Saturday, January 26, 2013

An Atmospheric Game In Need Of Balancing

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.

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