VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Sir, You Are Being Hunted
I can see them through the brush—those red eyes, glowing like the waning embers of a fireplace. There are two: One is in a top hat, the other a derby, both mustachioed to an ostentatious degree and both resting their hunting rifles in the crooks of their arms. These gentlemen sentries have been scanning the countryside for the past 15 minutes. They’re looking for me. Their surveillance balloon has been drifting around near me, but so far I’ve been lucky enough to avoid its spotlight and the resulting klaxon. I’d like to fight back, but right now I’ve got to my name a pair of binoculars, some bandages a couple of dead rats and a boot. The situation is not promising, but I’ve got to make a run for the quaint little English village just over the hill; maybe I can find a pistol and some ammo. God, I hate these robots!
A thinking gentleman’s FPS, a tense and well-crafted survival game.
Hard. Really hard. Contra hard.
Even though it’s still in alpha-level development it’s $20.
“Sir, You Are Being Hunted” is a hard game, harder at least than any game I’ve played in a long time. A science experiment has gone awry and the resultant disturbance has deposited you on the central island of an archipelago. And you’re being hunted by robots—English Gentlemen Robots. These “Jolly Good!” and “Pip Pip!” Terminators walk patrols, guard artifacts and constantly scan the landscape for any sign of movement. And then they shoot at you. Relentlessly. And you’re probably not going to have a weapon.
You start the game with nothing but the clothes on your back and have to scour the landscape’s sheds and abandoned homes for medical supplies, weapons and food—yes, you can starve to death if you don’t eat regularly. Building aren’t enterable and function more like multi-story treasure chests when you click on them, so you can’t stake out an elevated position and snipe some ‘bots. And concerning guns, I don’t know if the item randomization is wonky or I just have bad luck, but for all the time I played the most powerful weapon I was able to find was an axe; otherwise the houses were populated mostly by dead rats, boots, bandages and candlesticks. It makes a difficult game all the more impossible when a horde of bewhiskered automatons are raining hot lead upon you and your only retaliation is to throw a bottle at them and run.
Even though you can’t hide out in buildings, taking cover is still a large part of the game’s mechanics. The English countryside is riddled with tall brush, hedgerows and overgrown crops behind which you can crouch and spy on your metallic predators to determine their numbers and movement patterns. Also, you get a visibility meter lets you know how much of you the robots can see, though going by it I’m led to believe that my character is shining like Sirius in the night sky if I move by any means other than a slow crouch.
All the game’s land is procedurally generated when you start a new game, so you’ll have entirely new landscapes each time. Generating the world takes a few minutes when you start a new game, but loading previous saves isn’t an issue.
GRAPHICS AND PERFORMANCE
Even on the highest graphics settings, the game is unmistakably polygonal, but it’s supposed to, so I don’t knock it for that. If the gameplay mechanics—sneaking, distraction, hiding in shadows—reminded me of the now 14-year-old “Thief: The Dark Project,” then this late 90s visual aesthetic really makes it stick. Aurally, the game is tense, but not terrifying—there’s no music. As you skulk through the countryside kept company only by ambient sound, you begin to hear faint robotic rattlings from patrolling ‘bots and their spotlight-equipped balloons. Music wouldn’t work anyway, as the game relies on sudden surprise to make up for its lack of action.
Speaking of surprised, performance-wise “Sir…” left me pleasantly so. I installed it on a 2010 MacBook Pro with an integrated graphics card and the game ran like butter—granted, I had turned down the graphics settings to their lowest to facilitate better fps and the like, but with a game that doesn’t hinge so much on fancy renderings it’s not that big of a deal.
BOTTOM LINE: PATIENCE MAKES PERFECT
It’s an alpha release, so bugs and rough edges are to be expected. That being said, the developers are still charging $20 for it and even with the promise of updates, that’s a little much for what’s available right now. Games like “Don’t Starve” and “Minecraft” were cheaper in alpha and beta releases to give early adopters a buying incentive before the final release bumped up the price and “Sir, You Are Being Hunted” would have done well to emulate that model. It’s going to evolve into something very good and no doubt worth $20, but right now it feels more like a $12.50 or $15 game. Keep an eye on it in the months to come, but right now it earns just 2.5 stars.