could be spending 140k on your loadout as you really want to get this win. But then as soon as you’re in the match you look around and could see your team has all picked the basic or free ones. Chances are you’re not winning this match.
Ugh, how are there still load times of 4 minutes and more. Come on. At least let us choose our loadouts during this time.
Red vs Blue
The only way to tell who is on your team is the coloured armband you wear. Red or blue. Sometimes you’re on a red team sometimes you’re on blue team. If you forget, the only way to tell is to bring up your inventory and have a quick look. In my opinion, you should always be the blue team. The game should’ve been designed so that the enemy always shows as red, and you always show as blue.
Not only that but how do we determine who is who when you can’t see the armband? We get it Tarkov is meant to be hardcore and realistic. But if a head peaks over some cover 50 metres away how do I know who that is? I can’t talk to them to confirm because there is no Team VOIP. So what do you do? Risk the team kill?
With all these restrictions on chat, comparing loadouts, and obfuscation of armbands it doesn’t feel very team-based. I just can’t see it being a fun experience if you’re trying to grind ranks as a solo queue player. You’re going to be at such a disadvantage to stacks of teams.
Arena is meant to be some kind of meta in-game lore tournament thing where PMC’s compete against each other whilst others watch on for entertainment. Because of that, there is an announcer that shouts out during your matches. He’s louder than the VOIP channel. Did your teammate just say something to you whilst the announcer was babbling some nonsense? Well, unlucky, because you heard nothing.
How will it fare in the future?
I know we’re at the very early stages of Arena. However, this part of the game has not only been in the works for years. We also have over 5 years of active Escape for Tarkov data around builds, meta’s, best loadouts, best armour and all of that. So how this already looks so unbalanced is just madness. Some loadouts don’t even give you painkillers. So don’t go getting shot in the leg or your round is not going to be fun. How we have loading times of up to 5 minutes on maps this small is crazy.
In its current state, I can’t see how this could be a competitive esports game. As I’ve said I have enjoyed playing it. But I know I will only ever play it casually when I fancy a quick game or two. To me, there are way too many obvious oversights and I know that BSG can be pretty stubborn with how they want the game to be. So I’d be surprised if a lot of them remained pretty much as is.