We've all had abusive relationships with a game, right? For me, it's Escape from Tarkov—an experience that can be described as bewildering, brutal, unfair, and potentially very expensive. It's not even fully released yet, having been in open beta since mid-2017, since which Tarkov has evolved and become increasingly polished while retaining the core ability to make my PC wheeze in desperation whenever it runs.
Next year will see the addition of a new map, Streets of Tarkov, which is a Very Big Deal if you enjoy creeping around an amazingly detailed ruined city before getting plugged by a Russian you didn't see, and losing all your gear permanently.
The reason I and many others find Tarkov such a draw is the environmental design: take the store shown in the above trailer, starting here. The approach is littered with individual items of debris and clusters of abandoned trolleys, some that look like they've been used to cart possessions around in. Moving inside shows gutted shelves, collapsed fittings, unidentifiable grime on surfaces and stained bags piled in the deli counter, a ransacked storeroom, boxes everywhere, an atmosphere of collapse and desolation. Battlestate's vision of the apocalypse has much less charm than something like Fallout, but its environments conjure up a world I remain fascinated by.
Pausing to drool over such things is usually when I get shot by a guy I didn't see, am reminded what this game is, and with a heavy heart begin again.
PCG has previously called Escape from Tarkov "a daunting and savage evolution of battle royale," which is on-point—though don't bring your genre expectations to the latter term. This is a game expansive enough where you can just become an arms dealer instead of dying all the time, and for all its brutality somehow keeps me coming back. I'll never Escape from Tarkov but, when this new map hits, I'll be back to try and fail again.
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Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."