It feels like I've seen more than the average amount of posts lately pertaining specifically to people's poor chances of success in PvP. Beginning players, particularly those who are still getting to grips with the game's actual systems, really seem to get disheartened by the numerous deaths they have to suffer through at the hands of players that are vastly more experienced and much better equipped. These posts speak to me because I am one of those people that still struggle with PvP after 500+ hours with the game. Rather than putting emphasis on those losses, I have been carving out a niche for myself in this unforgiving world, and I would like to share some of my thoughts with you in a guide-of-sorts.
I started by asking myself what I actually love most about the game. Certainly not the PvP, although it can be fantastic. I love doing the trader tasks (*gasp*), because they give me purpose beyond 'kill, loot, extract'. Playing out the special forces operator fantasy and getting in and out of an objective as quickly and quietly as possible gives me real satisfaction. I've come to lovingly refer to my playstyle as Metal BEAR Solid. I play alone a lot, so going guns blazing usually isn't the best idea, but striking from the shadows and displacing after every kill, that I can do. I also find it much easier to loot in relative safety when under the cover of darkness. In and out. Quick and quiet. No suka blyat, but cheeki breeki.
If any of what I just said appeals to you, I encourage you to read on a bit; you might find some of what I'm about to share helpful.
THE SECTION FOR ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS
Inevitably, this guide will attract some newcomers. Welcome to Tarkov! Prepare to get your bell rung a bit at first. I'm sure you're aware by now that EFT is a hard game and you WILL struggle with its arcane systems and overwhelming difficulty, particularly for the first 10 character levels. But it's going to be okay. This guide is not intended for absolute beginners per se, but I will say this: there's 3 objectives you will want to complete ASAP while you are first learning the game.
Get your PMC to level 10 so you can start buying and selling on the Flea Market
Focus on leveling up your traders to loyalty level 2 and unlocking Jaeger as a vendor/quest giver
Start building out the Hideout, with the short-term goal of getting your Intelligence Center up and running
Getting your PMC level to 10 is priority #1. The easiest and quickest way to do this is by completing tasks. They net you both experience points and some other rewards like valuable items, currency or even the ability to buy new equipment from traders. Some early tasks are manageable; kill 5 scavs on Customs, find in raid 5 Salewa kits, collect MP-133 shotguns, etc. It might take you some time and several attempts to get these done, but it's possible.
My advice if you are really unsure of where to start: hit up YouTube and have a look at (for example) Pestily's Raid series. This series of videos sees him playing the game fresh from level 1, doing all the tasks and talking newcomers through the process as he goes. Some of the info on offer might be slightly outdated but almost all of it should still apply.
Other than that, I would advise that you scav, scav, scav. Do your scav run every time it's off cooldown. Only run Interchange at first. Get a map of the place on your phone or a second monitor. If you are looking for barter items, run along the outskirts of the map and hit the stashes. If you are looking for gear, check all the chests and crates in the parking garage. If you spawn near OLI, check the back shelves for valuables like fuel and water filters. If you spawn in IDEA, check the office for graphics cards, Tetriz and other computer parts. Sell it all to traders to start leveling them up early, or store the things that seem really valuable for later so you can sell them on the flea market or use them for your hideout.
Scavving is a good way of getting a feel for the game and learning what all the different guns do. They can also help you complete tasks that require you to find things, such as the shotguns, the Salewa kits etc. If you're on a scav run and the loot hasn't been great, don't be afraid to run into a hot zone on the map and get in on the action. You might die, you might walk away with a bag full of stuff. Who knows what will happen, but you'll at least learn something about the game's combat.
This was never intended as a beginner's guide so I would like to leave it at this, but one final word of advice: if you have looked at all the guides and seen all the videos but you are still struggling, see about getting some help from an experienced player in the game's Discord channel. You might not think it, but there's a very friendly community out there who love nothing more than to welcome newcomers!
SO.. METAL BEAR SOLID
Right, with that small aside out of the way, let's get on with the meat and potatoes of this guide-of-sorts. As I said, PvP isn't my strong suit and therefore I had to find other ways to get stuff done and earn money. It just so happens that I love doing the tasks and I really enjoy the idea of being a sneaky Sam Fisher type, going in quietly and clearing my objective with as little fuss as possible. There's a couple of things I've learned over the past 40 levels:
Nighttime is your friend
It's better to travel light so you walk faster and produce less noise
Never open fire unless you're compromised or you are ABSOLUTELY sure you can kill
ALWAYS attack from concealment and displace afterwards
If you don't think it's safe to loot a body, leave it. Your hunch is probably correct
Run only to survive an attack, not to travel. Walking makes far less noise
~3-5 scav kills and 100-150k loot > dying and being left empty-handed
That's all well and good, but what if I'm below level 10 and I have access to very little gear and resources? I can't just buy or build myself a meta M4, slap on a pair of super expensive NV goggles and run off into the night. What would my loadout look like?
Below level 10 I like to start by doing a quick scav run to get the basics of a loadout together. Any body armor or armored rig will do, but try not to wear anything that stands out. The white 3M's are a no-no, as are the bright blue UN vests and helmets. Just go for something very dark like a PACA or something with camo. Staying hidden is the goal here, we want to be as difficult to spot as we can possibly manage. Make sure you have a headset, as well. Any model will do, so long as you can hear better with it. Helmets are optional, but a face mask or a balaclava is mandatory.
In terms of guns, I like to run two: one bolt-action or semi-auto rifle for accurate kills at medium to long range, and either an SMG/shotgun or a pistol as a backup weapon for when I'm entering buildings. They don't have to be modded much, at first; a simple OP-SKS with a scope will do at first. If you have a suppressor available, put it on. It might be wise to run a flashlight on your backup weapon for those times when it's really dark and you absolutely need to see. Remember, we're not looking for trouble. These weapons are mostly meant for dealing with scavs and defending ourselves in CQC.
Once you have access to the flea market or higher level traders, I absolutely recommend running night vision. The PNV-10T's are sold by Skier LL2 or abundantly available on the flea market and they're very much worth running. The clarity is fine and the FOV may not be as good as the more expensive models, but it's still a vast improvement over running night raids with just a flashlight. At level 38 I'm still using these regularly because they practically always come back through insurance if I do die, when the expensive ones would have been scooped up.
Another thing I like to do is slowly build out my guns as I survive raids. This helps you appreciate the big and small differences that certain attachments make and allows you to spend more time with your weapons, improving both your own skill at using it and that of your PMC as well. You'll be surprised how effective early-game guns can be if you mod them a bit: I've had great successes with simple guns like a SAIGA-12 shotgun or a PP-19 SMG.
So you have your kit and now it's time to raid. Again, I can't overstate the importance of going in at night. You will have a much easier time surviving under the cover of darkness, and it's not that hard to find your way around the map even without night vision. In a pinch, your flashlight will help you see. Learn to love the darkness, because you will be seeing a lot of it. Also learn to love bad weather, because it's your friend. Heavy rain or a thunderstorm? People complain about it all the time, but for you it means you're less likely to be heard. Thick fog? Time to run Woods to get those godawful tasks done that have you sitting out in the open on the jetty by the sawmill.
At the very moment you spawn, find cover and proceed to plot your route. On any raid, I will want to accomplish 3 things in order of importance:
clear the objective of the task you are doing
find some loot that will pay for your expenses and hopefully make you a profit
get some scav kills in for experience points
Say you are doing Shoreline and you have to do the task Spa Tour – Part 2. You will have to go to Resort at some point, but it's a PvP hotzone. Your point of insertion is Road to Customs and your exfils are Tunnel or Rock Passage. It's probably not a great idea to beeline for Resort, as you will likely be heard or seen and quickly killed. So what can you do? Maybe hit up Weather Station first, see if you can kill a scav or two there and find some loot in the server room upstairs. Then proceed down the hill towards Power Station, hitting up the secret stash underneath the bridge with the crashed tank along the way. Scope out Power Station for scavs and kill/loot a few of them if it's quiet.
By this point, 15 minutes have passed and the sounds of gunfire at Resort have died down a bit. You should start thinking about heading up there to do your task. Proceed up the hill slowly and place the marker down at the road going into the front entrance of the Resort. Stake out the place for a bit. If it's quiet, head up to the helicopter and place the second marker down, then run away down the western slope. Hit up the Bus Depot next, see if you can get another scav kill or two. You're about 25 minutes in now. If you're feeling brave, have a walk around the Cottages and see if you can kill another scav or two and hoover up some loot. If the place is being lit up or if you spot Sanitar and his guards at range, maybe think about going the other way.
Thirty minutes in. If dawn is approaching, now would be a good time to extract. Make use of the darkness while you can. If you still have time, you could hit up the village for some more loot before you leave. It's up to you, just remember: survival is paramount. You will earn much more money and experience if you live.
If you are already comfortable with the game and its locations, you could have this all planned out from the moment you spawned. It's always a good idea to know where you want to go beforehand and how you are going to get there. Plans can change along the way, but at least you had a plan. Whether you are level 5 and trying to get a foot in the door or level 35 and just about to max your hideout and traders, careful planning can help you survive.
I think I've gotten the point across by now, so before I leave I would like to give you some final pointers:
Move with determination, but don't rush. Walking everywhere may be slower, but you will live longer. After a while you will start to feel instinctively when it's safe to run short distances, especially on the open maps like Woods and Shoreline.
Move from cover to cover. Bushes, walls, ditches, rubble, fencing, doesn't matter what it is.
Don't crouch, you won't be that much quieter or harder to spot, but you'll be a lot slower and therefore an easier target.
Going prone has its uses but don't think you won't be seen if you go prone in tall grass.
If you are really unsure about the safety of a location, whether it be an extraction point or a quest objective, maybe toss your pack and/or one of your weapons in a bush first. If you do die, this will 100% come back through insurance. This is also good for looting bodies.
In a pinch, a flashlight can blind enemies real well.
Sometimes, lettings scavs live can help alert you to enemy PMCs.
Carry a few grenades. They're not stealthy, but they can help create diversions or force the enemy to disperse if you are under fire. Hell, you might even get a lucky kill.
CHECK. YOUR. CORNERS. I've died more to scavs hiding behind doors than I care to admit.
There's probably a lot more than I haven't thought of yet, so I will likely update this guide with more points in the future. Feel free to add your own below, constructive criticism is most welcome! If you have read this all the way through, I hope you found at least some of it helpful in some way. Thank you very much for your time and attention. From one terrible PVPer to another, I salute you!