Review: I Am Alive (Xbox 360 version tested)
It’s another post-apocalyptic action horror game today. I Am Alive is the latest release from Ubisoft Shanghai and is another example of the growing maturity of Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network downloadable games (Alan Wake: American Nightmare being another fine example). It’s another premium quality title for 1,200 MS points (roughly a tenner).
You play a weary, bedraggled guy called Adam (hooray!), picking his way through the ruins of the fictional US town of Haventon, trying to find his wife and daughter. A year previously, a catastrophic global disaster – known only as The Event – reduced most of the planet to rubble. It is unclear how – perhaps a series of earthquakes or another natural disaster? For once it isn’t nuclear war. However the roads and bridges are shattered, most buildings are lying in fragments or on their side, and there are toxic clouds of choking dust that must be navigated around.
And this is the key to the game – you have to pick your way through this horrific environment with next to nothing. You do have a backpack, but it is often empty – perhaps with just a bottle of water or some painkillers in it. You do have a pistol, but bullets for it are very, very rare. Often you will have none, if you are lucky you can find a single bullet every once in a while.
Nevertheless, people still fear it – if threatened by a scavenger or a territorial / paranoid survivor it is possible to still point the gun at them, stopping them in their tracks and forcing them back, perhaps over ledges or into holes in the ground. Just don’t fire the gun with an empty chamber! As soon as it clicks, they see through your façade and attack with everything they have.
So it takes a real survivor’s perspective on how to manage your scant resources. Energy is another one. There are many broken bridges, buildings and more to be scaled and climbed. Our hero is pretty agile, and very capable at climbing and jumping. The problem is the stamina bar that is displayed at the top of the screen. As you climb, it runs down until eventually you run out and fall to your death. Eating and drinking items from the backpack help replenish it – but cans of soda, bottles of water, tins of fruit etc are also pretty rare.
The graphics are... very bleak and very grey. That’s not a criticism – they seem realistic and frighteningly plausible. The shattered city environment feels very much like parts of Fallout 3 – when venturing closer centre of Washington. The tone of the game weighs on you – it’s so bleak and almost everyone you encounter has no interest in helping their fellow human being at all... and I guess that’s the point. It’s a real narrative on how people could revert to their paranoid, base instincts when faced with real disaster like this.
The controls are... ok – sometimes they can be ever so slightly clunky and it can be difficult to carry out the exact attack/move you need in the heat of the moment. It’s not a huge deal – but it is fair to say the concept of the game slightly exceeds its execution sometimes.
But if you like dystopian, post-apocalyptic action – this is right up your shattered street. At £10 approx it’s certainly worth it.
I Am Alive is out now to download on Xbox Live Marketplace and is out in April on the PlayStation Network Store.