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This is possibly one of the hardest to complete games that I have played on the PC. It has nothing to do with the A.I. cheating but it does have to do with the odds being stacked against you, there being no "easy" games for beginners, for example. The designers have decided (at least in the Beta version I am currently playing) to ensure that the atmosphere, sound and vision, are so realistic you become the character you have chosen. Your choices being A Russian PMC of the BEAR factor (PMC = Private Military Company) who are the enemies of the other PMC force, USEC. USEC mainly speak and employ mostly English speaking military contractors. They are employed by the Global Corporation "Terra Group" and apart from keeping TG safe from USEC they also cover up any diverse actions and interactions taken by TG. They work hard to prevent either the local authorities or BEAR operatives gaining intel as well as being the military force for Terra Group. BEAR and USEC are the two playable factions in the game, other than the SCAVS (scavengers).


Once you have decided whether to be a BEAR PMC or a USEC PMC or even a SCAV your character is shown onscreen basically to show you what you look like and what and how interaction with your Inventory and character works; at this point there is little you can do. Probably once Beta testing is over or maybe during it at a later stage, some minor alterations will be allowed so you can customise your chosen hero. If you select either a BEAR or USEC character you will be dropped in a relatively safe starting position in the area of TARKOV City (Norvinsk Province) that you have chosen from the Map (to begin with many places on the map are locked so your choice of entry is quite limited. If you select to play a SCAV then you are dropped randomly and could, as I did on my first foray as a SCAV, be shot on arrival on the scene - I lasted less than 5 seconds, far quicker than I had expected even though one of the messages onscreen as the game was loading says quite clearly that you will die and that anything you have found will be lost when you start again. So prepare to die and don't take it as an affront to your skills or intelligence because the killing shot can come from anywhere; you won't see a muzzle flash or even hear it being fired, just the red mist descending will let you know you are shot - a little doll figure appears in the top left corner to show where and how badly you are hit and this will continue to get worse, bleeding out, unless (I am assuming) you can find a way of bandaging your wounds - not something I have managed yet. This game is so darn realistic it is scary!


As I said, at the moment it is in Beta and some things may change and others will have to change. Several times now I have moved into a position to look at something I thought may be of interest only to find that not only was what I had seen not interesting or indeed a hotspot of any kind, but I couldn't move back out again. It generally takes a manic combination of pressing every direction button and often I find that having my character lay prone it then allows him to move and once he has moved a step or slither away from being stuck he can get up and move freely again.

Before playing the SCAV I began with a USEC character and it was eerie to hear my footsteps on the gravel path - taught me immediately that traveling by grass was possibly less likely to warn the enemy - and on occasion hear voices, in Russian, but not being able to ascertain where they were coming from. My first death was in an underground tunnel when I thought I heard voices behind me. I turned and waited, nothing happened so after a while I moved on and got shot from in front. Next life I was moving around outside the Factory site and high on a building top I saw a guy with a rifle. I took aim but there was no way I could keep the gun-sight steady and so I just rattled off numerous shots until he fell. He never fired back so I assume he couldn't see me as I was kneeling amongst some trees and shrubs. A little while later I was taken out by a similar situation. I got shot but not immediately killed so I ran and looked to see where the shot had come from. Whoever was shooting must have stalked me from a distance because I still never saw it coming when the final bullet ended me. It's a weird sensation.


I spoke of the map earlier and it is on here that you choose which region to start in. You have the Shoreline (Hard), the Woods (Hard) the Factory (Insane) and the Customs (Insane), the other areas such as the Terminal and the Lighthouse are locked when you first visit the map. The game begins with you in the chosen region. There are no street signs, you have no mini-map or guide, you don't know where you are and you have no mission other than, I guess, to survive and escape, though you have no plan and very little help for either. There are some anomalies in movement, such as the first set of iron stairs I found leading up to the top of a building were not accessible to me no matter how I tried to go up them, and then another set of similar stairs allowed me to climb them to a locked and unbreakable door - sometimes you can kick doors or barriers in to allow entry or exit.

Occasionally messages appear in the bottom right hand corner telling me an ability has increased though I don't know if I should do anything about it - most games you get points to add onto a skill or ability or you get to choose a path for that skill/ability to take, but not here - so I just let it ride. I didn't notice that any skill or ability had got particularly better, but then unless you personally train and train and train at something in real life you don't immediately notice the difference.


When I entered the Woods it wasn't the nice bright, sunlit, picnic type place the picture had led me to believe it would be. It was dark, misty and noisy underfoot. I heard some voices and some feet crackling on fallen leaves and twigs but I never saw anyone. At one point I heard some shots but I wasn't hit and there were no trees or anything damaged near me so I assumed that there was a gunfight going on elsewhere and kept moving away from the shots. I did find that I could run through the rough ground between the guard wall and buildings without being seen or making too much noise and in doing so I found a gap in the wall that I otherwise wouldn't have found.

There are the usual frustrations that occur in games like this. Fort example there are many pieces of scenery that are totally non responsive and thus the opposite of the realism the Military side of the game gives. Gas canisters neither blow up when fired at or get scratched or holed by the bullet, same goes for crates and boxes. The game is a puzzle wrapped up in an enigma and sometimes I feel like a rat in a maze. I don't know how I got there, I don't know who I am escaping from or why and I don't know where I am escaping to, again or why? 

As a game to keep players on edge it works tremendously well. You can play solo offline to get the hang of it or you play online not knowing who you are online with. You don't join the Red team or the Blue team, you don't get messages telling you that X has been killed by Y and you get no assistance over your com-set, not even sure you have a com-set to be honest.


It's a game that you could "win" at any time by chance, determination or skillful play, or you could "lose" (die) at any time for or despite the same reasons. 

The one thing that you MUST do every time you play is ensure you have the SOUND ON and LOUD enough for you to HEAR the in-game sounds. This is vitally IMPORTANT for your possible SURVIVAL.


© Chris Baylis 2011-2015