Ever since 10 Chambers Collective announced GTFO as a cooperative four-player experience on PC, the comparisons were immediately drawn to other games like Payday 2 and Left 4 Dead, and now that it has just been released on Early Access it's time to find out whether these comparisons do it justice. Thus, we've been stalking the hallways and vacuous rooms of GTFO's underground nightmare for ourselves, and we can confirm that it's a special experience similar in quality to the games mentioned above.
That said, if you're heading in expecting something like Left 4 Dead, with waves of zombies falling under your melee weapons and bullets, you'll be very surprised. This is a much more challenging and measured experience that requires your team to cooperate tactically if you're to have any hope of surviving, with limited ammunition, pitch-black environments, and incredibly hostile enemies hammering this point home even more.
In the Rundown - the current series of levels active in the game - you have various challenges to face as you progress further into the underground complex, with increasingly difficult levels as you advance. You're guaranteed to die on your first one as you figure out how to play, alert some enemies, and cause a horde of monsters to run in and paint the walls with your blood, but in time you and your crew (a team of four is critical if you're to succeed) will learn the ropes, find out what gadgets you need to use and when, and get better with each attempt.
These gadgets are one of the core ways in which 10 Chambers Collective forces you to work as a team, as each player has their own gear to help the squad. One person may have a scanner to detect life through walls, for example, while another has mines to trap doorways and corridors, and another has a sentry turret to defend certain positions. Each character plays their role, and this includes utilising a variety of weapons and finding a good balance as you arm all eight slots (two per person) with shotguns, snipers, assault rifles, and more.
At the start of a level, you'll spend time searching for loot that can help you out, like glowsticks to illuminate rooms without detecting hostiles (flashlights will definitely grab their attention), ammo packs, med packs, tool packs to restock gadgets, and even a long-range flashlight, although why anyone would want that we'll never know since it lights up a room like the 4th of July and grabs the attention of everything within a five-mile radius.
Moving around the levels requires clear communication between a squad, since alerting enemies is a sure-fire way to lose health and potentially even catch the attention of a Roamer, which will call in reinforcements and effectively guarantee your death. Teams must work together to spot enemies - with the scanner being particularly useful - and take them out quietly, using your hammer to dispatch them quietly.
The trouble is that these enemies respond to light and movement, so flashlights have to go off and you have to move slowly and in small bursts, which makes it very hard to navigate the dark complex. Once enemy hearts start beating, they have a risk of becoming alerted, so get used to hearing "go... STOP... go... STOP" constantly. With the stakes so high and the risk of death very real, this makes every encounter with enemies a tense affair, and perhaps one of the most convincing horror experiences in a multiplayer game that we've ever seen.
Then there are other factors to consider, such as security alerts for doors that require teammates to stand on separate points on the floor to deactivate, which is easier said than done when there are multiple points to stand on and enemies are flooding in to nibble your backside. With friendly fire, fall damage, and more to contend with, the enemies aren't the only challenge you'll face in this dark and foreboding place.
In fact, the atmosphere is nailed across the board for 10 Chambers Collective, as the blackness is pierced by sporadic lights and red warning signals, with thick waves of fog caking every level. This can sometimes make your flashlight next to useless, and obscures vision even more, to the point where glowsticks become a vital tool for navigating rooms.
With the screams piercing the starting menu and the game over screen, 10 Chambers Collective has really made an effective horror experience that makes you feel vulnerable at all times, where you know that one mistake could be your downfall. You also feel really alone in the cavernous levels that you wander through, and you soon realise just how big they are when you get to the last objective and need to extract.
The sound design is just as impressive. Since you'll be exploring pitch-black rooms most of the time, you'll rely on the game's audio to help inform your every movement, such as the clicking sound the enemies make or the sound of their hearts beating and their bodies convulsing. It reminded us of The Last of Us and its horrifying clickers, and the intense music when things kick off is sure to get your heart racing.
Of course, there are some hiccups like busted textures, since it's currently in Early Access, but what we'd most like to see improved are the jittery frame-rates of the enemy animations, since that made them very hard to shoot and keep track of in the heat of battle. Other than that, we should make clear that this is already a fairly polished experience that looks and plays great, at least for the most part.
With even more Rundowns promised in the coming months, and each Rundown taking ages to complete given the brutal (but fair) difficulty, GTFO has already turned heads because of its challenging approach to cooperative play, and rightly so. It forces you to think and be tactical, shooting only when necessary, and it's one of the few experiences that we feel requires a full squad as an absolute must. You can't survive on your own, and for that reason, it succeeds in its goal of being a cooperative experience. We can't wait to see what's next in GTFO's future.
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