GTFO Early Access Impressions (V 0.1)
At the 2016 Game Awards a game from the core developers of Payday 2 (one of my favourite co-op games at the time) got announced. That game is GTFO and it promises to deliver that tense, challenging co-op action that Aliens Colonial Marines failed to deliver on so many levels. But does it actually live up to those lofty expectations that I have set for myself?
Aliens: Colonial Marines hurt me in a way no other game has before. It promised a thrilling first person co-operative experience that has you holding out against hordes of the unstoppable Xenomorphs. A tense action game in which death could come quickly. However, when it came out we got a buggy, broken, dull mess of a game that at its very best was mediocre.
To get a few things out of the way; GTFO is currently in Early Access and things can change overtime. At the time of writing; GTFO has no in-game voice chat or matchmaking system in place. Instead it’s encouraged to go in with your friends or join the developer’s Discord server which is kitted out with a ton of voice chat rooms and LFG chats for each region. Whilst this might not be ideal for most people, the communicative nature of the game does benefit from using the LFG, regardless. Although, matchmaking is currently being worked on.
The basics of GTFO are simple; you get dropped into the Complex, Gears of War drop pod style, and get told to complete an objective. There’s little guidance and you have to figure out where things are. All you are told is to retrieve something and a rough area of where it is. Where is that? How do you get there? That’s up to you to figure out. Use the terminals, avoid waking the sleepers, complete your objective and Get The F**k Out!
However, it’s not simple. In fact, it’s really bloody hard. It’s one of the most difficult games I’ve played in a long time, requiring perfect communication and strategy to survive. Ammo is rare, enemies hit hard, and there is a lot of them. When you finally get through a level, which can go on for more than a lengthy hour and a half, you feel like you actually earned it.
With the limited resources, stealth takes a huge role in GTFO‘s core gameplay loop. You have to take out as many enemy Sleepers with a swift hammer to the head without waking them up. Whenever a Sleeper lights up this means they are aware of your presence, but you are still safe to move however. Whenever they start pulsing and making noises, everyone nearby has to stay perfectly still. Things get a bit more interesting when they are grouped up and you have to coordinate with your groups to take them out at the same time. It’s tense and exciting, but can get a bit repetitive with how often you will need to deploy stealth in a single mission.
To make things more difficult, it can also be hard to see. May it be through the pitch black darkness that engulfs entire rooms in the complex to the thick mist that makes it almost impossible to see mere feet in front of you. It’s entirely possible you could be standing next to a sleeper and not really know it. Your weapon mounted flashlight will work, but that same flashlight is what triggers the sleepers around the map. It’s overall level design and use of low visibility makes GTFO one of the most atmospheric games I’ve played in a while. This isn’t a game where you can run around popping off headshots. All of this is helped by the fantastic volumetric fog and lighting effects that are simply stunning.
When you aren’t sneaking around, taking out enemies, and exploring rooms for supplies, you will come to giant security doors. Reinforced doors that the enemies can’t break through, but also can’t be closed. Once activated, these doors will trigger an alarm that you need to stop by running to specific points in the room and standing still for a few seconds. Yeah, this is a weird one that needs an alternative, but serves an important gameplay purpose. It tests your co-ordination and defenses as a group. Being able to split attention between defending against the horde of sleepers and disarming the alarm. It’s an exciting stretch of gameplay that makes all the creeping around worth it. Before activating the security doors, you will need to secure the area and set up a plan. Placing automated turrets at key entry points whilst using C-Cannon/Grenades to re-enforce doors or slow enemies down, for example. Your squad needs to control the action before the horde overwhelms you.
There’s a lot of strategy and depth with plenty of decisions that you need to consider. Do you explore the optional side rooms in hopes for more resources at the risk of losing even more? Or do you play it safe for as long as possible, avoiding the optional rooms, but possibly screwing yourself over in the long run? It’s a balancing act where every decision could lead to a greater reward or your team’s death. Unfortunately, the randomised resources can be a bit stingy; repeatedly giving us fog repellents and point blank refusing us ammo, tool refills, and health-packs for a long time.
My first successful run in the rundown was with a group of random players I met on the Discord. One other member of the team was a first-timer like me, whilst the others were introducing us to the game. It was a run of terror and communication. I placed myself in control of the bio-scanner, allowing me to see the enemies positions and just how screwed we were before the team. The other members had your standard machine gun and shotgun turrets whilst the final guy had the glue cannon which can lock doors, giving us room to breathe.
Making our way through the dark and dilapidated complex, we started slowly stealth killing everyone we came across; occasionally using guns to take down anything if things kicked off. It was going well. Eventually things went to hell and we were forced to retreat, closing doors behind us until we were somehow split up and two of the other players went down. Down to my last shotgun shell, I took down the remaining enemy and proceeded to revive the other two members. Things went well after this, clearing out rooms with precision and making use of the scanner to ensure we don’t wake up too many enemies. Eventually we made our way to the final objective, desperately sprinting back to the start with all sorts of monsters chasing us. It was some of the most exciting gameplay that I’ve ever experienced in a co-op shooter and best of all, this was just with randoms I met on Discord.
That successful run was only on Level A1, which is basically the tutorial. Even being the level to introduce you to the game, it’s brutal and doesn’t hold your hand. I passed it on my second co-operative run barely making it out alive. Moving on to the B1/2 levels things get even harder with sprawling levels and a larger amount of enemies to deal with, even bringing in new enemy types. The further down the rundown you go, the harder it gets. Another thing, new Rundowns are promised to be released on a semi-regular basis hopefully keeping the game fresh and exciting.
What actually surprised me the most about GTFO is how polished the game actually is despite being in Early Access. The game runs pretty well even when everything kicks off and I encountered only a few bugs. Sometimes going down stairs too fast, I will take falling damage whilst I’ve had players disconnect on me and can’t reconnect to the lobby, leading to some frustrating restarts. This is really uncommon though in my fifteen hour experience.
GTFO is far from perfect though. Melee weapons can feel inconsistent, especially if you aren’t the host. Taking down multiple opponents requires everyone to time their swings, but the netcode isn’t quite up to scratch. Even a simple “takedown” button could prove to be useful and stop the monotony of having to wind up your melee weapon every time. Firearms could be tweaked a little bit as well. Weapons such as the Assault Rifle just aren’t fun to fire whilst the shotgun doesn’t feel as impactful as it should.
There’s also the matter of the Rundown. You have a limited time to complete the missions that are on offer. Once they are gone, they are gone and you won’t be able to go back to them. It’s unclear if the second rundown will be as exciting as the first but I have high hopes. Also for people who need a good progression system, you might want to hold out for a bit. There are currently no unlocks or customisation items, but this is also in the development roadmap.
Does GTFO live up to my high expectations? For the most part, yes! In its current state GTFO is a surprisingly polished and deep co-operative experience; requiring a full team of four to Work Together or Die Together. Combining shooter, stealth, horror, and co-operative action, there is a solid foundation here and a promising future.
This first impression is based on Version 0.1. We won’t be giving GTFO a full review until Version 1.0.