My I Am Alive Review
In 2008 I Am Alive was first announced and I was always intrigued by the concept of the game. For many years it seemed like the game was canceled and long forgotten about by the developers. Close to the end of last year however, it seemed like I Am Alive still had some life left in it when Ubisoft announced that it was still in development and due out at years end. It did not make the end of the year, but it has finally come out and after all these years of development and changing developers, I Am Alive is dead on arrival in every way possible. This game is broken, unfinished and down right horrible to look at.
At the start of I Am Alive it does seem refreshingly different, but quickly you learn that just about everything about it is a complete disaster. You are a simple man, average just like everyone else and all you want to do is get home in hopes to find your wife and daughter alive after this huge event that has destroyed the world as you know it. It won’t be easy to do so and I Am Alive tries to convey that through horrible game mechanics and survival situations, but that is what made this game seem so interesting and what felt so different about it at first. You have to survive and you do so with little to no equipment and weaponry and there are no hordes of zombies to fight through or supernatural beings of any kind, it is simple average people just trying to get by like you are. Some are more ruthless and will do anything in their power, while others will look to you for help.
The main idea and focus of I Am Alive is making your way around modern-day ruins if you will that are mostly all what use to be buildings. The game does seem to make a huge commitment to realism, or what one could and most likely would assume to be the idea of real in a post apocalyptic world. The game does this by giving you a very limited amount of supplies as aforementioned, but also by trying to turn every encounter with other characters into life-or-death situations. As realistic as it tries to be, I Am Alive breaks down into fetch quests, a large amount of climbing around and rote combat, so much so that you can not help but feel the video gamey-ness of it. I Am Alive had many great ideas and every last one of them falls short in one form or another.
I have to give some credit to Ubisoft for the stamina and health meters they use, but for the most part I found the stamina meter a little too unforgiving in many ways. The health bar never refills when it is lost, but it can be replenished with scarce food items which like any other items you find along the way such as bullets, water bottles, inhalers and even retries are shown to you with a glowing light coming from the top of it as if they were a candle in the background. I assume they came up with this as a way for you to identify these items, because the graphics of this game are so horribly bad that everything around you at all times are completely blurred together in a huge blackish grey mess. Your stamina is a different story all together, it comes back quite quickly after you are done climbing or put up some item (I honestly can’t remember what it is called nor do I care) to rest in the middle of climbing. However, if your stamina fully depletes while climbing your total stamina capacity will start to deplete as a result. I understand the idea of doing this as a way to add tension by basically giving you a timer while climbing, but the controls while climbing are so awkward and unreliable to get you where you need to go. So often you will be pushing your analog stick exactly where you want your character to go and he will go in the complete opposite direction. There is also times when you are climbing say left to right and need him to shimmy down a pipe and while you are pressing down he will climb right over it and keep going sideways. This is really annoying when you are trying to move him side to side to get directly over the pipe and when you hit down he again goes right past it. You are now being forced for more time then given to try getting him down as you watch him simply move left to right or visa versa. I would rather have simple climbing such as Uncharted than having it a chore like it is in I Am Alive.
The horrible controls do not end there at all. It is continued with interactions with the other human beings of the game, usually only those you have to fight with. I was very interested in the idea of how there would be different ways to interact with the other characters in the game. It was made apparent that you would never know how you would have to react to a situation until it was upon you; this is faults for the most part. There are basically three type pf people that you run into throughout the game. You have the people that are in need of your help, which you can do by giving them water if you have it, there is the defensive people that make it very clear they mean you no harm as long as you back away slowly and never come back and then there is the aggressive people that are right off the bat dead set on killing you and taking all your stuff. The game does no give you as much freedom as I once assumed and that was kind of annoying. It seemed you would have to choose what you would do in any of these situations, but really you have to handle each one the exact same way or there is no chance for you to come out alive.
The majority of the people you run into are of course the aggressive ones, there is always a gang out there wanting to kill the first person they see. When you run into one of these gangs the game then again breaks down what you can do with the situation. You can hold off until one gets close enough were you can “quick kill” them by cutting their throat and then pull your gun out, you can pull your gun out right away, but that will only really startle the baddies with knives. The guy with the gun will just start shooting at you or you can get into a button mashing struggle with them, which this never ever works if there is more then one guy attacking you. If there is a second guy he will just continuously stab you in the back until you are dead. It is hard to tell at times how to handle the fighting, it is very trial and error, but unfortunately you have a limited amount of retries to figure it out. The retries make a lot of this game worse than it has to be, it is like Ubisoft had it in their mind that this game was going to be in an arcade and you would be standing there playing it with a stack of quarters.
This is only maybe half of what is frustrating about the combat, even after figuring out the routine for handling the situation you have to deploy the plan of action and sometimes the game itself gets in the way of that. You use the same button for the special kills as you do for everything and there are times the game will give you the wrong icon, this could cause everything to go wrong and you end up dead using another precious retry. Most of the time these situations happen that way do to how picky the game likes to be with how far or close the bad guy is from you. You might be ready to kick a guy off the ledge and instead get into a struggle with him trying to stab each other and as said before, if there is at least a second guy still he will just stab you in the back until you die. Just like everything else in the game the fighting is annoying, frustrating and for the most part broken in one way or another.
On top of all the controls for everything except walking being horrible and a nightmare, the story is incomplete. Now I quit playing this monstrosity before the end, but I played long enough that I realized that your character apparently forgot what he came back home for. It took a year for him to get home, looking for his wife and daughter and it seems once he found out that they made it at least out of the apartment alive, he no longer cared what happen to him. You spend a good amount of time after that being everyone else’s errand boy. It also seems that whatever happened only happened in your home town, because when you help people they go into telling you about “The Event” that destroyed the city as if it wasn’t this way all over. Also having characters know you were not around this town when the disaster struck pulls you right out of the game. How did they know I just got into town?
I Am Alive is horrible and should be avoided at all cost. Do not play this game at all, I mean don’t even bother spending your time with the free demo. It is unfinished from top to bottom and although it was cut from being a full release game to something cheaper on the PlayStation Store and X Box arcade, it is not worth it and a slap in the face to the consumer from Ubisoft. How dare you sell this garbage to us? The idea was amazing and that is all I can really say for this game. Everything interesting was squandered and unfulfilling; I Am Alive is a shell of a game at best, a broken one at that.