Having played a lot of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds over the past year, it scratched an itch other survival games like DayZ couldn’t quite reach. Something I like to call permadeath replayability.

When you die in a game of PUBG, that’s it. You lose all of the shit you just looted and start all over again from the beginning. But the relatively short length of each game makes it easy to start up again because it never feels like you put a ton of effort into getting a good loadout. Usually you’re either lucky or you’re not. You make do.

But there’s something to be said for a more meaningful kind of permadeath. The kind that absolutely crushes your soul and rips from you hours of work in an mere instant. It makes you care about dying, and that in itself can change how you play a game entirely.

Escape from Tarkov is a game that can give you those feelings, friends. Feelings of immense dread accompanied by a euphoria I can only compare with winning my very first chicken dinner. When you die in this world, everything you have on you at the time is gone forever.

The game is still in development, but a closed beta recently offered pre-order customers the chance to get in on the action. Set in the war-torn fictional city of Tarkov, three different factions are battling – United Security (USEC), who were hired by Terra Group to cover up corruption in the region, the BEAR military group, who are trying to uncover said corruption on behalf of their employers, the Russian Government, and AI-controlled scavengers (SCAVS) who are opportunist plebs loitering around the place.

That’s pretty much all that’s known about the narrative for the moment, but developers, Battlestate Games, say the final release will have a deeper story element to it.

Right now, the game consists solely of what they call raids – entering an area, looting what you can, and getting the fuck outta there. You can also run tasks for one of the game’s five vendors – folks who buy and sell weapons and survival items to you – usually asking you to retrieve certain materials for them.

Upon preordering, I was given a few rifles, some pistols, and other gear to get me started in the world. Having done some research on what to expect – most of which was “expect to die a lot” – I loaded my character up with some gear and entered the Factory map.

I was dead within 40 seconds, losing one of the only two rifles I had without even firing a shot. Fuck.

Luckily, I also had a stash of 300,000 Russian rubles to buy more, so it wasn’t all bad. You can also insure your gear before going into a raid, so if you die, you’ll get it back, but only if it’s not taken from your corpse by another player.

You can also enter the world as a SCAV, but only once every half an hour. You won’t get to choose where you spawn or what weapons you’ll get, but it does give you a round where dying doesn’t hurt as much as normal.

After a lot more painful deaths and lost gear, I finally made it to an extraction point without dying. I had killed killed another player, stole his half-modded AK, found a bunch of other loot from crates around the Customs map, and made it out. I fucking did it and the feeling was incredible. The reward tasted so sweet because I had lost so many times prior, and I was hooked on that feeling.

The weapon customisation in Escape from Tarkov is ludicrous. So many times I found a scope or sight I thought I could just attach to a gun I had, only to find that I was missing the right mount for it. You can even customise a weapon’s trigger assembly for fuck’s sake. The options are nigh on endless.

After roughly 10 hours, I thought I was doing alright. I had another few successful raids and a healthy stash of guns and supplies. Then I decided to take my best gun into a game. After about 15 minutes, I had some fresh loot and decided to get out rather than be greedy and risk my best gun for more.

Then it happened. I was cornered by fucking SCAVS. Not even human players, but goddamn AI scum snuck up on me and before I knew it, I was dead and all of my good shit was gone. I was gutted.

I love Escape from Tarkov, but I also despise it. I’m on the edge of my seat every time I play and the adrenaline is nothing short of addictive. The elation of making it out alive is thrilling, but dying will completely and brutally gut you with no remorse. It takes a special kind of game to elicit such strong emotions.

There’s no word on when the full version will drop, but you can get access to the beta right now when you pre-order from the website. If you’re a fan of survival games like DayZ and Rust, you’ll love this. If you hate losing, run. Run away and never stop.

Image: Escape From Tarkov