Taking place in an alternate history version of a 1950s' Soviet Union, You Are Empty is a first-person shooter featuring mutants, zombies, and other monsters. Humanity has all been wiped out thanks to an experiment gone awry, one that attempted to create a powerful race of genetically enhanced soldiers and loyal communists. Alone in a desolate world, you must make your way through factories and power plants, across war-torn streets, and past crumbling Stalinist architecture to learn more about the ghastly experiments and to find a possible solution. Available weapons from the era include a Maxim gun, a Mosin-Nagant rifle, a Mauser pistol, a PPSh-41 submachine gun, and even an electric gun prototype.
You Are Empty is symptomatic of the reasons why Atari is barely a game company anymore. Within minutes of booting this game up, we were asking ourselves the kinds of questions reserved only for the most heinous of gaming tragedies: when was this thing developed, 1973? Is this supposed to be a competitive game? What kind of cruel joke does developer 1C think it's trying to pull? Sadly, You Are Empty is itself empty of anything resembling modern game mechanics, offering a trite selection of boring weaponry, ridiculous enemies and mind-numbing drudgery.
Set in Iron Curtain-era Soviet Russia, You Are Empty tells the tale of... wait, no, it doesn't really tell any sort of tale. The game is supposed to be set in the shattered remnants of the USSR, but its drab and dreary locales could be any industrialized craphole on the planet because there is really nothing to differentiate it besides the copious iconography of hammer and sickle, which is flogged like a dead horse on nearly every wall.
On top of the bleak environments, the enemies you face are a collection of mutated freaks that all seem to take a special glee in showing off the worst stereotypes of the Cold War era: the fat, sickle-wielding babushka-monster-lady, the state-run mental patient with pointy stick and grudge, and the giant mutant chicken. Each of these enemies might elicit a chuckle the first time you see them, but because You Are Empty features only a handful of enemy types, you are guaranteed to see them enough times to quickly tired of their poorly scripted AI tactics (they all seem to either run at you mindlessly or stand stock-still and shoot at you).
One good thing (and it's likely that this is the only good thing) about You Are Empty is the quality of the cut-scenes, which are rendered in an intriguing sort of Flash animation. Of course, these cutscenes are largely unintelligible and don't really explain much of what is supposed to be going on in the game, but they are beautiful in their stark use of black and white.
Apart from the occasional cut-scene, however, there is little to hold any interest in You Are Empty. While it seems to be going for the sort of mindless kill-festival featuring tongue-in-cheek humor found in superior games like Serious Sam, the game simply doesn't perform well enough or pack a hilarious enough punch to come even remotely close to that series. The framerate is atrocious considering how awful, bland and low-res the textures are and there are never enough enemies on the screen at once to make you feel even the slightest bit of pressure. In addition to those issues, you walk at a sloth's pace, making the whole game a monotonous slog through uninspired, ill-rendered environments facing repetitious and fatuous enemies.
So now, we are left wondering what the point is of You Are Empty, because it certainly doesn't even rate as a modern game. Bereft of any sort of challenging AI and sporting a handful of weapons that all seem to have been dredged from some imaginary WWII shooter from the eighties, this game is the kind of thing you can expect to get for Christmas from a grandma that knows nothing about video games and relies on a shifty game store employee looking to move the non-sellers.
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