I Am Alive Review

I Am Alive (Available on Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai
Release Date: March 7th, 2012 (XBLA), PSN version release TBD.

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates I am Alive M for mature because of violence and blood.  While not as gory as other M-rated games, having the ability to stab, slit throats and other graphic means of killing people clearly warrants the M rating.

Plays Like: Featuring gameplay similar to inFamous and other third person action games that just so happen to feature a lot of climbing, I am Alive doesn’t feel quite as smooth and its combat system is entirely unique.

Review Basis: Ubisoft sent over a review code, and I finished the game.

The Great:

This is a world you’re going to want to explore.  If there’s one thing this game does effectively, it’s make you feel like you’re walking through a city that’s been completely destroyed.  Each step forward makes you face the chilling realization that the odds of your family remaining alive are virtually non-existent.  From moody graphics, subtle environmental details and a never-ending sense that something awful is about to happen, I am Alive will keep you on the edge of your seat for a solid four to five hours.

The Good:

+ Once you rescue Mei, a little girl who’s completely helpless in this city of madness, a strong bond quickly forms. Before long you’re rushing to find her medicine, and do whatever it takes to get her out of this insanity because she reminds you of what you’ve potentially lost with your own daughter.

+ Stamina meter reminds you you’re human.  Traveling on foot is impossible; instead you’ve got to make your way through the decimated city by climbing over broken buildings, mangled cars, and everything else you can imagine.  The slowly depleting stamina meter slaps you in the face to remind you that each move you make must be the right one, or death will be waiting at the next jump.

+ Cloud of death.  While exploring is rewarded, there’s a clear tradeoff.  Venture too far off the beaten path and a poisonous cloud will easy kill you.  This balance between living and dying is played out in every single aspect of the game.

+ Every action has a consequence.  While you may want to help the 20 civilians you run into during the course of the game, doing so will make your progression that much tougher.  A mother might need a first aid kit for your son, but you have the only one left and finding another is virtually impossible.  Do you sacrifice yourself for someone you don’t know?

+ The story might seem basic, find your family, but each new tidbit is enough to make you want to keep pressing forward.  Answers are never provided, only hinted at, leaving a lot up for you to decide for yourself and I’ve always been a fan of novels that do that.

The So-So:

+/- Some will surely love the hand-holding, such as telling you when you’re going in the wrong direction, I found it broke the game’s illusion and took me completely out of the experience.

+/- Physiological combat system works well…when it works.  When you back off in submission, enemies will slowly walk up to you allowing you to slice their throats without realizing you were just faking.  The rest of the pack will then rush you, allowing you to pull out your gun.  Suddenly it’ll be them who will back off, even if your chamber is empty.  The problem is that if you lower your gun, suddenly they forget you have a gun and come rushing at you.  Clearly more effort needed to be put into the system to work out the kinks, but when the system works, it works extremely well.

+/- Voice acting can reach some bizarre notes, but for the most part works well enough to help feed the emotional connection to the storyline.

The Bad:

– The overall presentation is highly stylistic, but also very dated.  From the clunky stamina meter to the low polygon count and limited animations, this would have been an extremely gorgeous game if it had been released back in 2006.

– Clunky controls that hinder what should have been a really smooth game.  Combat suffers as a result.

The Ugly:

Some of the death animations are laughable.  Jumping from one ledge to the next only to have the stamina meter completely delete, making you fall to your death, except should you have died from such a short fall?  Questions like this pop up fairly frequently.

The Lowdown:

For a videogame that was announced many years ago, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in the final package.  I think the combat system could have been something really special had a few kinks been worked out, and the graphics could have used a facelift prior to release.  All that said this is a game I shall not soon forget because of how all engrossing it can be.  If you’re looking for something unique, and don’t mind a few blemishes on an otherwise interesting game, I am Alive might be just what the doctor ordered.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: If you enjoy games that try something new.  The way each action has a direct consequence is wonderfully executed. 

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you enjoy more robust consequence-based game like Mass Effect you might not be as into this one because while every action has a consequence, it’s all emotional based and doesn’t really chance the core gameplay.


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