Release Date: Out Now
Download on XBLA
I Am Alive Review
I Am Alive is an odd one; a uniquely put together apocalyptic third-person survival action puzzler with a marred development history, and if you’re a graphics/accessibility whore or an innovative gamer type it’s guaranteed to split players right down the middle.
Originally put into creation by Darkworks five years ago and springing up at 2008’s E3 I Am Alive quickly faded off into the shadows. A few million delays later and Darkworks ‘mutually’ pulled out of development, stating they were handing their duties to Ubisoft Shanghi. A re-engineering later and some screen shots were once again slowly leaked over 2009 to 2010. A release date was penned for some point of 2011… that came and went, so fast forward to March 2012. DAMN, IT’S HERE!
You play as an unnamed protagonist (something that gets revealed throughout the game) as he travels through the fictional city of Haventon while searching for his wife and daughter, sounds pretty simple right? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the world has been thrown into complete chaos as something which is only referred to as ‘The Event’ happened a year ago which has left the world in ruins, prone to seismic shifts and covered the world in a toxic dust which is slowly killing anyone who spends too much time milling around in it.
Now this may sound like something relatively familiar to a game’s story, but it is I Am Alive’s mechanics that set it apart from nigh on every game I have ever played. As per every post-apocalypse supplies are scarce and the game’s population is becoming restless and desperate. Some will attack on sight, some will ask for help and others will just shout at you until you walk away. Dealing with enemies is done in a number of unique ways.
Early on you are given a gun with no bullets, which is used to ward off any would-be attackers. Once pulled on somebody (and as long as they’re not crazy) the would-be bad guys will submit, therefore able to manipulate the situation, possibly pushing them down holes or into fire. Some problems do arise with this premise as enemies do tend to come at you in gangs and are prone to randomly deciding to charge at you as soon as you take the gun’s iron sights off them. This does end up putting you in some rather tedious musical chair situations, but once you start to gather the (very few) bullets the system works well enough.
Around 30 minutes into the game you get given a machete for close range attacks; its main use is to be used as a quick attack weapon that is brought into play when you are surrounded by multiple enemies – the idea being that you will always be low on bullets, and for the most part outnumbered. The best course of action would be to lure a bad guy towards you by hiding gun then take him out quickly with a surprise machete shot to the face. This whole combat system also makes every confrontation a puzzle section in itself, as you will find yourself re-loading up each ‘fight’ in an effort to figure out the best way to take on certain groups of attackers while taking minimal damage and saving as much ammo as possible.
The other huge part of this game is the climbing element – think urban decay to its fullest, add some way-points up stupidly high buildings and you will start to picture just where you stand in terms of setting and direction. The unique system in place for our protagonist in this element of the game is his stamina bar, which slowly depletes the moment you do anything remotely taxing within the game. Climb too hard without rest and the game will punish you by making you tap the RB while it slowly depletes your fillable stamina meter until you find the right item to fill it up correctly. Don’t tap or run out of stamina, you fall and die.
Once again as with combat the climbing system has its flaws. The stamina bar feels as if it goes down too quickly, and as none of the climbable objects in Haventon stand out, you can find yourself at a bit of a loss when trying to mark out a route to your next waypoint.
Sadly the climbing is also home to the biggest issue I have with I Am Alone. The buttons and camera are so poorly mapped to what is actually happening on screen that you will find yourself getting stuck climbing left and right when taking a corner, as the game’s controls and camera cross-wires with each other to such a frustrating extent I almost want to call the game unplayable at times. Although really not that special the NPC character interaction and story of I am Alive really hit home with me. From almost the very beginning you are lumbered with a young ‘sick’ girl that sits statically on your back, Yoda style.
Normally I hate these kind of cheap caring hooks in games but after about 2 minutes of meeting her you automically fall in complete love with her, and I wanted to desperately do all I could to save her. Couple this with the ability to kill people who are dying, or the random crazies yelling at you to “gerr oft my land” and you have that special feeling of intimacy that is rarely found in most titles.
Without giving too much away in I Am Alive story-wise the only thing I can compare the gameplay to is Assassin’s Creed, mixed with the confined ‘level’ areas of Enslaved, and the kind of hanging stamina bar of Shadow of the Colossus. Which leads to another problem as I Am Alive also seems to share the same graphics engine as SotC too. Not that I am a whore for graphics, but with ‘dust’ obscuring most of your vision and some pretty more pixel crash physics you are left with a slight sour taste in your mouth for a game has taken years to release, but hey it’s an arcade title so what are you really expecting?
- Emotive story
- Interesting approach to an apocalyptic world
- Characters you can believe in
- Climbing mechanics become frustrating
- Moderately repetitive fights
I Am Alive Review,