“GTFO,” like the great four-player co-op shooters that came before it, is a game about failure. You and three friends take the guise of desperate prisoners in an unforgiving, dystopian world, and are sent down into the gloomy depths below the earth’s crust to retrieve a series of artifacts for an unnamed client known only as The Warden. As you might expect, those depths are rife with horrifically twisted “Amnesia”-esque ghoulies, who want nothing more than to wipe your party over, and over, and over again.
Get in, grab a macguffin, get out. It’s the basic formula that made “Left 4 Dead” and it’s sequel great, and it’s the same synopsis that 10 Chambers Collective lead designer Ulf Andersson employed on his previous two projects – the cultishly adored bank robbery sims “Payday” and “Payday 2.” “Maybe I just suck at deathmatches,” he laughs, when I ask him why he’s been so fixated on teamwork-based shooters for his entire career.
“I like challenging players to work together. That’s fun for me,” continues Andersson. “I’d gladly lose [in those games] because everyone is losing. It’s not one guy losing.”
So, as you might expect, I lost my two rounds of “GTFO,” which I played alongside the team at 10 Chambers Collective, the Stockholm-based studio developing the game. Both times, we were overwhelmed by a hoard of beasties that outflanked our periphery, and tore our squadron in two. But at its core, “GTFO” isn’t a game about firefights. For the most part, the team and I were silently skulking through the ruins of a stony, abandoned mineshaft, doing our very best to not engage until we had absolutely no other choice. My favorite moment was when I was elected to sneak up behind one of the monsters and silently dispatch it with my melee weapon. Everyone in the booth had their fingers crossed.
Andersson tells me that he expects “GTFO” to inspire the sort of fine-tuned min-maxing you can expect in the higher tiers of other cooperative games – “Destiny” raids might be the most apt example. The loadout screen is surprisingly detailed; alongside the primary and secondary weapons, each player elects a specific gadget to help them in the excavation. Your options include a sentry gun, which minces through anything that moves in front of it, a glue gun which can be sprayed on surfaces to stymie enemies, a scanner that allows you to tag hostiles so you can track them on your map. The idea is that maybe, after one too many game overs, your team goes back to the drawing board and elects to bring three sentry guns to seal off a particular corridor that’s giving you trouble, even if that means you’re giving up a bevy of other useful tools.
The hacking mechanic was also hilariously tense. Unlocking lockers and doors will occasionally force you to type in a specific function into a DOS command-prompt on an old terminal. Like, you, physically, will need to type it in. With your keyboard. This isn’t like ‘Fallout’ where you just click on the mess of code you want to use. I can only imagine what it’d be like to bang out those commands under pressure, while the rest of your team is getting their faces peeled off.
After three days at E3, “GTFO” is the game I’m most eager to have on my computer. I’m not sure if that it makes it my game of the show, but it absolutely scratched that interminable itch of being low on health, low on resources, and still scraping by to the end. “If only we used the glue gun on that alleyway!” “If only we saw that guy in the corner!” If you enjoy those late-night, post-match tinkering sessions with your friends, than “GTFO” will absolutely speak your language. It releases on Steam later this year.