An Escape From Tarkov Guide, Part 1: The Basics

An Escape From Tarkov Guide, Part 1: The Basics

So, want to know what the Basics of Tarkov are? What the platform is you’ll need to build off and grow as a player? Then you’ve come to the right place as we start our Tarkov Guide with The Basics. If you’ve not read the reason why I’m writing this series, catch up HERE otherwise- jump right in.

Part 1: The Basics.

This game is effectively a military sim (mil-sim). Ballistics and penetration are accurately modeled and you’ll very quickly discover that human beings, Armour or no, are not very good at dealing with being shot. 

Don’t run around like you’re in PuBG/Fortnight and expect to survive. You will not. You’ll be lucky to last 3 minutes. 

Gas Station on Customs. You’ll end up fighting here, a lot.

Each raid is a set time of up to 50 minutes which varies depending on the map. You drop in with your character and have that time to traverse the map, complete whatever objectives you have, survive, and then reach a predefined extraction point on the map before the timer runs out. If you die in the raid you lose everything (we’ll cover the secure containers later). If you run out of time you lose everything. 

It’s hard. It’s meant to be. And it WILL force you to play differently, but if you can make this adjustment then you’re in for a very rewarding experience.

You primarily play as a PMC, either USEC or BEAR (These are the private military contractors you can play as in the game; your ‘main’. The choice of which has no impact on the game at present) and you need to find gear, items and complete missions in-raid to earn money. This money then allows you to buy better gear and better items to take into your next raid, and so the cycle continues. Your character levels up by ‘doing things’ in an RPG-like way and you will start to see passive bonuses that one would expect from experience in the field. It’s never overpowered- a bullet to the face will kill a level 50 player just as dead as a level 3, but the bonuses can help. You can also go in solo, or in a squad of up to 6. Again, depending on the map.

Overlooking OLD Gas Station. Come here for easy Scav kills and some well-hidden loot…

The other way to play is as a Scav. Now Scavs litter the map as AI-controlled NPC’s and have random gear and load-outs. They tend to be on the lower-end of the available tech (as they’re simulating ‘normal’ people going into Tarkov to loot), but they can still kill you dead. The Scav bosses and raiders that inhabit most of the levels are tougher, better equipped versions of the same and each have their quirks. If you choose to join a map as a Scav you’ll take the place of one of the ‘base’ Scavs in the game. You don’t get to choose the load-out, you get what you’re given, and you’ll have different extracts but, you keep what you extract with and have the bonus that the other Scavs in the game won’t be hostile to you. At least until you shoot one.

The ‘Scav run’ therefore is a good way to acquire gear and loot ‘relatively’ risk free and should be used whenever available in the early stages of your time with Tarkov.

Aside from that there are a few central rules you need to bear in mind when playing:

Use cover: Running across a large open expanse is a quick route back to the lobby. If you see a longer route that has more hard cover (and remember bullets in Tarkov will penetrate a LOT of cover), use that. Even weaving in and out of bushes is preferable to walking in the open- if they can’t see you they can’t shoot you. That said….

Watch how much noise you make: When you step on gravel, glass or push through a bush it makes a distinctive noise. Clever players know the maps so well that they’ll have a good idea where you are based on the noise and their position. So where possible try to make as little noise as possible. 

Immediately in raid you should lower your walking speed to ‘One’ arc on the noise meter and for a modest reduction in speed you’ll reduce the noise you make considerably. Crouching makes less noise than walking. Being prone is a mixed bag and generally, should be avoided- unless in very specific conditions. 

Inside Interchange. You’ll have some heart-pounding, yet exhilarating gunfights here.

To make this even more important, later on you will have access to ComTac headsets that are specifically designed to dampen loud noises (i.e. gunshots) and amplify small noises (footsteps, sound of a bush, someone reloading etc). Top-level players almost always run these, making noise EVEN more important.

Watch your stamina: Running uses stamina. Don’t let it get into the red or you’ll start gasping for air which, as you can imagine, is not quiet. Also the last thing you want is to be caught in the open with no ability to sprint. It’s not a happy place to be, granted you’ll only be there for a short time… but still.

When you engage, COMMIT: This is the really important one. You should be carefully choosing your engagements in Tarkov and only fighting when you have the tactical advantage; remember you’re not the only person running around here. But when you do decide to engage, commit fully. Don’t just pop off a few shots and hope for the best. ASSUME your first shot will miss. Assume the second will. Send lots of bullets, be generous, Odin likes the generous. 

So engage, send twice as many bullets as you would think and then assess. Did they drop? Yes? congrats -clear the area. Reload if you’ve got cover. Heal, if the same. Circle the corpse looking for anyone who’s waiting for you to go over there and lower your guard. There’s an old maxim that applies here: If you see 1 enemy, assume there’s 2. If you see 2, assume 3 etc etc. Clear the area, THEN loot. This one tip will save your life more than many you’ll hear. I literally died failing to do this last night.

Yup he be ded

But what do you do if they didn’t drop? Then you need to think, quickly. Did they see you? Are they moving towards you? Are they running to cover? Are they shooting at you….? Each requires a different response. 

If you chose to carry on the engagement then be VERY aggressive. Commit to the kill. You have the initiative here. Often I’ll die because I didn’t finish someone off and I let them get to cover. Don’t let them get to cover, and if they do and they then come after you– make them earn the kill. Don’t hand it to them. I’ll cover more specifics of this in the advanced tactics section. 

You should be aware of your movement. We know it’s harder to hit a moving target. So, when you engage don’t stay stock-still after the initial volleys. Movement is vital. 

Breaking line of sight and flanking are good examples of this and are ridiculously powerful tools in their own right. Use them, A lot, but don’t be afraid to disengage and run away if it looks like you’ve misjudged. You don’t have to see ANY engagement through to completion if the odds tip against you. Remember picking your battles applies just as much after a kill than it does before. Don’t let the victory or the prospect of loot make you drop your guard. Constantly reassess. I have left juice bodies with lots of loot because I assessed the situation as TOO dangerous to go in, even after a kill. It takes discipline, but trust me, its a vital skill.

This strategy works, and it’s in part because you’re always getting new information, from your eyes, your ears, from what the other players are doing; so always be aware. It’s all about situational awareness. If the guy you’re firing at isn’t pushing you when you know he should…think why? Does he seem unconcerned with a certain flank, what could that mean? Does he have a friend you didn’t see. Don’t have a ‘clever girl’ moment and zero your focus directly onto the person you’re engaging; granted they’re the danger-close immediate threat, but it doesn’t mean they’re not the only threat nearby. Constantly reassess.

Customs, on our way to the Checkpoint extract

It’s a strange balance to make between committing totally to an engagement while leaving yourself open to breaking off and dealing with other threats. In time you’ll be able to adjust your play-style to automatically take this into account without even thinking about it. For example when I’m pushing a player (moving towards while firing to cut down his options and get the kill) I’ll instinctively move sideways as I do to the nearest hardcover, positioning it against a flank to give me one less angle to worry about when I engage. Too, I’ll tend to engage when I know I have most of the angles covered to reduce this secondary threat even further. This of course, isn’t always possible, but it should be in your thoughts each time. 

Insure everything you take into a raid as a PMC: Seriously. If you die, and you will, you’ll stand a good chance of getting some of your gear back through the pre-raid insurance. When you’re strapped for cash this is invaluable. Use Prapor if you’re going to be on again within 48hrs. If not, use Therapst- she gives you a few more days for a slightly higher price; remember though if you don’t reclaim your returned gear within that period you’ll lose it. No Take-backs.

Get over GEAR-FEAR: Now this is one you’re probably aware of, or if not explicitly, you’ve probably heard the term. It’s one of the single biggest mindset shifts you’ll need to get around to be successful in this game. Gear-Fear is changing your play-style in an attempt to try to protect the gear you’ve accumulated. It’s totally understandable; you’ve worked hard to get that gear, paid a lot, got out of a tough raid, spent time building the perfect gun. Thing is, you will lose it. If not in the game, then at the next wipe. Either refusing to use certain items in-raid out of fear of losing them, or changing your play-style in an attempt to mitigate this risk will be counter-productive and will actually make you worse at the game. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be selective when deciding what gear to bring to which map/raid, it just means it shouldn’t define how you play the game.

I use this simple mind-hack: when I click ‘Ready’ on a raid I mentally ‘accept’ all the gear i’m bringing in is already lost. It’s no longer my gear; it’s Tarkov’s and I need to earn it back. If I die, well I’ve not lost anything as the gear was Tarkov’s. If I make it out? Then success,I’ve earned  it back; It was a good raid. I promise you getting out of the gear-fear mindset will help you immeasurably, and remember, even if you run out of all gear and money- a few good Scav runs will see you well.

For instance, as I write this I’m level 24 in the current wipe, I have most my hideout constructed at least to level 2 with many already at level 3 (the Hideout is your upgradable ‘base’ in the game that gives you certain RPG bonuses and allows you to manufacture and farm certain items). I have a number of very expensive containers and items in my stash, but I’ve had a few costly runs chasing missions at the weekend and now have only 5k rubles left and one gun; a Mosin. I’m not worried- I’ll make it all back tonight. The insurance will come in. THAT’s the mindset you need.

Finally, Enjoy it! There’s a LOT to this game and it can often feel a bit overwhelming. You’ll also hit periods where it seems nothing you do works, and all you do is die and lose money. Even when things are going well events in the game can conspire to give you a quick death losing good loot in the process. This is called ‘getting Tarkov’d‘. It happens, embrace it. It’s part of the journey.

There is a lot to learn to get the most out of Tarkov but remember, it IS just a game. So don’t stress too much.


That’s part one done. Check in soon for part two, Focusing on the maps!

Remember, if you want to see me play Tarkov or have questions you want to ask; come drop by when I stream at (Tuesdays and Thursdays 21:00 GMT).

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