Sir You Are Being Hunted – Rezzed Preview (PC)

Good show old robot.

piers

Sir You Are Being Hunted is a gentleman’s survival horror sci-fi first person shooter with ‘simulationist’ RPG features and a roguelike structure. It’s also set in a procedurally generated British countryside. It’s beautiful.

Starting up the demo, you face a set of stones and some handy hints asking you to look at things. After examining a corpse ( a healthy foreshadowing of what’s most likely going to happen to you) you pick up some binoculars and bandages, and nearby you can grab an artifact that needs returning back to the main standing stone. The objective of Sir You Are Being Hunted is simple, just return all of the artifacts back to the standing stone and then teleport off the island. Easy.

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After you’ve got the hang of the controls, you’re left to explore the countryside around you. Big Robot’s surprisingly small three-man team have cleverly created a procedural generator for the English countryside and it really works. Not only does it mean each time you play everything is randomised, from the cliffs to the villages (complete with randomly generated and hilarious yet believable English village names) but it also means each island can be huge, around 5km squared, without the team needing to hand craft each map. At the moment there’s a handful of map ‘types’ including the fields and meadows and a mountainous map, but there’s promises of an industrial section (‘like Birmingham’ I was promised) and a giant castle coming in future updates. The map feels real, and anyone who has visited England will be instantly familiar with the low wooden fences and broken stone walls seperating patchwork fields as far as the eye can see. Old stone churches and quaint villages litter the landscape and it all feels convincing and just as charming as if it had been loving developed by careful designers.

Of course the game isn’t simply about collecting artifacts in random and rural England; as the title gives away, you are being hunted. Murderous robots stalk the lands in impeccable attire and pipes, dressed as late 19th century aristocrats, with hunting dogs in tow, out for your blood. They’re charming and terrifying adversaries. You often spot them from afar but they can close the gap quickly and their aim is deadly. Hiding in long grass is the way to go, and making use of the sound system in order to distract them as best you can. An example was given of a bottle being thrown just making a simple crash. But if you throw the bottle into some birds sitting around, they’ll all take flight and that sound will be much bigger and draw more attention from further away. It’s a delicate system and the designers are keen for the drama to come from the systems, rather than from scripted events. Sounds are often unavoidable and interlinked in complex ways. There’s a plethora of items to find in houses and on corpses that can be combined to create traps, weapons and noise-making diversions, as well as cups of tea.

My time with the game was brief, because I died horrible. I came across a quiet little village, raided a few houses ( simply a case of ‘using’ their doors and taking the loot out of a menu) and then trekked off across the countryside. I spotted a smoke trail – a key sign of an artifact – but looking through my binoculars, I also spotted the squad of robots patrolling around the site. I crept up as steadily as I could, but was soon discovered and sprinted into some long grass where I could hide. I was shot, and bleeding badly, but a developer was on hand to show me how to bandage the wound. With the flow of blood stemmed, I took another look out to check on the positions of the robots, only to see one marching right for me, but looking in a different direction. Paralysed by fear, I didn’t know which way to go and before I knew it the glowing red gaze of the robot was upon me. I turned to run but barely got ten feet before I was mown down, and that was the end of me.

Like any roguelike, this will be a punishing game in some ways. Once you die, that’s it, you have to start again. The difficulty gets harder as you go on, with more enemies spawning in and the robots getting more aggressive in the hunt for you. Very quickly the tide turns from you as the silent assassin to feeling helpless as you cower in the grass from the demonic stare of the robot gents.

Out of everything we’ve seen at Rezzed on the first day, this game impressed me the most. It’s got a wonderful aesthetic, the movement speed and controls feel tight, and there’s an incredibly sense of atmosphere as you stalk the lonely moors. If we can fight past the queues we’ll be back for more tomorrow and the first playable release should be out in the next month for Kickstarter backers. If you’re not one of those I strongly suggest you pre-order the game from http://www.big-robot.com/2012/03/12/sir-you-are-being-hunted/

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