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Scavengers hands-on: "The game's future is looking much brighter than the one it depicts for humanity"

We've been here before. A winter storm is raging, hunger is setting in, and bandages are being crafted from hygienically dubious materials against the light of a waning bonfire. In other words, it's survival game 101. But then something happens. In the distance of the storm, three silhouettes emerge from the blanket of ice and snow. It's another squad, seeking solace from the elements, and they've had the same idea as us. 

We're all here for the same thing, after all. To leave this cursed planet that humanity once called its home and bring back valuable resources to the mothership. But since when has commonality ever stopped our species from shooting each other to bits? Open conflict breaks out, and – thanks to a well timed healing buff from our Support – we win the fight, and head towards the exfil zone that represents our only chance at survival. 

Scavengers hands-on

This is Scavengers at its core; a multiplayer survival shooter with a focus on what developer Midwinter Games calls "co-opetition" (yes, it's a made up word, and yes, it is a little bit silly). To set the scene; Earth's moon has been struck by a meteor, its debris has ravaged the surrounding planets, ruined our climate, forced humanity to take to the stars, and unleashed an alien virus that's slowly polluting our former home. Our Scavengers are sent down to gather these alien materials in the hopes of finding a solution to mankind's precarious plight, which sets the stage for every match of its PvP/PvE hybrid experience. 

Each session starts off familiar enough, as you pick your character (each with their own perks and specialisms), squad up into a team of three, and begin the Explore phase of the match, which is mainly marked by the proverbial loop of finding weapons, resources, and levelling up your armour. The world is also pocketed with AI enemies alongside the other three-player squads on the map, including tribal pockets of old world humans, alien combatants, and predatory wildlife, and taking on these combatants will gift your team with an array of better loot and upgrades. 

Some enemy bases and bosses, however, require multiple squads to co-operate and take them down together, which is where the "co-op" part of Scavengers' co-opetition comes in. Midwinter's creative director Josh Holmes is the former Studio Head and Creative Director of the Halo franchise at 343 Industries, and his fingerprints are all over this aspect of Scavengers, which brings to mind Halo 5's Warzone mode, and its fluid transitions between teamwork and competitive play. It's also Scavengers most interesting gameplay idea, one which allows for exciting and unpredictable interactions between squads, like the one I described earlier. 

"Scavengers is built on SpatalIOS software, a cloud based technology platform which allows developers to run a game beyond the limitation of a single server"

My single match of Scavengers presented a game that ran and played well with a mouse and keyboard, but one that still looked the part of an Early Access title, with drab textures and lo-fi effects that clearly need some work. Midwinter knows this, though, as Scavengers is still, of course, in pre-Alpha stage, so there's plenty of time for improvement to make it stand apart from the reams of winter-set survival titles that overpopulate the PC market at present.

Scavengers is built on SpatalIOS software, a cloud based technology platform which allows developers to run a game beyond the limitation of a single server instance. For Scavengers, this allows for more persistent sessions, game worlds with larger scope and structure, and dynamic, emergent in-game events like weather and destruction that can help to build a more immersive milieu. 

That makes it a promising new entry for the multiplayer scene, and Midwinter's commitment to playtests suggests its ready to work with its community to craft an evolving, reactive meta. You'll be able to have a shot at jumping into one of these playtests yourself by signing up for more news on the game's website here, and I'd recommend it for anyone with a taste for battle royale looking for something a little different. Scavengers is patchy in parts, and still has a long road ahead in carving out its place on the multiplayer scene, but – given the pedigree of both its development team of season devs, and it's avant-garde cloud tech – the game's future is looking much brighter than the one it depicts for humanity.  

Visit GamesRadar's E3 2019 coverage hub to read more of our exclusive hands-on previews and interviews.

Alex is a UK-based writer and editor, peddling his written wares to whoever will take them. You can enjoy his irrational stream of consciousness on Twitter at @alexavard95.