There are many different ways for games to scare players. Some use resource scarcity, forcing you to agonize over each bullet. Some assault you with grotesque monsters that give you goosebumps just by looking at them. There are games that obscure your senses so you can’t see or hear what’s around the corner, and games that don’t give you any way to defend yourself. And then there’s the old-fashioned, ever-reliable jump scare, like zombie dogs unexpectedly crashing through a window.
GTFO does all of the above. But the cooperative horror shooter takes things even further: it uses the difficulty to inject terror into every moment and surpass all games in the genre. Many players trying GTFO will call it punishment. Some will insist that it is downright unfair. But the game’s brutal challenge serves a purpose: As you explore the labyrinthine labs and tunnels that make up the oppressive underground facility known as The Complex, the overwhelming awareness that the slightest slip-up could cause you and your team to lose hours of progress. . it creates tension and terror unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
In GTFO, you play as one of four prisoners who are sent underground, against their will, to accomplish esoteric goals at the behest of an unseen entity known as The Warden. The Complex is infested by a variety of “Sleepers”, hideously mutated forms that lash out with whip-like tongues from toothy orifices. The game is a mix of stealth and shooter combat; You’ll do your best to clear each new room of Sleepers without waking them up, which usually involves lurking in the dark while timing melee attacks with your teammates. Smelling a bonk or simply stepping at the wrong time can wake up the entire room, which, if your team doesn’t clean up completely, results in wasting precious ammo (at best). That, in turn, can bite you from behind later in the level, when you trigger an alarm that sends endless waves of mutants at you, testing your aim, improvisation skills, and ability to make quick decisions under pressure.
The drop sequence in GTFO, in which four prisoners plummet into the depths of The Complex.
Understandably, GTFO it’s a tough sell for some players. Not everyone has free time to spend hours on a game where a single missed shot can kill your entire team and send you back to the main menu. Checkpoints are a relatively new addition to the game, but they are still few and far between; missions can take hours to complete and may have only one checkpoint or none at all. Like every design choice from developer 10 Chambers, that feels deliberate. There are no easy paths through The Complex.
But even when you suffer a crushing cleanse, you’ll never walk away empty-handed. Even a failed execution can give you new boosts, boons like increased ammo or health regeneration that you can apply on future attempts. But more importantly, you gain knowledge that you didn’t have before.
Much of GTFOThe difficulty comes from not knowing what is going to happen next. Mission objectives are often as simple as locating an item and bringing it back to the extraction point. But that singular task could involve typing commands into terminals to locate said item, reading environmental clues to determine the route to that area, delving into dangerous side paths to search for ammunition, and any number of other unexpected complications. However, once you know what to expect, you can plan accordingly: maybe on your next run, you’ll bring two deployable turrets instead of one, or head straight for the critical path without feeling the need to scout as much. Failing a mission after two hours of sneaking and scraping feels bad, obviously, but each wipe imparts another thread of knowledge that you’ll eventually weave into a successful career.
And boy does it feel good to see that Expedition Survived screen. After spending enough time in any GTFO level, you’ll probably start feeling like the prisoners: crazed, sick, stressed, beaten, and desperate to get back to the surface. GTFO it has, without exception, the most consistent and polished atmosphere I have come across in a game. The prisoners shiver and fidget as you choose their loadouts. They take deep breaths as they wake up from cryogenics, and each trip down The Complex is a cacophony of sound. Your character hyperventilates during combat, causing slow movement if you’re not aware of your increasing heart rate. Simple glow sticks can seem like a godsend in dark hallways where turning on the flashlight at the wrong time can end a race. Each new type of monster you encounter is a body horror mess that requires unique tactics to defeat. Sometimes your whole team gets teleported to some weird desert, which could be on another planet or in an alternate dimension for all you know, and it’s usually all you can do to survive. At those points, returning to the claustrophobic chambers of The Complex can feel, strangely, like a relief.
GTFO It’s definitely not for everyone, but players who find all of this appealing won’t find a more terrifying challenge. It’s the perfect game to play with three equally masochistic friends this spooky Halloween season, and the game’s official Discord has active party-seeking channels where players tend to be friendly regardless of their experience with the game. After all, we prisoners are in this together and just want to get back to the surface.