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Review: Oppressively Hard GTFO Features Amazingly Good Co-Op Survival Horror

Screenshot: GTFO

I’ve played a lot of GTFO, just not recently. When GTFO went into early access, my group of friends and I played the hell out of it. We really loved sneaking around its vast underground facility, planning our next move, and watching it all go wrong as we scrambled to survive. Also, sneaking and bopping mutants as a group had never looked better or been more fun. But then, one day, we just stopped playing and never looked back.

When GTFO was surprise released last week or so, I figured it was the perfect time for my group and I to get back into GTFO’s enigmatic and terrifying Complex—and while it definitely is, losing the novelty certainly made GTFO lose some of its luster—but its 1.0 release brought some interesting new reasons to keep going deeper.

Screenshot: GTFO

GTFO is a first person cooperative horror survival game. In it, you play as one of four hapless people, forced by the enigmatic warden to go deep into an underground complex to complete various tasks, sometimes retrieving an item to bring back. The only problem is, the complex is overrun with horrible mutants. Most of mutants are sleeping, but waking them up can cause a horrible day for you and your crew—so stealth is important. Also, resources are scarce, so those teams that go in guns blazing might find themselves out of ammo before long.  While a lot of cooperative games offer various degrees of difficulty levels, GTFO is meant to be difficult—with things getting harder the deeper you go.

Screenshot: GTFO

Saying GTFO doesn’t have difficulty levels isn’t entirely correct. Instead, each level deeper you progress, the harder things get. Enemies become more abundant, and new, harder threats start to replace familiar enemies. Security doors you pass through start to become harder, too—with more potential waves of enemies coming to meet your team. And while I can appreciate a good challenge, I find GFTO’s form of difficulty to be incredibly tedious. If you die near the end of a level, that often means lots of gameplay that has to be retread. There have been checkpoints added for the full release—but even with checkpoints, going back over parts of the facility you’ve already cleared can be mind-numbing, and sometimes for our group that led to even more mistakes. While I appreciate the hardcore nature of the game, my group just doesn’t have the time required to dedicate to replaying long missions multiple times—no matter how fun they are.

Besides its punishing difficulty, GTFO is a blast. I’ve never played a game quite like it. It’s simultaneously scary and exhilaratingly exciting. Seeing something new is always a treat—but that’s partially because so much of GTFO’s complex looks similar. While that sounds bad, that’s okay, because it lends to the labyrinthine feeling. Also, fighting enemies in GTFO feel great. Weapons feel fun to shoot, and bopping enemies on the head (or dispatching them with the new melee weapons) is one of the most satisfying stealth mechanics I’ve experienced. GTFO is just damn fun to play—and it also manages to be great to look at, too.

Screenshot: GTFO

GTFO does have a story, but it’s not told through cutscenes or long lines of exposition (outside of terminal audio logs, that is). Instead, lots of GTFO’s story is told through environmental clues, terminal logs, and witnessing the horror of the complex. Throughout the Early Access period, lore was drip-fed in an almost frustratingly slow fashion. The question always was, “why does this giant underground facility exist, and what the hell were they doing here?” But with the release of 1.0, the veil has been lifted in some spectacular and surprising ways.

While GTFO doesn’t have procedurally generated levels, developer 10 Chambers have been releasing a new set of levels every few months called “Rundowns.” This type of release schedule should continue past release ensuring that there will be new content to dive into. While Rundowns do feel a little bit more handcrafted than other procedurally generated content, you will see chunks of levels you’ve seen before, making repeated excursions in the Complex feel repetitive. While 1.0 does release a few new visuals to make things interesting (I don’t want to spoiler them here) it’s not enough to make GTFO feel new again—so if you’ve been playing GTFO for a while, don’t expect the 1.0 release to be full of new things to see and do. But there are a few surprises in store.

Different Rundowns also mean Rundown specific weapons. While GTFO does have a base set of weapons and gadgets to choose from, each Rundown tends to have a new set of weapons and even a few new gadgets to try out. While it can be a bummer to lose your favorite Rundown specific weapon, there’s also new things to try—and you might even find a new favorite.

One of the biggest new additions for GTFO has been bots. While I definitely recommend playing GTFO with other human players, especially friends, playing with Bots primarily—or even as supplemental teammates—isn’t as impossible as it might have seemed a few months ago. Bots aren’t perfect when it comes to carrying items, or even pathfinding—but they’re great at fighting. Bots have crazy good aim, and a team with myself and three bots often feel more capable of handling harder threats than me and my friends do.

Screenshot: GTFO

While GTFO is one of the best stealth games I’ve played, and definitely one of the best stealth-based co-op experiences out there, its difficulty is oppressive. It’s definitely not for casual players—and if you’re older, with a job and other obligations, it’ll be harder to find the time for the hard and long lower floors. If you want to play solo, there are bots that are capable—but don’t expect them to carry you through the hardest challenges, though they are surprisingly good fighters. I’m glad GTFO has finally reach “1.0” and look forward to see what horrors my friends and I will uncover in our next expedition.

 

GTFO is out now on Steam.

 

 

 

 

A Steam key was provided to us for this review

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