You Are Empty (PC)

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Graphics: 7.00
Sound: 5.00
Gameplay: 6.50
Replays: 5.50

You Are Empty is a title that has been in development at developers Digital Spray Studios and Mandel ArtPlains for quite some time. The game is a single-player FPS that presents an alternate reality vision of the Soviet Union, where a large experiment has gone horribly wrong. While Soviet scientists were attempting to create super-humans to spread the word of communism, this backfired and created mutants and hostile humans. As such, it is up to the player to find out what is going on and kill everything in sight. At its core, You Are Empty is a purely action based shooter in the style of Painkiller, with some extremely strange cinematics mixed in. And while certain aspects of the title hint at greatness, it can never truly rise from its flaws and provide the creepy and psychological thrills that one would hope for.

There is little to no story in You Are Empty. Immediately after the very confusing opening cinematic, players are thrust right into the game and begin facing enemies. What little story there is in the game is told through notes scattered throughout the game world and very cryptic cinematics. The style of these cinematics is very unique, and it would’ve been cool if the entire game were like that. In fact, some people may find themselves playing just to get to the next cinema. These cinemas won’t make sense until around the end of the game, but the story isn’t ultimately that important throughout the game.

As previously mentioned, this is a FPS in the style of Painkiller. What this means is that the enemies have very little AI. With a few exceptions (the flying enemies and machine gunners are capable of some minor tactics), almost every opponent will run straight at you are just fire at you from a stationary location. This fits the theme of everyone in the game world being blood thirsty, but it also makes the game a bit repetitive. As long as players don’t mind a run and gun style game they still may be able to have some fun, but those who have become used to advanced artificial intelligence in their games (such as F.E.A.R. or any recent FPS) will find themselves very disappointed.

One area that could have used a bit more work would have to be the sound. There is almost no voice acting in the game, considering that the cinematics don’t have any real voices and only two or three characters in the game talk (all of the enemies scream or grunt at you). The English voice acting for the handful of NPC’s is absolutely horrible, and they don’t often sync up with the lips on the character models. Music in the game fairs a bit better, although there isn’t very much of it (seeing as sometimes it seems to cut in and out). Surprisingly some of the best background music doesn’t show up until near the end of the game, but the overall sound design could’ve used some more polish.

For a game that is all about shooting things, it is good that there are a variety of enemies in You Are Empty. In general, the enemies range from interesting (flying enemies with blow torches, mutants, and Soviet soldiers with skulls for heads), to dumb (weird looking guys with pickaxes, old men with shotguns), to the completely offbeat (gigantic mutated chickens). Enemies often come at you in groups, and while they aren’t as frantic as the enemies in a Serious Sam game, there are enough of them that most will still find the game somewhat challenging.

Graphically You Are Empty looks good, but not great. One aspect that the developers really nailed would have to be the environments. Many of the levels are huge and feature great architecture, as well as a very good draw distance. Players will really feel as though they are in a ruined Soviet Union, complete with propaganda posters. Unfortunately, some of the levels look a little too similar as they feature similar environments. But there are plenty of great looking areas and enough exciting moments that some players may be able to look past the blah looking areas. Character models look good as well, although sometimes their physics seem a bit off after they die (a shotgun blast can sometimes blast an enemy straight up into the air instead of backwards like one would expect). While there is nothing about the graphics that will wow anyone, they are certainly on par with titles from a year or so ago.

You Are Empty is a completely single player affair, although the game is pretty long. At times the game feels so long that players will feel as though it is going on forever, but this is mostly due to its repetitive nature. However, those that stick through it will find plenty of great moments (the last few levels, exploring the rooftops) mixed in between the average ones. Multiplayer would’ve really helped the replay value of this title though, so it is a shame that the developers were not able to include it.

Ultimately, You Are Empty comes off as a fairly average game with some intriguing concepts hiding in it. While most will give up on the game after only a handful of levels, some out there will still manage to find it enjoyable enough to play through. While flawed, it is far from horrible. But the core gameplay still doesn’t match the stylistic cutscenes, which hint at something much more cerebral. Hopefully the developers can achieve this with another title, as this one is a little too mindless and “empty” for most.

Overall Rating: 6.00

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