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Scavengers could be the next surprise hit of 2021

VIDEO: Scavengers hands-on preview, how it plays and what we think, also available on YouTube. 

A telltale sign of a good PC game? You're laughing when things go horribly wrong. Scavengers is the first game in a big battle royale scale environment to pack all the juicy, chaotic variables of an open world game in, ensuring that most outcomes, failures or not, are funny or surprising. 

Just don't get too used to calling it a battle royale game. It's more of an Escape from Tarkov or Hunt: Showdown in a friendlier, more accessible form. Success is something you define yourself, either by wiping out half the lobby or just escaping with as much stuff as you can carry. 

Finally, everyone can see what I was going on about after my first look at Scavengers a few years back. It's out, free to play, in early access on Steam on April 28th. You might have to get access through some goofy Twitch drop scheme by watching another person play for 30 minutes, but it's worth it. This isn't some barebones, amateur battle royale of the week. The developers shy away from calling it battle royale at all, preferring the term "sandbox shooter". 

In a 60-player server on a massive map, you've got towering cyclonic winter storms, enemy NPCs and Far Cry style fortresses with minibosses and gear to loot—there's even a roaming megaboss somewhere in that wintry hellscape. Scavenger's own Roshan, if you will. You've got slipper crouch slides that gauge and maintain momentum, unique character abilities, vehicles, and full-on physics that apply to everyone and everything. 

It's a super strategic and accessible game too, because in Scavengers, getting out alive with as much as you can carry is often as rewarding as wiping out half the lobby. You can play as a maniac, or never fight another player if you've got a big enough tactics-brain to plot out your positioning. Adaptability is rewarded above all else here. All this in a team based shooter with survival systems, crafting, and an on-going sci-fi story about the moon exploding bringing on a climate disaster and a viral scourge. 

And then there's ScavLabs, which might be the wildest thing I've experienced in a game in a damn decade. Imagine a Fortnite season-ending event, except with 9000 players in the same lobby. I attended a weekend test run of Midwinter Entertainment's high-capacity multiplayer system, crouch sliding down an entire mountain, playing summer camp-style social games, and reenacting a Braveheart scene against a horde of thousands of monsters with 1700 other live, actual players. 

(Image credit: Midwinter Entertainment)

The test environment was even capable of basic physics, demonstrated by the admins, who turned their avatars into giants and played 'tennis' with hundreds of live players, sending them flying back and forth with consecutive air blasts. For more on ScavLabs, check out my full preview of Midwinter's upcoming experimental game mode. It's wild, and worth following whether you're interested in Scavengers' primary competitive mode or not. 

It's this ambitious combination of new tech and divergent, yet accessible shooter design that makes Scavengers so fascinating, especially since it feels like it's coming from a relatively unknown studio. I haven't turned my head so sharply at a large scale shooter since the last big wave (Warzone, Apex, and Tarkov). Scavengers feels like it could really be something special, a complex shooter within a huge, dangerous sandbox with a ton of room to grow and play in ScavLabs. 

I'll need to spend more time playing Scavengers in a live environment, but even now it feels super slick and complete for an Early Access release. For my complete thoughts and to see Scavengers in action, don't skip the video preview up top. If you dig it, you'll only need to wait a little longer to try it out yourself.

James is PC Gamer’s bad boy, staying up late to cover Fortnite while cooking up radical ideas for the weekly livestream. He can still kickflip and swears a lot. You’ll find him somewhere in the west growing mushrooms and playing Dark Souls.