I Am Alive is a game that actually goes back a little ways, we first heard of the game back in 2008 and it was supposed to be a full retail release for the home consoles. A lot has apparently happened since the original development of the game, including the switching of developers and the decision to forgo a traditional retail launch in favor of a digital launch on Xbox Live and PSN respectively. Usually when a game switches developers as well as its distribution method, it’s not a very good sign. Even though I Am Alive is a multiplatform release it was marketed on Xbox Live’s “House Party” promotion and it saw a Xbox Live release earlier than its PSN counterpart. Does the game suffer the same fate as other titles that have been in a similar development purgatory?
I’ll start off on the size of the game, its less than 2 gigabytes and actually has a lot of game for such a small size. The graphics are actually pretty impressive, its clear Ubisoft Shanghai went for a gritty, dirty look for the game and it paid off. There is a very high level of detail to the game and you can tell at most points in the game that it was originally going to be a high-end, possibly AAA released game. The controls are tight as well, it’s a third person game at its core, but when you are using your pistol it switches to an easier to use first person mode. Controlling your character is fairly easy to get down, just be prepared for a lot of climbing and jumping. The game makes Ezio from Assassins Creed look like an amateur when it comes to climbing.
The game’s story takes place after “The Event” which is an unnamed and unknown cataclysm kills off the majority of the world’s population, your character doesn’t have a name, but his goal is admirable. He just wants to get back home to his family, turns out he was on a trip that took four hours by plane to get to, but after the event, it took him nearly a year to walk, climb and jump his way back home. Because of the massive scope of the event that killed off so many people, there is ruble and ruined buildings, cars and other obstacles that you’ll have to contend with. Unlike a lot of game which offer this type of climbing and jumping, this game actually has a stamina meter, if you aren’t careful, you will fall to your death a lot. Sometimes I found myself not paying attention and then I’d end up falling to my death over and over again.
One of the more interesting aspect of I Am Alive is that even though it’s a survival horror game, you’re not fighting zombies or mutants for a change. It was actually refreshing because I’ve had my fill of zombie games lately. Although there isn’t any zombies or mutants, it doesn’t mean there aren’t hostiles to be found. They are just human survivors like yourself, but with a bad attitude. You can actually intimidate hostiles with an empty gun if you so choose to do so. Its more of a bluff than anything else, but you have to do whatever it takes to survive and reach your wife and daughter, that is if they are still alive.
You keep hearing about the event throughout the game, it’s really sort of a mystery as to what it actually was. You get more clued in to what it was throughout the game and from listening to what people are saying and investigating things you might come across. It’s a pretty interesting aspect to the game and makes the game a true survival horror, mystery. There is a bit of repetitiveness to the game at times, all the climbing and jumping can get old and you just wish there were a way to skip those parts so that you could get more of the story to unravel for you.
Throughout the game you are tasked with searching for and finding supplies to help yourself survive in this newly depleted world. Water, food and ammo are in short supply and you’ll learn to ration it wisely. There isn’t an overabundance of supplies to be found, so you tend to be extra careful with anything you come across. The game itself doesn’t have an emphasis on cinematic story telling, it isn’t done with a large number of cutscenes or anything like that, its more or less you just going up and talking to people and fighting your way back to what you hope is your family. Now while the story isn’t the most original, it’s still pretty well done and you get engrossed into the game’s plot to keep pushing forward so you can find out what happened to your characters family.
At the end of the day I could really see this as a full-fledged retail released game, had they chose to go with the original idea of an open world and side quests it might have been a really, really great game. Instead we’ll just all have to setter for an above average arcade title that had a ton of potential but just falls a bit short in terms of a complete game experience.