Sir (or Madame), you are being hunted. With that, I have become a human fox running from relentless robot trackers. Sir, You Are Being Hunted is the procedurally generated stealth/survival sandbox game from Big Robot Ltd that is currently in alpha testing. Big Robot Ltd was able to fund the game thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign held during the end of 2012.
The game is billed as being like no other stealth game. Players are dropped in the middle of an archipelago with their wits and a few sparse items. To escape, they must gather the machine pieces scattered across the landscape, all while being hunted by a variety of merciless and ever so British robots.
Upon loading the game, players will be presented with several classes to choose from that will tweak the initial difficulty of the game. The Aristocrat is the original “gentleman’s” choice, only armed with some rags for bandages, while other classes like The Officer, who has enough weapons to go ambush a few groups of hunter robots, have enough items to give them a better chance to survive. As the game is procedurally generated, the landscape is random. However, players will have some control on the biomes type of each island. Currently, the game supports four biome types inspired by the British landscape: rural, fenland, mountainous, and industrial. Advanced options for biome generation have not been implemented in the game, but it is in the works.
Players will be guided through the initial parts of Sir, You Are Being Hunted by the narrator who serves as both the tutorial and the player’s contact with the outside world. The game does run players through the some basics, but the rest of the game is up to the player’s imagination and wits. Players are tasked with finding the pieces of the machine that will return them to the safety of the human world. The parts are scattered across the five islands.
Currently, there are seven different robot types in the game. Each type behaves differently, from the Hunters and their Hounds who will track the player mercilessly to the mostly friendly Squire. The Scarecrow is probably the standout robot in the pack. Although not directly dangerous to the player, the robot behaves like the Weeping Angels from Dr. Who. Once the robot wakes up and its eyes turn red, the robot will only move when the player is not looking at the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow teleports behind the player while screeching a raspy “Over here!” over and over to attract all hostile robots in an ear shot. I have lost count on how many times the Scarecrow has literally scared me out of my seat by appearing behind me suddenly. As if that raspy screech wasn’t terrifying enough on its own.
Each style of robot has a different tactic to best fight them, but most of the time the real question is not “how should I fight this robot” but “should I even risk getting into this fight? Sir, You Are Being Hunted plays more like an old style horror survival game then a modern stealth game. Modern stealth games like Splinter Cell: Conviction have turned the player into the ruler of the sjadpws. In contrast, Sir, You Are Being Hunted does its best to make the player feel like the hunted at all times, forcing the player to crouch in the underbrush of a forest breathlessly praying that a Hound is not part of that patrol of Hunter robots walking dangerously nearby. Players will need to keep quiet and stay in the cover of the local landscape to survive undetected. There is something genuinely terrifying about the feeling of weakness and vulnerability the developers have sowed in players.
Of course, the feeling of victory after surviving an attack on a village controlled by Hunters is just as intense. Players are encouraged to think creatively to build ambush spots that will allow them to slowly whittle down the number of enemy robots in brutal hit and run attacks. The game includes a variety of items to direct the robots’ attention from empty bottles to alarm clocks. In moments of desperation, the player can even use themselves as the bait, by using a flashlight or simply standing in the sight line of a hunter. Currently, I find the flashlight to be the least reliable form of attracting attention as there were several instances where a Hunter was clearly illuminated by the beam, but the Hunter did not seem to care one bit.
The inventory space is extremely limited, and ammo is even scarcer than the inventory slots. The slots work like early Resident Evil games, with a limited set of square and each item taking a certain amount of space. Although it can be annoying to try to make room for the giant four by four machine piece, I feel the inventory space makes the game feel more realistic as the player is only capable of carrying a limited amount of gear in a bag. Players will need to keep their vitality up by scavenging for food. The health system works like Minecraft, where hungry players do not replenish health. The game eats away at vitality at a very quick rate, forcing players to constantly sneak into small villages or risk lighting fires to cook hunted food.
How the inventory handles weapons is probably the weakest part of the game at this point. To scrounge the ammunition from a weapon, space for the entire weapon needs to be made in the inventory. Once the weapon is dropped into the inventory, it will then shrink down into the ammunition. It is also impossible to retrieve ammunition from broken weapons. I feel it would be a bit more realistic for broken weapons to have a chance of yield a few rounds of ammo.
Sir You Are Being Hunted may not have the flashiest graphics, but it does a great job of creating a drab dead landscape devoid of all human life. The robot design are amusingly cartoonish and distinctly British. There is something darkly funny about the light hearted design of the robots whose only goal in their existence is to kill you.
Sound plays a huge role in staying alive in Sir, You Are Being Hunted. This is a game where headphones or a very good set of surround sound speakers are a must. The developers have done a great job creating tension from the sound. You will always hear each robots distinct sound long before you see them. It does not take long before the feeling of paranoia sets in and the sound of flying birds may be mistaken for something more sinister.
Big Robot has already created a fantastic stealth game. The game creates incredible tension missing from many games in the genre by constantly making the player feel hunted. Although it is still months from full release, the game feels nearly complete and the experience is thoroughly enjoyable. This game will be a must buy for every stealth fan.