(XBLA) I Am Alive Review
Ubisoft’s I Am Alive has had its development surrounded in problems. Originally revealed in 2008, with Darkworks developing the title, I Am Alive’s development was later thought cancelled but again reopened in 2010, with Darkworks being replaced by Ubisoft Shanghai, who reportedly had to build the game from the bottom up once more, and even making the decision to make the title a Downloadable Game, to be released on XBLA and PSN rather than a full-fledged retail release. So with so much uncertainty, it’s understandable to have your doubts. But now that it’s finally arrived, was it worth the wait? Read on to find out…
I Am Alive is a survival game, but not as you are used to them. The game tells the story of a man searching the ruins of a desolate city to find his wife and daughter. The delivery of the narrative means we are never made fully aware of all the events that caused such chaos, with bits and pieces able to be puzzled together to give you an outlook of the incident. It’s referred to as simply, The Event, and it wiped out almost all of Earths civilisation and continues to plague the remaining survivors with natural disasters, not to mention the despair.
What I speak of is a major part of what I found to be enjoyable about the game. Through the environment and interactions with other survivors, I Am Alive takes a very strong stance and look at humanity at its very worst, and at times, best. It’s heartfelt and emotional, and displays both of these characteristics throughout the game with simple words and settings. It also goes hand in hand with the core gameplay itself. As you search the ruined city, you are made to fight for your life against desperate survivors just looking out for themselves. Not all of these guys are monsters – some are genuine people just trying to survive. And you have to kill them. You will often find yourself forced to fight a group of people for things like painkillers or even just a bottle of water.
With Ammo and weaponry very scarce, you are made to fight with your head as well as your defences. But it’s the intensity of the combat that really makes this fun - playing along with the sense of hopelessness, gameplay is full of despair and almost fear as you explore the chaos around you.
There are a lot of climbing and platforming elements throughout the game, and I noticed that quite often these feel very clunky and forced, which while forgivable for an XBLA game, is still a very off-putting aspect when you are made to do it for hours as you explore the ruins. Scaling entire buildings can get very tedious in this title. Combat is also fairly stale, with gunplay turning the game into a First Person title – which I found to be completely unnecessary – and everything else either relying on QTE’s or button mashing. The concepts are there, but the mechanics used to deliver them are dated and over simplified.
Throughout the story, you will come across helpless survivors among the ruins – men and women who aren’t just out to chop you down and take your goodies. You can help them by giving up some of your very valuable supplies, in exchange for a piece of the back story and some points towards getting the best score in the game. I think this helps make the terrain and city into an even more depressing place. You wonder around and see these poor groups of survivors, and a lot of the time you can’t help them with your current provisions. It’s very well designed in terms of helping the story feel real, and definitely a major plus for the title as a whole.
The environment is a faux-sandbox, with certain aspects being open ended and explorable, but a lot of structural blockages and forced routes. Still, what you get is made for the story to progress and build the character study on. There will be times when you can take a breather and have a look around, but for the most part you’re going in one direction with a purpose. Textures and character models tend to repeat themselves all too often, as well, but as for the overall quality, this is one of the best looking XBLA titles ive had the pleasure of playing.
Much like the character models themselves, voice work for the survivors seems to be repeated fairly often, but is of a good quality on its own. There really isn’t much of note in the way of musical score or effects here either, with a decent soundscape helping give an epic feel to the scenery, but at times misplaced and unnecessary. From my experience, the silent moments in the wide, empty streets were by far the most effective use of sound – or lackthereof. I applaud Ubisoft Shanghai for these types of feelings and experiences, as I think it may be overlooked by some.
- Original take on the survival genre
- Hauntingly believable look at the world without law & order
- Great experience for an XBLA title
- Quality characters and narrative
- Over simplified gameplay mechanics halt full enjoyability
- Some clunky and unresponsive controls
I Am Alive was hyped to the brim. With a development cycle longer than almost any full retail release, there was sure to be a lot of scepticism when the game released after years in development hell. But the final product is enough to put to rest any doubts, as it proves it was most certainly worth the wait. While the gameplay is obviously not on par with similar-playing titles like Uncharted or Assassins Creed, I Am Alive is a solid title with an excellent narrative. And with the help of a great premise, more than a few original concepts and good execution – this is a must buy for fans who want something new out of the survival genre. And for its low asking price and DLG delivery, there’s little reason to not check it out.