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Review: I Am Alive

I Am Alive is a very unique game, even its name is a bold statement. It’s also quite ironic that the game is finally alive after its past of delays. Its primary focus of course is survival and at what ever the cost. This ultimately leads to a gritty and gloomy gaming experience that doesn’t come without a few sharp edges.

You play as a lone man searching for his family a year after The Event. We aren’t told what the event is. All we know is that it has left the world is a terrible state. Once tall buildings and structures now lie in piles of dust and debris. Abandoned cars litter cracked roads and bridges no longer stand. It’s a tried and dark world. The game is portrayed in a grey and dull manner which works well with the state of the environment.

The whole game manifolds itself from the camcorder of the protagonist. He has recorded his life since the event in hope that one day it will be watched by his lost family. You take control of him as he returns to his home city as he hopes to find his wife and daughter in their apartment. You start with only a flashlight, climbing harness and an empty pistol. Along the way you encounter another family for which you must help. It’s also not a very easy ride as there are also many people who will attack you on sight. Overall I really enjoyed the narrative of I Am Alive and it accounts for some saddening final sections.

In terms of gameplay I Am Alive combines platforming (in the form of climbing) and both gun and melee combat. The paltforming side of the game is one of the best I have experienced. It’s quite similar to the Enslaved and Uncharted climbing sections but offers something new. This new feature is a stamina bar. As you climb your stamina bar gradually depletes to the point where you simply cannot hold on anymore and will drop to your inevitable death. This means upon starting to climb you have to move fast and plan your route otherwise it could prove fatal. The main platforming sections involve climbing up cracked walls, lampposts and shimmying across walls. However, there are also areas where you need to slide down walls and use a grapple hook.

I really like the idea of the stamina bar as it makes the platforming a lot more challenging. Sometimes a climbing section is too long for you to make without stopping in between. To combat this you are able to carry supplies like bottled water which replenishes stamina when used and fix pitons to the wall to create areas of rest. However, just remember that some supplies are hard to come by and all should be used only if they have to be.

I have come across some horrible bugs with climbing though. At various points I have fallen through the floor after jumping to a platform and then magically appeared a few steps back from where I jumped. Some parts are also not very responsive. When you are trying to slide down a pipe you will actually shimmy right or left. Sometimes this has proved fatal as my stamina bar has depleted as I fight with the controls.

Once at ground level you will encounter the dust cloud. This is harmful to the protagonist and you cannot stay in the cloud for a prolonged time. After a while you need to climb to higher ground and fresh air otherwise you will literally bite the dust.

The combat is what makes I Am Alive unique. It’s very tactical and really well designed. You have three weapons you can utilize for when some situations get a bit out of hand (of which they will). These are a pistol, bow and arrow and machete. When using the pistol and arrow the game switches from third person to first person. What you will find though is that ammunition is scarce.

For most of the game you will have no bullets in your gun. What this means is that you have to aim your gun at enemies in the hope it intimates them to step back. This then allows for you to move in and attack with a machete. Be careful who you aim your gun at though. It is important to check what weapon the enemy holds in their hand. Aim an empty gun at someone also holding a pistol and you are dead. When you do have a bullet or bullets then you can easily dispatch of enemies.

The same applies for the bow and arrow. However, not many are intimidated by it meaning you have to be fast with it. Also there are only two arrows available in the whole game so you have to conserve ammo by picking up the arrow you have fired.

Expect multiple enemies of different types to be involved in a fight simultaneously. This challenges you to pick which enemy to kill first and those to leave for last. Planning attacks is vital in the game. Different types of enemy include “tough guys”, those with armour and the bog standard thug. Combat for each type is different which again gives a tactical approach to the combat.

If you ever die in the game you use a retry to start from the latest checkpoint. Retry’s can be found throughout the game. This is either but searching for them or helping people. There are many weak people dotted around the city who ask for supplies. If you choose to give them whatever they seek you gain a retry. If you ever die with no retry’s left then you have to start the whole level again. The system works well and you will rarely find yourself running out of retry’s.

Visually the game is not the best. As mentioned it is dull and grey. It’s also quite blurry. This means textures look bland and everything looks very samey. It fits with the actual setting on the game but there could be a lot more detail and variation to some of the sections. There are also visual glitches such as screen tearing, frame rate issues and random white marks appearing on some of the buildings. It doesn’t look very nice.

Overall I Am Alive does offer something new to gaming which you don’t see that often these days. The idea of a stamina bar for climbing and the tactical combat is really unique but it is sadly not pulled off as well as hoped. That is the main feeling you get with I Am Alive. Even after its delays and prolonged release it still feels unfinished and needs more polish. There are too many sharp edges to its overall gameplay and visuals. It can be considered a little overpriced too. The game is on PSN for over £10 and the journey only lasts just over 4 hours. I Am Alive is certainly worth a look at though, although it’s nothing to die for.

Game Rate: 7/10