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Review: You Are Empty

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You Are Empty is a run-of-the-mill first person shooter game for the PC from Digital Spray Studio?s, Russia. From the start, the review doesn?t sound too promising, but I urge you to bear with me as we delve a little further into the merits ? and drawbacks ? of this budget title.

You Are Empty takes place in the 1950?s, in a totalitarian Soviet Union firmly rooted in the ways of communism, where Soviet scientists are conducting experiments to develop a race of super humans to spread the good word of communism around the globe. Sounds pretty harmless, no? As experiments on humans are won?t to do, something goes terribly wrong, and as a result the populace turns into horrific, mutated monsters. Thankfully, your character is the sole survivor, and must battle his way through the dilapidated streets of a fallen super power to find some answers. Can you find a better reason to run around slaughtering mutants?

The game begins with an impressive cut-scene/montage using the ?real-life-drawn-comic-book? style animation, with a gray, industrialized look. This was quite an artistic approach to the story, but some of the more abstract cut-scenes will leave you scratching your head, wondering what the hell they?re trying to convey. To be perfectly honest, I wasn?t expecting a whole lot out of this game, but these cut-scenes really jumped out at me with their style and darkness. It’s unfortunate, however, that the rest of the game doesn’t apply the same artistic vision to the rest of the game as they did in the cut-scene.

As I said, the game was created by Russian developers, and I was quite excited when during the opening cut-scene that all the voices were Russian. On the radio was Russian ?march? music, and Russian propaganda was plastered all over the walls. At first, I had thought that the Russian integrity of the game had remained intact, and the game had a unique feel to it because of that. However, once you meet some of the speaking characters in-game, your sense of being in a torn-down Russian state crumbles faster than the Russian economy did. Voice acting is absolutely atrocious. The actors sound British, which is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you?re playing a Russian-made game set in Russia. Whoops! The script that the characters speak is terribly written, possibly due to translation issues, and it sounds like they pulled some Joe Schmoe off the street to speak the lines. They?re delivered with no conviction or any sense of voice-acting whatsoever. To be frank, if they would have used Russian voice acting and used sub-titles, at least you wouldn?t be able to tell if the voice acting is bad or not. I most certainly won?t mention how the voice acting doesn?t even match the movement of the character?s lips when they speak, either…

However, despite the comical (not in a good way) voice acting, the game is surprisingly good, graphically speaking. We aren?t talking anything like BioShock here, but it?s decent for what I was actually expecting. Some textures look pretty ugly up close, but there are certain points in the game where I was actually ?wowed? at the scenery. The game has some of the best leafless trees I?ve ever seen, and the cloud and wind effects are also well done. I was also quite shocked when I saw extremely well done water and reflection mapping, even in puddles. Though, there are quite a few instances with clipping issues, which detracts from any game.

You Are Empty does a very good job at portraying a disheveled 50?s Russian town, torn apart by disaster, but this is botched up a bit by jarring and sometimes lengthy load times. Levels are not seamless, and sometimes you?ll walk into a space and into a load time, with a generic loading screen popping up immediately, which really ruined the flow for me. Major load times usually took between 20-30 seconds, a bit longer than what I?d expect from a game of this quality.

Playing the game and viewing the game are two different worlds, and while the game is your standard ?run-n-gun? shooter, it suffers some glaring faults that really hinder the gameplay. First, the controls are very loose and have a sloppy feeling to them. After playing games like Half-Life 2, you get used to crisp, sharply refined controls, and the control settings for this game just aren?t up to snuff. Also worth mentioning is your character?s run speed. The word ?limbless turtle covered in molasses? comes into mind. There is no run or sprint button, just a ?plod along slowly for a leisurely stroll? pacing that really detracts from the game?s nature: shoot stuff.

Which brings us into the next topic: combat. You Are Empty?s combat has some good points, but the over-abundance of bad ones take even more away from the game. While the weapons are very well designed and authentic looking, they aren?t so much authentic sounding when used. Also, when your bullets hit, they seem like BB pellets until your enemy dies, upon which they go flying back in a very satisfying way. Hit detection is poor, with point blank shots sometimes missing, and enemy melee attacks hitting well outside their range, which makes keeping your distance much more a priority.

Enemy AI isn?t entirely clever, but does do some really interesting things. During combat, they?ll use cover to reload, throw grenades, and sometimes retreat to better ground. I?ve also seen enemies throw explosive barrels at me, then shoot them to cause splash damage. But, most of the time the enemies will just run at you swinging, or shooting, if possible. Fights usually pan out the same way: back-pedal while blasting frantically. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, you don?t move very quickly, and your enemies usually do, which can be frustrating when dealing with multiple foes.

One thing that really turned me off was how the game over-utilizes the same ?Surprise! I just came out of that corner that was empty a second ago? tactic to frighten players. This is forgivable every once in a while, but when almost every other encounter stems from this, it really just becomes annoying, as well as predictable. Also considering that the enemies? moans, groans, and battle cries can be heard from a mile away, and you get a game that more or less bothers you with enemies instead of surprising you with them.

Enemies are moderately diverse, ranging from downright cheesy to moderately creepy. Foes range from straight-jacket bound mental patients with pointy sticks to giant mutant turkeys. I kid you not; giant mutant turkeys. They even threw in some extremely well endowed nurses with skeleton faces, for those who are into that sort of thing. But in the end, the bad guys really aren?t anything you haven?t seen before.

In most games, the ambiance can be accentuated, if not set, by the musical score. However, the music in You Are Empty just comes and goes, and it?s not particularly interesting or engaging. Most of the time you?re playing in silence, and when the music does play during combat, it?s very generic and uninspired. Not to mention that heavy metal guitar riffs and upbeat electronica doesn?t really fit the ?mood? of 1950?s Russia. Maybe it?s just me.

In the end, You Are Empty is simply a budget title first-person shooter that struggles to keep up with a well defined genre. The game packs some potential in certain areas, but the game seems rushed and incomplete. While it doesn?t do anything new or innovative, it?s actually a decent title to pick up if you can find it for under $20, and might make a nice gift to a casual PC gamer. Give it to your nephew; he’ll be thrilled!

R/

Chris

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