I Am Alive Review (Xbox360)
Set in an America ravaged by a mysterious catastrophe known only as “The Event,” a nameless father makes his way through the devastated county, searching for his wife and daughter. He will have to fight for survival against the toxic storms that ravage the streets, the dangers of a crumbling city and that of his fellow man, choosing to help those in need, protect the weak, or steal for himself in the name of survival.
It’s an uncomplicated six hour story, where the plot unfolds via conversations with survivors and through the screen of a camcorder. The missions aren’t exactly pulse-pounding and can drag quite a bit. While there are several side-quests, with NPCs asking the player to embark on fetch quests, or free them from a sticky situation, there’s little reward for the minor exploration offer.
The game has an odd checkpoint system, where retries are used to load checkpoints. These are obtained by finishing chapters and helping the aforementioned survivors with their problems and if there are no retries left, that means the level has to be started from the beginning. It’s an irritation that does nothing but artificially extend the life of the game.
Gameplay takes the form of a standard third person action adventure, though out-and-out combat takes a back seat. Combat is more of a puzzle, rather than a series of gunfights. Even an empty gun can be used to threaten an enemy, force them towards environmental hazards and end them with a swift kick.
Bullets are scarce, even though the enemy can pump as many rounds as they like from their guns but you’re never short of the rounds you really need, and the scenarios never deviate too far from the first encounters you experience.
The stamina bar is the real enemy in the game, as every action from jogging to climbing even the simplest of objects consumes stamina. Traversing the landscape becomes a task in itself, and staying above ground level keeps you safe from the toxic clouds, which sap your stamina. Losing all your stamina while climbing will lead to a one way trip down and another retry wasted.
Collecting supplies can give you an instant boost, even when climbing, which will replenish different amounts of stamina and health, depending on the item in question. More often than not you’ll find supplies balanced precariously balanced on high ledges, which can cause more problems than it solves.
Considering the post-apocalyptic setting, it’s no surprise to find that the game’s art direction has gone with browns and greys and it has a certain air of Silent Hill about it; from the cloudy streets to the inventory screen it smacks of classic survival horror gaming, only without the closet monsters. The toxic clouds and dark interior sequences are reminiscent of that creepy old town called silent hill.
In the same way, audio is used to heighten tension; where Silent Hill used the radio, I Am Alive has the string section of an orchestra to create an air of tension as the player’s stamina begins to drop, which is quite effective as you make that last shimmy towards the safety of a ledge, but loses its intensity as it begins to play as the character happily jogs down safe corridors.
Put simply, I Am Alive had a great deal of potential. The setting was reminiscent of movies like The Road and I Am Legend, but it lacks the raw emotion to convey the situation appropriately. There some genuinely touching moments when the player encounters Mai, but the human interaction still feels weak.
It’s a short experience of what could have been a great game, and I Am Alive fails to deliver on so many levels. What it does do, is attempt something that feels fresh and full of potential, almost like a pilot for a TV series. This one needed a lot more polish before it was sent out the door, despite taking a different approach to the subject matter.I Am Alive Review (Xbox360),