Monday, November 12, 2007

You Are Empty Review

You Are Empty, developed by Digital Spray Studios and Mandel ArtPlains and published by 1C Company and Atari.
The Good: (this heading is unavailable at the moment…please leave a message)
The Not So Good: No tutorial and no objectives, repetitive enemies, poor AI, bland weapons, outdated graphics, not scary, generic linear level design, questionable physics, can be quite difficult due to overly powerful enemies
What say you? An archaic zombie fest with no redeeming qualities whatsoever: 2/8

Zombie movies, and computer games, have been around for quite a while now. You know the story: man wakes up, must fight the undead single handed, shoots things, the usual deal. There have been quite a number creepy zombie titles released on the PC (and those evil consoles) and the curiously named You Are Empty can be added to the list. Another Russian import (second in a row), this title is a shoot first, ask questions later kind of action title, where you are armed with your heart, brain, and large machine gun. Will You Are Empty prove to be a worthy addition to the genre?

You Are Empty features some very old graphics that look like they were lifted from Quake 2, or the original Half-Life at best. Some of the buildings have a good level of detail in their architecture, but they become repetitive and bland rather quickly. The character models are poorly animated and also repetitive. The violence effects aren’t even that impressive, with red textures overtaking foes like a plague instead of chunks of flesh flying around like in most zombie settings. If the game is going to be rated “M,” make it rated “M!” The best part of the game are the cut scenes, which have a nice sketched quality to them, like that a-ha video. Unfortunately, the developers can’t even get a cut scene right, as there were a lot of linear artifacts present and very laggy performance. The sound doesn’t fare much better: sporadic grunts and minimal effects are the rule of the day. You Are Empty does not provide an overly gruesome or compelling presentation for your zombie hunting needs.

You Are Empty is a single player first person shooter where you go around killing the undead. The game assumes you are familiar with how to play a first person shooter, as the game lacks a tutorial and even objectives on what to do next. I’ve gotten lost and turned around multiple times because the game didn’t show in any way where to go next, either through a map or on-screen prompts. This is an inexcusable absence in today’s competitive gaming market. You are simply given health and ammo and put in a room: good luck figuring out what the game wants you to do! The level design helps somewhat, since most of the levels offer only one path, but multiple doorways (most of which are locked and some which can be opened) exacerbate the confusion dramatically. You will encounter a variety of monsters along the way, most of which just look different and deal increasing amounts of damage from different ranges. The enemies are highlighted by a big chicken, but sadly a gigantic cock doesn’t satisfy my needs...for good gameplay, of course. The AI is pretty dumb, as they simply charge at you while shooting. The enemies also seem to spawn at random around corners and in areas you’ve already been to; nothing like adding an air of authenticity to the game.

The weapon selection is very linear and each new tool is better than the last. They are given to you in order and there is no reason to switch to previous weapons once you have gotten your shiny new toy. You start out with a wrench (that you must find in a bathroom, I think) and eventually graduate through a pistol, shotgun, nailgun, rifle, and electric gun (where have I heard of those before?). There are also Molotov cocktails, and first aid kits are plentifully scattered around the levels. Still, the game is quite hard as the enemies usually outmatch you in terms of weaponry: you always have to defeat two or three enemies with inferior weapons before you are allowed to get upgraded tools. The gameplay is unoriginal shoot-only action, and this is quite old these days. In fact, Wolfenstein 3-D (a fifteen year old game that ran on a 386) has just as sophisticated gameplay (and probably more so). The game has some semblance of rag-doll physics, but all of the objects weight about two ounces and bounce like rubber balls across the floor. Watching a chair float and bounce across a room doesn’t make for a believable environment (maybe there was a gravity anomaly in 1950’s Russia). While You Are Empty might have been a decent (but still not good) game fifteen years ago, nowadays its bland gameplay, unoriginal brain-dead enemies, recycled weaponry, linear and confusing map design, poor physics engine, lack of multiplayer, maladjusted difficulty, and general lack of scariness makes it a title everyone can avoid.

Usually I can find one thing good about a game, but You Are Empty offers nothing that hasn’t been done over and over and over again. Everything about this game is old: the graphics, the gameplay, the AI, the features, the weapons. The game isn’t exciting at all to play, and its unnecessarily high difficulty and confusing layout makes for a rough experience. When I am making comparisons to games from 1992 and 1996, that’s not a good thing (unless it’s in a nostalgic sense, which this is definitely not).The game is right: I Am Empty after playing this game. You Are Empty receives the dubious honor of being tied as the worst game I’ve ever reviewed.