Have you ever felt an overwhelming desire to be chased through rural British countryside by a bunch of angry robots who want to gun you down and hang your head on their wall? No I didn't imagine so, but the idea surely sounds appealing right? Well luckily for you game developer Big Robot have got just the thing!
You Are Being Hunted is a survival game in which you play some sort of wealthy British person whose only defining characteristic is whether or not they are "Sir" or "Madam", who in the process of engaging in some sort of vague scientific experiment for equally vague reasons, has been mysteriously transported to an archipelago of five islands and must now acquire the twenty-four fragments of the device that will return you home. Unfortunately it turns out the islands are populated by hunting robots that take you for good sport. Now the race against time is on as you fight against starvation and killer robots whilst desperately trying to find the scattered fragments, many of which the robots have decided to guard presumedly because they like shiny things.
As you know already You Are Being Hunted is a survival game at heart, you start with nothing and have to slowly and stealthily explore the environment to gradually acquire the tools necessary for your survival. Your primary goal is of course to acquire the fragments, but they're often guarded by your mechanical adversaries and in the meantime you're constantly under the threat of starvation, meaning you'll be pushed towards nearby buildings in the hopes that upon scouring them you'll be able to acquire food and ideally additional resources for dealing with your robot problem. Luckily for us there's a few ways of going about this, you can find a variety of reasonably common items that serve as effective methods of distraction, allowing you to stealthily explore, loot, and steal fragments without even having to engage in direct confrontation in the earlier stages of the game. Ideally though you want to acquire traps and weaponry that serve both to let you hunt wildlife for food, and to face off against the robots in battle. It won't be long before you're able to gather up fragments with relative ease, but as you gather more and more fragments, more and more kinds of robot are going to start populating the islands, and they all want you dead.
Before you start the game you can choose a 'class' preset which simply determines what items you start off with, the default is the hardest and most in line with the survival themes where as others give you various items making the game easier, so if you find the game too difficult on the default setting you can try tinkering around with the other classes for an easier starting point. You can also customize which island his which biome and fine tune which robots spawn and how early on in the game they do, if you want to make the game more or less challenging. Once you do start to explore the various biomes spread across the islands, you'll find that the most appreciable thing about You Are Being Hunted is the way the different biomes effect the game quite drastically, the layout of the areas changes the way the robots behave and how you're forced to approach dealing with them. No matter which island you're on you'll find they're quite bland when merely patrolling around fragments though, but when groups of ten or more robots open fire on one another over a disagreement in the middle of a forest you happen to be in and you're frantically ducking amidst nearby shrubbery unsure as to whether they've seen you or not, the game is incredibly tense. Exploring ruined castles and tall mountainside forests and abandoned villages are all some of the finer points in YABH, and honestly although the game is hardly going to stun anyone on the visual front, I do think their random generation of the worlds is genuinely impressive at times.
The biggest issue I have with the game right now is how poorly balanced stealth is against actual combat. In theory this makes sense; if weaponry and ammo are difficult to find and maintain then you as a player are forced to weigh the value of eliminating certain targets or hunting for food against conserving them for more dire situations where fighting may save your life. Unfortunately in practice this doesn't work because guns are too easy to stumble upon and you continually get ammo if you're efficent at killing the robots, plus the prevalence of food scattered about the very buildings in which you also scour for your killing tools means you often aren't forced to ever spend ammo hunting food anyway. This means that you end up with stealth and combat becoming chosen "playstyles" rather than choices made on circumstance, with Stealth being a slow and time consuming choice that honestly offers little to no real benefit in exchange for the time consumption, where as simply going on a war path will often result in you getting more ammo back then you spend, and often with little risk to you, assuming you aren't literally trying to gun down a whole hunting party. Given that players have the option of choosing a character class that starts with a gun anyway, I think making ranged weaponry or at least the ammo substantially rarer would be generally beneficial for the game's overall balance, and I'd like to see more situations as the game goes on where larger groups of robots make engaging in combat a much more dangerous fare than it currently ever is when you often don't ever need to engage them in more than groups of two or three.
You Are Being Hunted undoubtedly shows a lot of promise, survival games are few and far between in the modern gaming industry and almost entirely live on through the efforts of Indie developers, and I applaud Big Robot for their efforts in creating a very interesting and genuinely fun entry to the genre. That being said if you aren't someone who enjoys slower paced games about trying to survive in the wilderness, you likely aren't going to find YABH very appealing. Even in spite of its issues, it's still a far cry from your typical first person shooter.
Review up to date for - Version 1.1
Posted: November 27th, 2013