I Am Alive Review
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A gripping survival adventure packed with solid puzzle design and meaningful decision-making.
- Great voice acting
- A believable world that truly instills a sense of dread
- Managing scarce supplies makes for intense decision-making
- Sketchy controls
- Fragmented, muddy visuals sometimes break the immersion
- HUD would be better off hidden
In this latest offering from Ubisoft, the player is thrust into the role of a survivor of a city-wide disaster. Quite what it is exactly you survived remains a mystery, but it was a helluva “EVENT,” which is what you will hear it referred to throughout the game. Likewise your name is also kept under wraps, at least for a while. When you load up the game, you are introduced to your protagonist through a mini camcorder playback, played by an unseen individual. As with most handycam playbacks seen in movies, this one contains the cliche “if you are seeing this, then I have” (died). Not much is said, other than he has spent the better part of a year trying to walk across the country to come home, hoping to find his wife and daughter waiting for him. One question popped into my mind upon seeing the devastation, and that was, “what is he smoking?” There is NO WAY anyone would simply hang out at an apartment waiting for him to show, for a YEAR. More on this rant later. So, your goal, it seems, is to be reunited with your wife and daughter, and simply stay alive – a challenging feat in itself.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward. You must solve environmental and situational problems with a gun (empty most of the time) and your ability to scale buildings. Mind you, if you are accustomed to Nathan Drake or Ezio’s fanciful gallivanting around cities, you will be sorely disappointed with I Am Alive’s interpretation. Unlike Uncharted or Assassin’s Creed, you are tightly constrained by the amount of stamina you have on hand; run out of stamina while you are climbing and the game prompts you to mash R1. This is a “burst” of final energy to get you where you are trying to go, but at a heavy cost. Your permanent stamina meter decreases during this period, and the only way to replenish it is with supplies. So, your stamina is split between the expendable and maximum variety.
Since you rarely know how long you will have to climb, it is always best to not get to the R1 mashing at all. Believe me, I more than once ran into instances where I did not have enough stamina to complete the climb, forcing my character to fall. Immensely frustrating, especially considering the game is amazingly scarce on supplies. One thing you will acquire right away, funnily enough, is a machete. This gives you your only permanent way of killing foes. However, even this has its limits, which brings me to combat gameplay. Often enough in the game you will be presented with other survivors of the Event; some are hostile, some are fearful, and it is completely up to you how to proceed.
As I said before you are equipped with an empty pistol at the start, but that doesn’t mean it is useless. The other survivors don’t know it is empty, so you can use it to your advantage. Someone starts giving you a case of attitude, pull the gun on them. Their reaction is as unpredictable as you would imagine, but often times the assailant will stop what they are doing and start talking. You can press square and force them backwards – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Some will simply charge and open their own can of whoop-ass on you. If you can get them to back off, you can often force them into some sort of situation where you can dispatch them, like kicking them into a pit.
This is as unbelievable of a game mechanic as the climbing, as frequently you can get people to walk backwards 20 or more feet before they get sick of it. They might charge you, but re-focusing your guns sights on the character will “reset” the situation. Immersion = gone. It isn’t all machete’s and empty gunplay though. Later you acquire a bow with a single, but retrievable arrow, and you can find a stray bullet here or there if you search hard enough. Be warned though, how you use the bullet is far more important than actually finding it. Do you use the bullet to open a locked door that might have something beneficial behind it? Or do you hold ... (continued on next page)
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