GTFO Review – The Great Escape

Turtle Rock Studios helped define the co-op squad-based genre with Left 4 Dead and its recently released spiritual successor, Back 4 Blood. 10 Chamber Collective is a small group of former payday developers, no doubt inspired by the critically acclaimed zombie killing series. In fact, the studio’s first project, GTFO, was Payday’s encounter with Left 4 Dead, but the learning curve was quite dangerous. GTFO’s satisfying mix of tactical action and all-encompassing restlessness may appeal to FPS fanatics eager for a thrilling challenge. Now that its two-year Early Access period is over, the 10 Chamber Collective’s survival horror shooter may appeal to a wider audience. So, how does the full version of the game hold up? Despite the repetitive loops, GTFO subtly differentiates itself from its predecessors, while still being an approachable thrill ride.

My team of four was captured by an entity called “The Warden” who forced us into an underground facility called “The Complex” to retrieve various items that would help unravel the devastating viral engulfment The truth of the earth. Obviously, GTFO’s best quality is its repressed tone. Rundown 6.0, the latest in the series of expeditions available, is an all-out assault on the senses. From the claustrophobia at the start of each mission to the intricate layout of The Complex’s labs and excavation sites, every component of GTFO’s gameplay is filled with high-stakes tension. Early expeditions (increasing difficulty listed by letter grade AD) offer vague tutorial details – locating a target, heading to a designated area, surviving an alarm door scan. When I got into The Complex, these tutorials were almost non-existent. Flesh, grotesque humanoids, sensitive to light and sound, and sleeping in the dark. Any sudden movement or mis-pressing of the flashlight could lead to a doomsday scenario. I appreciate these strict restrictions. Clear communication and suite experimentation feel more satisfying this way, especially as higher-level extraction becomes more difficult.

I spent a lot of game time preparing for the upcoming expedition. Load balancing is critical in GTFO, and it’s a good thing that each prisoner can be equipped with two firearms, a melee weapon, a heavy tool, and double-blade buffs called “boosters.” GTFO rewards stealth and meticulous planning, so I usually take down unwitting “sleepers” quietly with a knife, while also referencing my bio-tracker tool to keep track of enemy locations. Other gear includes blunt weapons and cool gadgets like foam launchers to slow down rampaging targets/closed door glues or automatic sentries to hit pesky flanks with tungsten rounds. Enhancements, such as increased damage and specific resistances, make each prisoner feel like a one-man army. Conquering monsters with synchronized melee attacks to build a solid defense to take out incoming opponents is no easy task. Even so, GTFO’s different squadrons of parts suddenly feel like well-oiled machines when every player is focused and using the equipment efficiently.

Starting an expedition with friends is the best way to experience terrifying chaos, as evidenced by GTFO’s team-centric exploration mechanics. I’ll share medical kits and ammo scattered all over the map with less fortunate companions – a shotgunner always getting hit on the front line, or a sniper in the distance always running low on ammo. Plus, the tools work well together. Mines deployed on foam gateways will wipe out entire armies, allowing teams to conserve resources for creatures with larger health pools. Shouting in unison as the hordes crawled into a once-empty room, they were relieved when the team somehow emerged unscathed in one of my favorite GTFO moments.

I just wish there was more to do. It becomes tiresome to search a mostly pitch-dark environment to collect artifacts (boosters) or locate distant terminals and other tedious targets. A range of enemy types with worm-like appendages, energy blasts, and tentacle wings keep the action fresh early on. However, when you memorize the important coordinates, most of the terrible magic is stripped away. Some interesting environmental puzzles appeared in the command console (interactive parser), allowing me to search and ping important items like keycards. But experienced players often ignore these computers, rendering them useless in most situations. And when paired, trolls and/or quitters make the game infuriating on hours-long expeditions. Rundown 6.0 implements competent bots that can give commands and benevolent checkpoints to help solve these problems. However, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing an excited stranger queue up for a D-Class mission, intent on killing their entire team. Seeking success is downright punishing if you don’t have a dedicated team.

GTFO may get stale the more time I put in, but 10 Chamber Collective’s run-down update features like seasons and promises to introduce new levels and primary/secondary objectives in the coming months. The shootout leaves a lot to be desired, as the catalogue of assault rifles, submachine guns, pistols, and shotguns feels the same, but the stealthy runs planned with everyone else are satisfying. The screeching of the enemy during the engagement was eerie, while the dark and intricate background restricted the view and kept me on my toes. GTFO is not for the faint of heart. Still, the fear of death means re-strategizing and improvising is commonplace, a disappointing metagame that most co-op shooters don’t feel like these days. If you’ve been craving a FPS that will test your critical thinking and mechanical skills, GTFO might be the perfect hidden gem to satisfy that ravenous hunger.