Formed from the ashes of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. team at GSC Game World, Vostok Games have built on that past by revisiting irradiated Russian wastelands, first with Survarium and now with Fear The Wolves. After a surprisingly short stretch in early access, the battle royale FPS today hit version 1.0 and launched. Fear The Wolves is a Plunkbut with twists including loot-rich radioactive zones, a neat finale, and AI-controlled wildlife trying to bite you. While I am sceptical because the initial early access version I played seemed far longer than five months from ready, it is launching with a free trial week for all to see.
So there you are, back in the Chernobyl exclusion zone once more, scavenging for weapons and armour and supplies in that ol' Playerunknown's Battlegrounds way (really, put S.T.A.L.K.E.R. out of your mind). And so are up to 99 other players. They'll shoot you if they must, which they likely will as the map is slowly filling with deadly levels of radiation and the rescue chopper may have seats for plenty but only one solo player or squad can make it out because reasons.
I do like the end goal of Fear The Wolves, to reach that chopper. As zones of the map turn deadly (square by square, not inside a shrinking circle), the chopper will eventually lay down a rescue marker. Any player can try to board the chopper once it arrives, even if many enemies are still alive. You're vulnerable when ascending the rope, see, still able to shoot but an obvious and vital target. Do you try to make a break for the rope at an opportune moment? Do you cause a distraction? Do you stick around and aim to be the very last one standing? I dug that.
When I played, a few good points weren't enough to overcome the fact that it ran poorly, was all sorts of janky, didn't stand out, had unremarkable combat, and was massively short on players. Since October, it's not even had 100 players online at the same time, let alone competing in a single match. Even more than most multiplayer FPSs, battle royale games need a great many players to come alive.
That's probably why Fear The Wolves is free to play in full for the next week. Until February 12th, you can hit Steam and have a go. It's half-price for keepsies right now too, down to £8.49/€9.99/$9.99.
See the patch notes for all that's changed with the launch version.
I do feel for them, launching Fear The Wolves two days after Titanfall's free-to-play battle royale spin-off, Apex Legends. That's polished, zippy, a bit different for the genre, pushed by EA's marketing megamachine, and, y'know, free. EA hadn't even Apex Legends at the point Fear The Wolves publishers Focus Home Interactive declared its launch day, so it's some real hard luck. At the same time, it was already launching into a crowded market and... just not good enough to stand out.