Eastern European gaming companies have came up with some great ideas in the last 10 years (S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and The Witcher pop to mind, to name just a couple). Unfortunately, although it tries hard, You Are Empty, well, is not one of the best examples.
This game's strengths are mainly the story and the settings. Soviet-era mentality had always been obsessed with mind-control sciences, and when something goes terribly wrong the world is turned into a zombie and cyber-entities cesspool.
The graphics are nice (comparable, at least, to those of Half Life 2 - an 8-year old game mind you), the surfaces are not too shabby (notice that they have been done painstakingly in polygons, not bump mapping!) - and the game engine, although previously untested, hardly ever glitches! Now that is solid kung-fu programming!
The scenery, with all the Soviet propaganda posters and the beautifully done cut-scenes, is gorgeous; whereas, the sounds and music have been tastefully chosen, with radio loop-announcements cutting through the cold Russian wind making the power-lines whistle: this is a game that is really easy to get immersed into!
Interestingly, You Are Empty runs for well over 16 hours(!): this is how long FPS games used to last - and not the miserly 3-4 hours the latest over-hyped releases do...
On the down side, the weapons may be realistic yet could not be more generic and unimaginative; movement is slower than flowing syrup, something especially nerve-raking when enemies have the tendency to jump you from all directions; and the damage (both sustained and inflicted) is hardly balanced: it is preferable to get hit by a grenade than to jump a single floor, to absorb several bullets that get bitten by a single rat and to keep using your sidearm than a rifle, since they do about the same damage, appear to have the same range and the sidearm can hold more bullets...!
This is a game that had been available since 2008 in Europe before finding distribution in the US - and, undoubtedly, this is not helping its chances to impress. North Americans should feel lucky though: the European release also featured the infamous...StarForce.
This is a solid first effort by Digital Spray, a newly founded group, that although fails to stand out in this pre-Christmas crowd, lays stable groundwork for its future developments. Let's only hope they do not get outright absorbed into a gaming mega-corporation...
All in all: a creative and atmospheric game that is worth a budget admission price.