I Am Alive Review
Developer Ubisoft Shanghai
Platform Xbox Arcade, PSN
Release Date March 7th 2012
I am Alive enters a heavily populated genre of post-apocalyptic disaster games and delivers something totally fresh and original, a compelling thought provoking game. This is a game that tackles the lofty concept of what makes us human and what happens to that sense of decency when society breaks down. Where can a person find the will to continue when all that surrounds you is loss and despair? What happens to even the best of us when we are pushed to our limits.
The game begins with you arriving at the edge of the city that used to by your home, you play an everyday man with only one thing in his mind, to get home to his apartment with the tiny glimmer of foolishly held hope that someone might be waiting for him when he gets there and for once this everyday man is just that, this is no hero he does not possess any unnatural abilities. He doesn’t go from loving father to the world’s deadliest soldier overnight. He is fragile, lost and broken apart by grief and guilt
What has happened to the city is another mystery and is only referred to as the “event”. This event has killed billions and laid waste to the player’s home city. What used to be a proud strong city skyline now lies in a mangled twisted mess of steel and concrete. Building that previously rose into the sky now lay on their sides offering little in the line of shelter and more in the line of a death traps and climbing frames.
All this destruction has created a poisonous dust that engulfs the city, any breeze whips up this mix of hazardous materials and blankets the low level cityscape making it an uninhabitable place. The only hope for anyone wanting to last longer than a few seconds is to start climbing the crumbling buildings to get to a safe level above the dust.
One of the most interesting concepts explored is the idea of how people will react when law and order breaks down. Throughout the city you do meet a small spattering of other survivors most due to necessity have reverted to pack like animals, hunting anyone weaker than themselves to take whatever they can, water, food, batteries or medicine.
There is some humanity left though and for all the horror encountered there are moments that warm your heart. You can help people and despite needing every last item for yourself, you find it is your natural instinct is to help as many as you can. None more so than the little girl found wandering the city streets. This girl “Mei” mirrors the hero’s own daughter and quickly this parental instinct kicks in and a bond develops.
Everything is in short supply especially bullets which is something the gamer in me struggled with, it turns out when the world ends there isn’t loads of weapons factories churning out endless supplies of bullets and high tech assault rifles.
Armed with a machete and an old pistol which is often empty, as throughout the whole game you find little more than a hand full of bullets the player is forced to think out each and every step as one shot can cost you your life it really is that serious.
You are not a killer this is one thing that is plain from the start, often it is better to avoid other people as more often than not they have menace on their mind. Not necessarily because they are inherently bad themselves but rather they are just trying to survive just like you. Of course there are those who are plain bad and without the shackles of society to keep them in check they have created their own new violently psychopathic society. Needless to say it is not too long until your paths cross and that is something I will let you explore on your own.
The visuals are mixed some moments are not exactly mind blowing, the artists use a method of bleeding the colour from the game in certain sections to create a bleaker city (if that was even needed). As such everything is dusty and dull, often while you try to battle through the dust clouds you can barely see a few feet ahead of you. This creates a real sense of panic as you struggle to see anything in the distance that can save you. Then other sections will stop you in your tracks they are so stunning.
The gameplay is really good, there is a lot of climbing which is smooth and unlike other titles with a lot of climbing there is a brilliant mechanic, you get tired! This creates even more panic as you try to climb to the next level before you grow too week to hold onto the building anymore and fall to your doom.
The things to consider when playing as an everyday man you get tired, killing isn’t easy and not just because you don’t have the bullets but to take someone’s life is not something done lightly in this game. At times it will frustrate the hell out of you when you die, this along with the limited retries holds that sense of panic without making the game artificially difficult by removing checkpoints and save points.
Overall : I am alive is a game that takes risks, perhaps many other publishers would have not been brave enough to release a title like this but not Ubisoft. Their faith in the team at Ubisoft Shanghai has paid off. I am Alive is one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played.
It will make you think, it will awaken something in you that might surprise the gun toting kill spree gamer you thought you were, but more importantly than that it’s a bloody good game at a very reasonable price.