It’s getting colder. It’s raining more. The nights are getting a bit longer… Autumn is coming – and with it: Halloween! (Unless you’re in the land down under where it’s Spring…? That place surely is magical!)
Halloween’s great! It’s the time to bring out my horse mask, watch some trash horror movies and quite potentially play some spooky games, alone, at night, by yourself… and that’s why we’re taking a look at “Sir, You Are Being Hunted”, a spooky and very British Stealth-Survival game by Big Robot Ltd!
Developer: Big Robot Ltd Publisher: Big Robot Ltd Genre: Survival, Stealth, Indie, Robots, First-Person, Horror Release Date: August 13th, 2013 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was purchased.
Note: I had to create a header image for this game as there was no actual press kit and hence no high resolution pictures or logos available. Hence, pardon my intervention in that regard.
But first,… what is Sir, You Are Being Hunted?
In this title, you’re participating in a fox hunt – the twist is that you, Sir (or Madam!), are being hunted and not some fox. For some reason, we then are tasked with finding a bunch of different machine parts on five different islands (all connected with boats), only to bring them all together at the magical statue in the centre island. Yeah, I know, the story doesn’t really seem too intriguing but hold on before you click off… because the game is actually somewhat good.
After all, this game combines witty humour, procedural generation, stealth and survival mechanics to present a funny and spooky experience.
While you’re searching for the smoke pillars in the distance, you’ll come across all kinds of robots. At first, you only get to see high-class hunters with their shotguns, their top hats, moustaches and their tweed jackets. These take only two hits with a hatchet and are your first source of new weapons, including their shotguns. But over time, the game throws all kinds of other enemies in your face: You get to see robotic hunting dogs, revolver wielding middle-class squires and lower-class poachers but also scarier foes like rocket.powered horse-riders or the giant landlord who’s able to chase you from afar and who is truly terrifying.
This game’s the epitome of “British stereotypes”. From the Victorian look of all the enemies to the sad and dreary environment that you’re walking through to the small jokes hidden in the different item flavour texts and other info. I really enjoyed the humour to bits. On top of that, you get to chose whether you wanna be a “Sir” or a “Madam” that is being hunted… which I found cute in a way… And obviously, Great Britain can be lovely, but as far as stereotypes and that kind of stuff go, a lot of people think that it’s always raining over there… which is well shown in “Sir, You Are Being Hunted”.
The biomes you’re walking through have this very sombre vibe to it but in a good way. Even during the day, it remains quite spooky and dismal, which I found more than interesting. In the distance, you may see the next landmark, a giant factory in the industrial part of an island with smoke coming out of chimneys… or maybe a small town whose street lanterns are shining a small light onto the nooks and crannies of the streets. Overall, despite its age, I did find a few spots here and there that actually were quite lovely or enigmatic in their own way. Looks-wise the game has aged somewhat well and has still its own character. The landscapes are pretty at first but over time, I noticed that they can also get quite monotone and dreary.
When I say that the game aged well, I mean that it can still look good despite looking “old”. There are some uninspired spots and pieces with shrubs and hedges and some trampled ground but with procedural generation and you essentially getting a new map every run, it’s possible that you get some very pretty ones as well. In one instance, I had this very spectacular pink sky in might sight which was very clearly visible, even from the shrouds that I was hiding in!
Where the game truly shines is its audio design. The developers themselves said that they put extra care into that and wanted to make it something that gives the players a lot – and in fact, they did. During the game, I was constantly on edge trying to find the next place to go, dodging robots and looking into the distance in hope to see their red eyes and their paths… and while I was immersed and while I tried to progress, I ended up really listening to those sounds and noises in the game. Gunshots? Barking? Even birds that are flying away from robots scaring them off can be heard clearly if you’re nearby. I really enjoyed this aspect of tracking the robots and trying to find your own ways of dealing with them and trying to get around them.
In one case, I lured robots to me with a trombone while waiting in a farmer’s field. I was crouching with my hatchet, waiting for them to stop by and before they noticed I fell the first one and dipped back into the shadows. Then I threw a glass bottle into the other direction, looted the corpse and shot the remaining two distracted robots with my newly attained shotgun! I felt quite good about that! Suddenly, the Hunted became the Hunter again!
But while the stealth parts can be fun and while the game is quite well-made with great jokes, cool enemies, nice sound design and pretty landscapes, I must say that some stuff really doesn’t work in “Sir, You Are Being Hunted”.
In my time in the game, I noticed that the different machine parts are spaced out too much, for instance. Sometimes, you find them and see them being heavily guarded… at other times you just stumble across the hills until you find another one by accident. The smoke pillars that should rise from them are often not really that visible from afar, so you’ve got to search a bit for them. Having a more reliable map would have been better in that regard or potentially reducing the number of parts that you have to find in total… or even making it an option to crank up or down.
Another thing that just didn’t work out for me was the Survival aspect of it. During your playthrough, you have to watch your Health and Vitality. If you get hit, you need to stop the bleeding or else you’ll die. If your vitality is low, you’ll starve and die as well. The game prompts you to either go hunting to find fresh game or to just loot enemies and houses in order to find relatively fresh and quite rotten food… This – and the fact that you cannot really craft too many items in the game – make the game quite hard to get around. The inventory management that you need to take care of can be also relatively hard to get around, especially when you have to discard of junk items manually. One by one.
And well,… you can only save at the monument on the first island and at boats. When you die, you lose a lot of progress and items. Looting isn’t that satisfactory as you just hit F on a door instead of actually foraging and scavenging inside and outside of it. A lot of the items feel useless or are useless and due to the missing actual crafting system it kind of feels as if the survival aspects have just been added to the game because it seemed like a good idea.
When you’re surrounded and you’re starving, you’re basically waiting for the game to end. That’s not fun. Your last resort? Light a pipe and drink yourself into a more vital and nauseous state! Drinks give you vitality but make you tipsy… Smokes cost you vitality but do nothing else… I like the gimmick but it isn’t exactly helpful.
On top of that, you spend a lot of time travelling while crouching, which can get a bit annoying and feel way too slow. And while you get stronger by getting weapons and ammunition from enemies, the game also gets harder as there are bigger patrols, new enemies, and less places to go to for the sake of looting. Overall, the game can be quite frustrating and unforgiving but if you are searching for a challenge, this might actually be it!
Regardless of all of that, though, I’d recommend this game to others. It’s a good game in its core and the stealth parts are fun while the game is genuinely spooky – at least it was for me. I’d say that this is a great game if you’re searching for something slow but fun and somewhat relaxed to play on an evening or two. I’m not sure if it’s worth the full price though due to it being old and not getting updates on top of having some bigger issues like the survival being “eh” and the game feeling slow.