From developers who worked on Payday 2 and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 comes GTFO, a tactical shooter that harshly punishes players who refuse to communicate and work together. I met with half of 10 Chambers, the nine person team behind GTFO, at E3 2018 before jumping into an early build of the game.
GTFO starts out simple enough. I'm allowed to outfit myself with both a primary and secondary firearm, as well as choose a custom tool and a melee weapon. Primary firearms appear to be geared more towards mid- to long-range combat, such as rifles and LMGs. Secondary firearms are a mixed bag of shotguns, revolvers, and futuristic tech.
Selecting the right custom tools presents the first challenge my team needs to overcome together. Doubling up on any tool is a bad move. Players need to work together to figure out which tool best fits the loadout of each team member.
Each custom tool performs one specialized task, such as mapping all enemy signatures behind a door or booby trapping chokepoints. The glue gun offers what's perhaps the most creative benefit: a means of firing a sticky substance that can slow down enemies or close up broken doors. It behaves a lot like the GLOO Cannon from 2016's Prey.
After finalizing our loadouts and descending down an elevator, my team is presented with its mission objective: reach Sector 24. That's it. GTFO doesn't even drop a waypoint on the map. However, a quick look at the wall reveals that we're in Sector 26. After a bit of exploring, we find ourselves in Sector 25, so we know we're on the right track.
A vast majority of the rest of the game plays out this way. Rarely does GTFO ever present players with a clear path to the next goal. Instead, the environment, enemies, and computer terminals scattered throughout each level hint towards the objective's location, and sometimes also provide strategies for surviving troublesome areas. Despite these clues, our team took a wrong turn more than once.
Although accidentally going down the wrong path can be frustrating, it's imperative that players never rush ahead. They need to take things slow. The levels are blanketed in darkness, and although a flashlight can illuminate the way forward, the beam of light will also alert enemies. Because sight is so unreliable, most players need to rely on whichever teammate chose a scanner as their custom tool. If that player is dead, then sound is your next best strategy. I heard most enemies long before I saw them, and soon learned to slow down and listen to the whispered gurgles that accompanied a hidden threat.
GTFO seems to pride itself on never holding the player's hand and letting them discover how to play the game on their own. You and your team are thrown into increasingly difficult challenges as you venture through monster-infested mazes. Most of these alien creatures are pretty weak, but they're startlingly fast and can quickly swarm any poor player who ventures too far from the group.
A few other enemy types sporadically show up to mix up the gameplay. Scouts are easily identifiable from the long, luminescent tendrils they extend to "feel out" players who wander too close. They'll attract more enemies to their location if they detect a threat. Large hulking brutes lumber into battle as towering bullet sponges and deal near-fatal blows when they get within arm's reach.
"[GTFO encourages] people to move together and coordinate their movements," Oscar J-T Holm, business developer for GTFO, said. When asked if GTFO could be played with smaller teams, Holm said that players could attempt missions with teams of two or three, or try to take on the monstrous horde solo. However, he cautioned against it. GTFO will not scale for team size, so anyone who tries to play the game with a smaller team will face an uphill battle.
In my session with the game, I died a lot. Both health and ammo are incredibly scarce so death comes quickly for those who aren't careful. Every mistake was met with a swift punishment. Forgetting to glue gun a choke point meant my team got overrun from behind. Leaving my flashlight on alerted a scout, whose demented moans invited a seemingly never-ending horde. Losing track of the ammo in my shotgun left me helplessly scrambling for survival after being cornered. But I learned with every attempt. Each run ended a little further than the last.
Though the overall geometry of the level I played on remained the same throughout each run, placements of enemies, med kits, and ammo switched up each time. Security codes for doors also changed between runs, so it was never possible to cheat past a puzzle. Despite repeatedly dying on the same mission, each replay felt like an entirely new experience.
My time with the game didn't hint towards an overall story, and the team confirmed that GTFO doesn't have a clear-cut narrative. "[Players are just a] couple of prisoners working for some weird entity called the Warden," Simon Viklund, designer of GTFO's story, said. "They don't really know why they are there or what their overall objective is. He went on to explain how GTFO's story won't technically finish by the game's end. GTFO's narrative will continue to evolve after release. "We're playing with how to tell a story in a multiplayer game. We call it a global marathon basically."
This post-launch content will also provide additional challenges for especially skilled players. Although some missions can be cleared in under 30 minutes, the team promises that more than a few levels will be two to four hours long and behave more like a raid. To make these longer levels even harder, GTFO will also play off expectations and deliver new types of hazards or enemy behaviors.
"Maybe players meet a certain type of enemy, and then later on they fight it and EMP waves are going through the level every 20 seconds and your lights are flickering or your electronic equipment doesn't function correctly," Hjalmar Vikström, a programmer for GTFO, said. "Or [the level] is just pitch black."
Regardless of how you play, each level of GTFO requires a tremendous amount of preparation and strategy. Players are expected to account for every challenge they might face. Death is expected, and the best teams will learn from every failure.
GTFO is scheduled to release on PC later this year.