You’ll be hard pressed to find a survival game without some sort of supernatural gimmick playing into it such as zombies or ghosts. Ubisoft Shanghai knocks that stigma away with its latest digital release, I Am Alive. Instead of surviving horrible creatures with limited supplies, you are tasked with surviving the elements and the harsh survivors within it.
You play the part of Adam, a man who has traveled across the country in hopes of finding his wife and daughter. The world has been devastated by “The Event,” something the game never touches on, but traversing the fictional city of Haventon leads one to believe it was unapologetically brutal. While the overlying story is you trying to find your wife, you eventually meet up with a few friendly characters that you help out through the duration of the game. I won’t spoil anything, as that is the joy of such a game, but I found the story arch to play second fiddle to the gameplay; though the end sequence was quite a surprise and ended the game with a thoughtful moment of “what just happened”.
The strength in I Am Alive is the platforming. This is the selling point, in my opinion, and anyone who enjoys platformers should take interest. Stamina sets I Am Alive apart from every other platforming game I have played, and it’s so well done that anytime I got to a combat situation I grumbled because I wanted to scale more buildings. Some of the jumps and climbs Adam performs are a little unbelievable, but the stamina bar is the key element in creating tension.
As you climb around the environments, your stamina bar slowly drains and once you hit your limit you begin permanently stunting your stamina. You’ll find items to replenish the damaged stamina bar but these items are rare in the beginning of the game. The situations are so well placed and designed that, as you are making your way up to that open window, you really don’t know if you are going to make it into the window (climbing up to a standing position replenishes your stamina, though, if you lost of the bar itself, you’ll need an item to correct it) or if you’ll have to exert extra energy.
The environments themselves are a little wasteful, though. You can spend an hour of your five hour playthrough roaming around looking for hidden items only to come up empty handed. That’s not to say roaming won’t get you anything, as there are some people that need help scattered across Haventon. But the majority of the time I spent checking around corners and what-nots, I was left disappointed. I kept expecting little notes to fill in the details on what exactly “The Event” was, but nothing ever came up. That said, the areas you will roam around all look fantastic. The character models may look dated, but the environments look great.
Combat is handled in an interesting way, and even though I didn’t particularly care for it, it was because I enjoyed the platforming so much that combat just felt unnecessary. Most of the survivors of “The Event” are territorial, so the moment you walk into view, they will start to approach you. Thankfully, each situation is different, so you may get approached by one person with a gun and two with a machete, or vice-versa. The combinations make you think, because you can quick-kill one of them and then have the option to scare the others off by aiming a gun at them or outright shooting them. Bullets are in short-supply, so you really have to think about each situation carefully. It’s a genuine system, I will say that. After you have played through it once, you can go back through on a harder difficulty and try your hand at surviving the harshness with even more limited supplies.
My biggest complaint is the checkpoint/save system. Being an autosave-only game, you have to rely on the game saving at certain intervals. I didn’t actually know this in the beginning, and thought maybe a checkpoint would have been a good stopping point during one play session. When I booted it back up, I have lost 15 minutes of playtime and had to redo a few things I had already had a problem getting through. It’s not really the games fault, more-so the system the developers chose to work with. Much like quick-time events, I will state this is a personal preference thing, and I can’t stand these systems in games.
I Am Alive is a tense survival game. It stacks the cards differently and plays a great hand despite the few shortcomings. If you are looking for something with a gripping story that will keep you playing to see what happens, though, I Am Alive may wind up disappointing you. If you can get past the last-gen character models, and get into what the game is going for, you will find enjoyment and won’t regret your purchase.
- Very tense, edge-of-your seat gameplay
- Unique combat system that makes you think
- The platforming is top-notch
- No explaination what “The Event” is
- Sub-par story-telling
- Save system
Note: This game was played on the Playstation 3 console with a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on the X360 console.