GTFO Early Access Impressions: Scratch Your L4D Itch
You know the feeling in Left 4 Dead 2, when the music changes a small amount and you start to hear the faint sound of crying? You turn off your flashlights and start moving a little more carefully, as blundering into the witch could start a chain reaction that prematurely ends your current run. That feeling is with you for the entirety of each session of GTFO.
This grimy horror-shooter from developer 10 Chambers Collective features deadly monsters, a creepy setting, and requires teamwork and strategy to find success. It's challenging without being unfair, and it's perfect for those who have a dedicated group of gaming friends.
GTFO is still very early in the Early Access period, but it's shaping up to be a great addition to the horror shooter genre.
In GTFO, you and up to three other players are prisoners who have been sent underground to find lost artifacts. Maps basically stay static, but lots of placements are randomized. You can't go into a round knowing where tricky enemy spawns are located or where you'll be able to pick up key items.
What you can do, however, is outfit your character however you see fit before you drop in. There are no unlockables (at this point in time) - every available items and weapon are open for you to build your loadout from the first time you start the game. There are "roles" that players can fill, but you'll probably need to be able to fill several different roles on your team throughout any given mission.
Enemies are deadly in GTFO, but you've got a lot of tricks up your sleeves as well. It'll be interesting to see how the loadout options evolve as the game moves further into development.
Welcome to Hell
Though it seems very comparable to Left 4 Dead, GTFO definitely stands apart from the zombie killing shooter. It is much more focused on stealth, strategy, and communication. If you fly into the unknown of GTFO without a plan other than "guns a-blazing", you're probably not going to find much success.
Each session sees you and your squad dropping deep underground, creeping through dark tunnels infested by horrifying creatures. You are given objectives that require you to open paths, sneak past or kill creatures, and ultimately escape while watching each others' backs.
The game is harrowing and difficult. It is definitely the sort where linking up with one bad player (bad in either skill or attitude) can absolutely kill a session. If you find the right squad, GTFO is an absolute blast every time.
The feeling of elation you get when a coordinated plan works -- when everyone does their job just right and you succeed by the skin of your teeth -- is one of the best dopamine rushes you can find in gaming. That's what makes these sorts of games so worth the time.
Just as entertaining is when your plan goes horribly wrong and everyone has to start improvising; GTFO will make you panic, as it is nearly impossible for things to go off without a hitch. Sometimes things will work out when this happens. Other times, things won't. As long as you're playing with a fun group, both of these scenarios are okay.
Unlike the massive waves of overall weak enemies that you encounter in Left 4 Dead, foes in GTFO are much more dangerous. Your party won't die against one or two, but they can do lots of damage can get you confused and freaked out. That's when the real fun starts.
The best strategy in GTFO tends to be staying quiet and unnoticed for as long as possible. You'll want to accumulate as many supplies, explore as much of the floor as possible, and get a grip on your choke points and escape routes before you start firing off your heavy artillery. Naturally, GTFO will do everything it can to prevent you from doing this.
Some doors set off loud, clanging alarms, bringing foes running from all over the place. Many hallways loop back on themselves, leading alternate paths for enemies to flank you from. The odds are very much not in your favor.
The old tabletop-RPG mantra about "never splitting the party" rings true here. Generally, sending someone off on their own is a last resort that will almost never work.
There are terminals scattered throughout the map as well, and they offer a tricky way to learn all about the map. Only one player can use them at a time, and you have to type commands like you would on a DOS prompt to pry information out of them.
This all happens in real time, meaning you're trying to remember the commands for the terminal while your fellow players are gunning down swarms of enemies.
Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
Communication is paramount in GTFO.
Even a few seconds here or there can mean the difference between life and death for your squad, so having everyone on the same page is necessary.
There are a few tools that really help with this: the map in particular stands out as useful in this regard. You can draw on it in real time, and several landmarks (like doors) are labelled so you can easily direct everyone where you need to go.
Again, this is why having a reliable group to squad up with makes or breaks GTFO. Most of the people I've encountered are happy to help, and the general pecking order shakes out pretty easily. Just like any online game, however, you can't always assume that will happen.
Ready for Prime Time?
There's a lot of polish on the graphics, atmosphere, and gameplay in GTFO. There is very little in the way of options, which is the unfortunate side effect of being in Early Access.
There is currently no in-game matchmaking, forcing you to head to Discord or gather a group of friends every time to jump in. There are also no AI teammates, and the difficulty doesn't appear to scale for smaller squads.
This makes GTFO not really newbie-friendly at this point in time. It's tough to learn the game's systems enough to feel comfortable playing online (where you might be a liability, or fodder for toxic teammates) without skill-based matchmaking or a better way to explore.
There are some solid surprises in GTFO, but beginners often won't make it too far in before they are killed and have to restart. Hopefully, this is a section of the game that is quickly addressed.
GTFO looks like it's going to be a winner and, if you've got a group of friends who are all in on this style, it's a slam dunk. If you're unsure you'll be able to get people you know in game and are uncomfortable trying to coordinate with others via Discord, you may want to wait a bit until development has come along more.
The developer have made some big promises regarding where GTFO is headed - plenty of new maps and challenges, periodic additions of equipment, etc. If GTFO can continue to move forward while also developing those quality of life improvements, it could become a must have.