From the outset, Zero Sievert sounds like a top-down Escape From Tarkov. In many ways, that’s an apt description – the aim of Cabo Studio’s shooter is to venture out into bandit-occupied territories, loot what you can, and extract alive.
But scratch beneath the surface, and the real delight is in Zero Sievert‘s faithful, fantastic Stalker vibes. Set after an explosion at a nuclear power plant has ravaged areas of Eastern Europe, Zero Sievert eases you in with relative safety – a bunker, traders, supplies – before showing you the door.
To complete missions and scavenge for loot, a train will take you to several of Zero Sievert‘s most inhospitable areas. At first, the train conductor will be reluctant to take you anywhere further than an overgrown forest and ruined campsite – but swamps, shopping malls and industrial areas await for survivors who prove they have what it takes.
However, doing so will prove difficult. In my first excursion to the forest, I spent a few minutes wandering the wasteland before running into my first enemy. Well, I assumed he was an enemy – I hosed him down with gunfire before waiting to find out,and shuffled in to loot my first kill. Unfortunately, he had a friend that I hadn’t spotted, and within a frantic few seconds my body had joined him on the ground. Zero Sievert doesn’t fuck around – even the weaker bandits you find earlier in the game can prove more than a match, and death is only ever a bullet or two away.
Once you get to grips with Zero Sievert‘s unforgiving nature, simply surviving is a thrill. Despite the top-down layout, Sievert has all the immersion of a grimy first-person shooter – there was a sadistic thrill in luring bandits away from their camp with a few potshots, sneaking past them to loot their goodies, and then picking them off one by one as they became separated in their hunt for me. Likewise, shooting feels brilliant, and each gun feels distinct – single-shot rifles are mercilessly accurate but slow to chamber a round, while an AK firing at full-auto will kick bullets all over the screen the longer you fire it. Back at base, you can customise these weapons to match your playstyle – it deliberately doesn’t go into the nitty-gritty of Tarkov, but there’s a lot to play with nonetheless.
Yet in a move that’s more Stalker than Tarkov, not everything that can kill you is human. A croaking Geiger counter is a reminder that the very air in Zero Sievert is lethal, while Stalker-style anomalies in the world shimmer with otherwordly violence. These radioactive shenanigans have left a mutant-shaped hole in the ecosystem: while wolves still bear a resemblance to their former canine selves, other mutants have far too many teeth to discern their origins in the time it takes them to pounce on your woefully-unprepared character.
Though Zero Sievert is launching in Early Access, the game’s offerings are already impressive. Zero Sievert is a fiendish mash-up of Stalker‘s setting and Tarkov‘s hardcore mechanics, and with more maps and weapons planned for launch, there’s a lot for fans of either to dive into.
Zero Sievert launches in Early Access on November 15, and will be available on PC.