Sir, You Are Being Hunted is an upcoming survival-em-up from the writer and designer Jim Rossignol and the team at Big Robot. It lands you in a procedurally generated part of the British countryside with nothing but a mission to gather some exploded fragments of a teleporter in order to escape from the island. Since each island is created just for you, you’ll need to explore, and each piece is rather large so it’ll take you a while to find them all. As you wander around this island you’ll come across quaint little villages with random (but surprisingly charming and believable) names, with all of the buildings serving as treasure chests of loot that range from dead mice and mushrooms to flasks of tea and bottles of whisky. You’ll also find burnt out buildings and campfires, post boxes, forest and little bays. The whole thing sounds rather lovely if it wasn’t for the murderous robots hunting you.
We’ve been granted access to an early alpha version of the game, and have been putting it through its paces while failing miserably at surviving. The title of the game is surprisingly matter of fact and incredibly accurate. This might be a gentleman’s game, but the bloodthirsty robots chasing you down betray their civilised appearance with a ruthlessness that would make Asimov weep. As you explore the island, tracking down the parts of the teleporter (that handily throw a plume of smoke into the air) you’ll spot, or most likely hear the robots. They’re skinny and stand tall, but their glowing eyes cast a red beam a foot or so in front of their face. This has two effects: one, you can tell which way they’re looking; two, you can tell they’re looking right into your soul which they’re planning to destroy in a hail of gunfire.
Taking on the robots is a fools errand, they have unlimited ammo, they hunt in packs and they’re deadly accurate from quite a distance. Instead you need to distract them by throwing bits of junk around to try and sneak up and grab things while they’re not looking. That might sound simple but once you get a little further into a playthrough you’ll be up against more and more of them, making it incredibly easy to make a stupid mistake leaving yourself completely exposed.
This is how a usual playthrough for me goes:
I wake up on the island and instinctively grab everything around me: bandages, binoculars, a tin of food. Doesn’t matter if it’s pet food, I need whatever I can get. I suspiciously survey the environment and usually spot a cluster of buildings. Speedily moving through the meadows and fields I get to the town and check every door for whatever I can find. There’s a lot of trash but I’ll keep whatever I can eat, drink or throw. On the way out I’ll run past the village sign and giggle stupidly at the name and then dive into the nearest cover. Normally by now I’ve seen some smoke, and can start working my way up to a vantage point to get closer. This is where the terror begins. Usually where’s there’s smoke there’s classy robots, and once you hear that little beep or warble, you know where they are. Creeping over a ridge I’ll spot the hunting party, all facing in different directions, covering nearly every angle. If I’m lucky I’ll be in a blind spot already and can chuck a bottle off to the opposite direction, giving me just enough time to run in and grab the smoking object before scampering out again into the long grass where I can wait and hide. Then I notice a shadow, something blocking the rapidly setting Sun, a balloon. The balloon casts its spotlight over me and bathes me in harsh white light, then the alarms begin. With the alarms come the robots, and I’ve got seconds to find new cover. Out in the open they take pot shots at me, clipping my side and causing me to begin to bleed out. Frantically searching for refuge, I dive behind a house and open my inventory, finding whatever scraps I can to bandage up my wound and stem the bleeding. Barely alive, I take a long sip of tea, a moment to recollect my thoughts. I’ve got the fragment, I’ve got some health, I’ll be fine. Then I head round the corner to have a peek and there’s a robot, red glowing eyes enveloping my vision, the barrel of a gun pointing at my gut, and then it’s all over.
Sadly this happens far too often so I’m not entirely sure what happens if you survive, I think there might even be dogs added to the mix if you survive for long enough. As the game stands it’s surprisingly fun even in this early state; there’s a huge amount of tension and Big Robot have got the feel of the English countryside exactly right. It feels like a place rather than a level, as if you’re the intruder rather than the whole environment being created just for you. The robots feel like the powerful ones, that could be off putting for some, but it’s a hell of a challenge. You’d need nerves of steel to get every piece, and I’m not there yet, but thankfully you can save after you return each fragment to the teleporter, so hopefully eventually I’ll eke out an escape, death by death.