I Am Alive Review
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Mar 07, 12
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When it comes to nuclear wars, meteor crashes and other catastrophic events, what probably scares people the most is surviving the event and facing what might come afterwards. Enter the standard post-apocalyptic premise involving plenty of death, horror and, naturally, fighting over what little recourses remain. That's was the basic idea for Ubisoft's game I Am Alive back when it was first announced back in 2008. However, the game wasn't mentioned after the initial announcement, until, years later, it was eventually 'converted' into an Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network title. Oh well, better than canning it entirely, I suppose.
The game puts you into the role of a man named Adam who lives through a cataclysmic event that shattered the fictional city of Haventon; and pretty much the rest of the world as well. One year after the event, with most of human civilization gone, the few survivors continue to struggle and fight over remaining resources in the rubble of the once great city. Adam has to endure in this ruined city, in the hope of someday reuniting with his wife and daughter.
Put 'em up! Um, you two, you too!
Ooo, nice machete! Can I hold it?
The story arc works very well, actually. You're just a dude, trying his best to stay alive, but you're not alone. Most people are desperate and will do anything they can to survive. You'll usually end up in situations where you have to fight or just run for your life. For an Xbox Live game, I Am Alive does a solid job of selling itself as a survival action adventure. Not entirely sure if that's the right genre for this title, but it's really the best way to describe it. The developers managed to create a convincing post-apocalyptic ambience. As Adam walks through the desolate streets, you'll see wrecked cars and massive chunks of debris everywhere. So, once again, props to the developers for making the effort to establish a believable atmosphere.
I Am Alive puts forth relatively simple gameplay, with the main character having to climb and shimmy his way across building tops. Climbing is important because you're going to want to avoid toxic fog, which usually engulfs the area very quickly. At the same time, it won't be easy getting away from it, because climbing is exhausting for Adam, so you have to keep an eye on his stamina. Adding the stamina bar is a very good call on the developer's part, since it creates the sort of tension you'd expect to experience in desperate situations. Stamina decreases rapidly if you happen to hit the aforementioned poisonous fog, so that's another thing you have to watch out for.
There's an interesting twist to the combat in this game. City folk may not be hostile, but you always have to be careful not to excite them too much. Each encounter with aggressive and scared enemies doesn't have to lead to a physical conflict straight away. You can threaten them, to begin with. More violent foes will still come at you, albeit others may remain cautious and just keep away. You can attack immediately, of course, but it diminishes your odds if you're facing more than one opponent. Usually, the best way is to wait for an enemy attack, evade it, and then move in for a well-timed counter strike. Still, the cool thing is you don't have to rush blindly into action. Instead there's a psychological, edge to fights, which is quite a cool element that brings some variation to the gameplay.
You'll meet a lot of people in the surrounding area, but not all of them are violent. Some are weak and may ask you for assistance. So, yes, there is kind of a fetch quest system going on here. From our experience this is a good element that gives your character more purpose besides saving his own ass.
I'm okay, I'm okaaay...
This is easy. I've tried it at home.
We have more than one beef with this game, despite the fact that it kept us occupied for hours. Weird decisions were made during the development process and they affected our overall view of the game. The stamina bar is a solid concept, as I've already explained, although in time, you'll get may be annoyed by it, because Adam could, for instance, end up in the toxic fog and in order to get out he has to run like hell, but the stamina stops him from getting far. That means you'll be dying frequently. In certain games we can appreciate the accent that was put on dying because it was put into context skillfully (Ninja Gaiden, Dark Souls etc.), whereas in I Am Alive this gets maddening after a while. Thankfully, you'll just have enough retries to move on. There's maybe too much trail and error for some gamers though. Another issue is related to the game's substandard visuals. Well, that did bother us on more than one occasion. It really gets ugly from time to time - poor textures, generally outdated visuals etc. The voice acting is mediocre at best. However, the authentic atmosphere outshines such low points of the game. Also, elements like saving a cute, helpless little girl from a bunch of guys who are just being assholes are what made this game enjoyable for me. Yep, quests work for me, as well as bonding with in-game characters. Fighting to stay alive can be very challenging and even if the game tends to punish you for inadvertent mistakes, there's always the next try.
It's a shame 'I Am Alive' didn't end up being a triple-A game, because there are some pretty cool and unique concepts here that actually work and are quite entertaining. Granted, the controls may need some tweaking and the AI isn't as smart as it could've been. These are clearly symptoms of a halted game project that was suddenly revived and fast forwarded at some point to make the new deadline. Nonetheless, I cannot deny that I've enjoyed this game. The story and characters are solid and you might just relate to this one guy doing his best to find his family in a grim and cruel environment. Considering what this game offers for such a low price tag ($15), we recommend you spend some time exploring its traits. It can be rewarding if you give it half a chance.
Surviving is fun in this game, we enjoyed the post-apocalyptic setting, characters and the twist in the combat mechanics;
Gets frustrating after a while thanks to a lot of trial and error, certain gameplay elements tend to ruin the experience.
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