Sir, You Are Being Hunted. Also, sir, you are running a lot of errands.

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Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a game about carrying capacity. You must retrieve fifteen doo-dads scattered across the land and bring them to a spot in the center, which is like a cross between Stonehenge and one of those Goodwill drop-off stations. If you had a Bag of Holding, you could just run around, collect all fifteen, and bring them to the drop-off point in the middle. But you don’t. So you have to make multiple trips. Also, the doo-dads get bigger and bigger, so you have to start making tough decisions in your Tetris inventory screen. Do you clear out room taken up by guns and stuff? Or do you just make another trip? Also also, when you die, you get reset to the last save point. If you aren’t careful (i.e. if you don’t make more trips back and forth), that might have been two or three doo-dads ago.

Oh, and as if you couldn’t guess by the title, roaming packs of killer robots will attack you on sight. And did I mention they’re invariably guarding the doo-dads? When it’s not about carry capacity, Sir, You Are Being Hunted is about reloading. The game, not your gun.

After the jump, Sir, You Are Doing a Lot of Moving While Crouched.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a stealth game with light survival elements. Your vitality drains slowly. Eat to replenish it. You mostly scrounge food from towns, which are often patrolled by killer robots. If you’ve lost health because you got shot by killer robots, it’ll recover slowly based on your vitality. This isn’t a game with medkits, but it’s also not a game with a quickly replenishing health bar. It’s a game about being careful not to get hurt and laying low for a while when you do get hurt. The pacing fits the combat, which isn’t really combat anyway. As I said, this is a stealth game. More on that in a moment.

Because of the Tetris inventory system, there can be a bit of strategy involved with setting up stashes. Keep an eye out for shacks in wooded areas, which are ideal for keeping food, matches, thermos of tea and bottles of stout for when you need them. Note on the map where they are. It’s a bit like parking your car and making sure to remember where you parked. If this were a heartier game, with more systems and a more indepth survival game, or even more involved combat, it would remind me of Far Cry 2, with its safe houses and save system.

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But as I mentioned, it’s mostly a stealth game, so it comes down to a lot of back-and-forth, carrying the doo-dads, dropping stuff off and picking it up from stashes, criss-crossing the countryside, here and there and back again. In fact, if you don’t learn the ecology of this game world pretty quickly — suffice to say that just as things that light up red are bad, things that light up blue are good — your back-and-forth is going to be a lot of random hither-and-yon. And the worst kinds of back-and-forth and hither-and-yon: the slow kind. Slow because you’re sneaking. Or, as it’s known in most stealth games, moving while crouched.

The act of traversal is the bulk of the gameplay in Sir, You Are Being Hunted. It’s blatantly designed to force traversal, based on your limited inventory space, and the save system. It nearly works because the procedurally generated maps you’re traversing are fantastically moody. Oddly named towns, overgrown fields, ramshackle fences and stone walls, thorny hedgerows, copses of dead twisted trees, and swathes of industrial ruin, all grey and lowering despite the occasional sickly pink sunsets. It’s really a lovely bit of world building, as stylish and distinct as the monochromatic ghost world of Betrayer. Why can’t these great worlds host equally great game designs?

But as Skyrim demonstrated by cramming itself full of blacksmithing and character development and a hundred inventory items and pickable flowers, a vivid world isn’t enough to mask the futility of running to and fro, to and fro. So what this game offers is stealth. The old-school moribund stealth that doesn’t hold up any more. How you feel about Sir You Are Being Hunted is largely going to be a matter of how you feel about walking around very very slowly and often having to reload when things go pear shaped because a guard saw you according to whatever mostly inscrutable guard line-of-sight/range-of-hearing logic drives the game. These days, stealth games need a new twist or an outright concession to gaminess. Klei’s Mark of the Ninja, for example, or Splinter Cell: Blacklist’s mix of stealth and badassery, or just Dishonored’s complete subversion of stealth with fancy-pants magic and combat.

To its credit, Sir You Are Being Hunted is attempting a larger scale with its stealth. It’s really cool to see a killer robot come running from a long way away when you light a campfire or play a trombone (yes, a trombone, and it’s even cooler than it sounds). Although this is largely conventional stealth, it at least busts out of the usual confines of stealthing through discrete boxes between checkpoints.

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As you gather more doo-dads, the things you’re stealthing from get increasingly weird and ruthless. So one of the (unfortunate? fortunate?) facts of Sir You Are Being Hunted is that the to-and-fro and the reloads are instrumental to making it do what it does best. If this was a save anywhere game, if you could just lock in your progress at any moment for convenience sake, whether it’s a matter of not wanting to have to go to a savepoint because you just found an awesome weapon or having to stop playing because your kids need to use the computer, it would lessen the delicious terror of “what the heck is that?” during the rare moments when a new enemy is introduced. Those moments, which will be spoiled if you read about this game, look at screenshots, or watch the launch trailer, are the heart and soul of Sir, You Are Being Hunted. That they eventually devolve into just more stealth doesn’t take away from their impact when you first experience them. But you can only see something for the first time once.

Aside from the new enemies, the difficulty level gets more and more contrived, with what seem like magically appearing reinforcements, or at least reinforcements arriving with new quickness and spotting you from considerably greater distances. Then you get that last doo-dad, make your mad dash while crouched to the drop-off point, and the game is over. You have no incentive to ever do it again because you’ve seen everything it has to show. Sir You Are Being Hunted has revealed all it has — much of which is tedious or repetitive — after a few hours.

  • Sir, You Are Being Hunted

  • Rating:

  • PC
  • ...a procedurally-generated first-person game of stealth and survival set in a very British world where robots hunt humans for sport. You must use your wits and possibly a flask of tea to stay alive.
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