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Posted by drew10 on Apr 16, 2012
Review: I Am Alive – Ubisoft Shanghai – PSN

Review: I Am Alive – Ubisoft Shanghai – PSN

If there is one thing that is going to ruin your day it is taking a flight to the other end of the country then having to walk back. Especially if that country is the US and especially if the reason you have to walk back is because the world suddenly ended in between.

This is the premise of Ubisoft Shanghai’s long awaited survival game I Am Alive. You play an everyman who has spent an entire year walking back to his home city of Haventon to find his wife and daughter.  The world is in ruins after ‘The Event’ and is plagued by after-shock earthquakes and poisonous dust clouds. Those humans that have survived, have been forced to do whatever is necessary to survive.

The games story is portrayed through the viewfinder of a camcorder as an unnamed girl watches your story unfold. Whilst you wander the streets documenting your story for your family. Along the way as you tackle gangs and manage your precious resources you stumble across a little girl and your quest to reunite her with her mother and see them to safety begins.

I Am Alive is an impressively ambitious title for an online game. In much the same way that Hydrophobia was although we can happily report that I Am Alive is infinitely more successful. Gameplay features heavily on resource management. There are no times when you will be armed up to the hilt with ammo, blowing away everyone in front of you. Instead you need to learn tactics to conserve the precious bullets you have.

The combat is unique, you can intimidate enemies with an empty gun, running the risk that they do not call your bluff. You can get them to back up and ultimately push them over a ledge if so desired. Also when many enemies approach you it is better to remain passive and surprise the first one with a knife before pulling your gun. It makes for some interesting tactical decisions as taking out the enemies with guns first so as to get their bullets is imperative.

Managing the rest of your resources is also key to success. Your health and stamina are split into two bars at the top of the screen. White for stamina and red for health. Running and climbing will deplete your stamina quickly and once it is depleted it will start to affect your health. When climbing for example, the moment your stamina runs out will will need to press the R1 button repeatedly to use the last bit of energy you have. If you do not make it to a safe ledge before it is gone entirely, you will fall. Once you get into the city there is a layer or thick poisonous dust that hangs low on the streets. Being inside this cloud will deplete your stamina and it will not replenish. The only way to survive is to climb above it, regain your stamina and then move on.

Throughout the game you will meet various characters, some will be friendly and some not. Even some of the more confrontational can be avoided by not making any aggressive moves, although many will be hell-bent on killing you for your resources. You will also meet people who are sick or injured, you can choose to help these people by giving them the required resource like a first aid kit or painkillers. Every time you help someone you are rewarded with an extra retry and some information that can assist you in your search for your family. Choosing not to help can have consequences on the person you leave behind. At one point I did not have the required resource to help someone who was stuck. I later returned to find they had hung themselves. It was an emotional and disturbing moment.

Graphically I Am Alive is excellent. The feeling or desolation is very real with cars and personal effects littering the landscape. Partly destroyed or collapsed buildings create the backdrop although the thick layer of dust that hangs in the air means the draw-distance never really allows for breath-taking views. The dust itself is well done but there are times when you would like to see the full extent of the damage ‘the event’ has caused. There are also some points when you have to negotiate the dust at night and these are extremely frustrating.

Gameplay is a real mixture innovation and firmly trodden ground. The unique combat system feels fresh and intelligent but becomes routine and over-used very quickly. In fact the fight scenes rarely do anything different throughout the entire game. Surprise the first guy, shoot the bloke with the gun and threaten the rest.  The climbing sections are as you would expect with the additional concern of stamina management. The use of pitons as an anchor point to rest and regain stamina is essential on some more lengthy climbs. Unfortunately that is pretty much all this game offers. You climb, fight or avoid fights and occasionally slide down the side of collapsed sky-scrapers. But then it is not the action sequences that make this game, it is the real feeling retaining hope in a hopeless situation. It is a game about humanity and the story of a normal man in extraordinary circumstances and in that I Am Alive truly excels. The level of emotional connection you get to the characters is in no small part due to the script and the voice acting. Both of which truly add to the depth of feeling achieved by this game.

For the most part the controls are pretty tight however there will be times when climbing that you want to move from a horizontal motion to a vertical one (or vice-versa) and your character will simply not respond correctly, constantly moving around in circles as you struggle to get him to go the way you want. I think this has something to do with the camera angle, but in a game where every second counts it is ultimately frustrating and really needed tightening up.

If I have one more complaint though it is the way the game ends. There has been no word as to whether the game is due to be episodic but the ending leaves you feeling unfulfilled. The story is incomplete and there must be a sequel in the works as it feels like it just stops mid-game. That said you do get around 5 hours of gameplay for the £11.99 price.

Overall though this is a great game. Yes there are parts that frustrate, the ending being the biggest one, but in general the feeling of humanity is tangible. You really feel for the characters and their plight and that is no mean feat for a game.

 

 

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