The loneliness of my own shadow as I sit and stare into the shade of darkness is haunting; the music spine tingling and the flicker of a dim light barely visible in the distance is just the starting point for Ubisoft Shanghai’s action-adventure game, I Am Alive. Equipped with just a back pack, hunting harness and pistol, the game begins following introductory cut-scenes and then you’re character is left walking along an empty path in a city devastated by a cataclysmic event that wiped out most of the human civilisation – and it had left the world in ruins.
While the game is an original IP, a dark and dismal display of survival efforts in a tragic world; the familiarity of gameplay comes from having played titles such as Alan Wake, Tomb Raider and other great hits where exploration and careful thought processes guide you through one destination to another. The controls are intuitive as the left stick is to control your character, the right stick to change your camera angles and as with the majority of all Xbox games – A is jump, LT is to use your weapon and RT is to shoot. As well as options for bringing up your Map and Inventory it’s not an overcomplicated system and the majority of the game is about your exploration efforts, staying alive and dealing with a lot of tricky and at times difficult situations.
So, where’s the challenge?
It comes via the use of an in-game stamina system which is just pure genius. Not only does this add a more realistic take on controlling a person around a world where it simply is impossible to run a few miles and not get worn out, you can’t climb every ladder and swing from one bar to the next without feeling the effects – and this is all impacted on your actions in-game. This system is in place to challenge you as you transverse the areas of I am Alive. Those who manage their stamina well will be able to access areas that have more resources. Over exert yourself and you might just find yourself dropping off a bridge to your death! You are, after all – just one man, not a robot…
I Am Alive, is a very lonely world and as you take on the role of Adam, who is looking a little worse for wear in ripped and ragged clothing – his stamina limited which can be repaired with food and water, but due to the life changing circumstances of the world you live in – where is the food, where is the fresh clean water? Well, it’s all in limited supply to further enhance your survival instincts and not to completely waste all of your resources when you find them.
Throughout the course of the campaign you will find yourself exploring different environments affected by the devastating events and within them you will rescue, kill, hunt and find various people or objects – but the main story centres around your quest to find your wife and daughter who aren’t even aware of your whereabouts or if you are in fact alive or dead! As you will use your map, inventory and interactions with the dust filled environment and other people you encounter within the story, the world of I Am Alive is laden with unpredictable encounters and impulsive behaviour. Other characters adapt themselves to your techniques so there’s always a “what if” moment if you like, but you can make decisions such as to let a survivor live (and reap the rewards) die, kill an imposing threatening individual or just walk on by. Some characters are defensive; others aggressive and they do occasionally even try to bully you. Overall It’s appears a very linear path of exploration, but your gameplay-action choices will involve you deep into the heart of the story.
The main mechanic of the games combat system is all about bluffing and surprisingly not running and gunning as a means of survival. Since you are left with limited resources and stamina, the aim is to use bluffing as a strategic upper hand on your enemies. Pulling out your pistol on a confronting enemy with a knife may result in them cowering in fear or turning overly aggressive. Pulling out a pistol on an enemy with another gun may result in them shooting you first, so, the alternative is that you can bluff it – let them walk close to you, have them think you are quaking in your boots with fear and then draw out your machete to slash their neck! – Or alternatively just walk on past if the scene permits.
Graphically, I Am Alive has a dark creepy vintage feel to its visuals to clearly represent a damaged post-apocalyptical environment, and the controls are fluid and character movement easily maneuverable without camera angle flaws or obvious hiccups. It’s a well presented tale of survival within a fictional American town called Haventon and the main character on an emotional journey of discovery. Although – it’s not completely without its flaws either as the constant on-screen prompts which comprise of map updates, how to approach enemies and environment actions do grate after the first few hours. An on-screen map or location marker would have been a better choice for the player instead of having to keep pressing your map button to check you’re walking in the right direction – but it’s minor.
The first time I ever was excited for I Am Alive, was whilst watching the reveal trailer during the E3 2008 event; it’s been a long time coming and as I assume for many of you – I too had completely forgotten about the games existence until the House Party Promotions. Then I was thinking… “Where have I heard of this game before, I’m sure it was meant to be for retail?” … and it hit me that it was originally pencilled in for a spring 2009 release. However long it’s taken to hit our consoles, I can assure you the wait was worth it – and as the last title in the 2012 House Party Promotions, you’ll soon be wondering “Alan – who” in no time…