Who doesn’t enjoy a good post-apocalyptic game? Most people love the opportunity to scavenge the ruins of former civilization for tins of out of date baked beans or killing for the last bottle of purified water, most people like me that is. I’ve sunk many hours into this genre of games, the best example being the iconic forerunner “Fallout” series. So when I saw the trailer for Ubisoft title “I am Alive” I might have been a bit too happy to see humanity being purged into near extinction.
What I forgot to tell you is that I saw that trailer back in 2008….yes that’s right 2008, the game kind of fell of the gaming grid for a while….a long while. It finally made its appearance to us in the form of a downloadable title (Xbox live, PC or PSN), so I was kind of surprised I even remembered it.
The Original Trailer shown at E3 2008 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ6Aely9YrQ
The game revolves around the aftermath of a massive natural disaster which has devastated America (sorry North Korea Mother Nature has beat you to it) which has resulted in destroyed cities, fall of society and a thick ash cloud looming over everything. You play an un-named male protagonist (who I named Bert in my play-through) who after a year finally makes it back to his hometown in search for his wife and daughter. Throughout Bert’s post-apocalyptic adventure you see the reality of the devastation with low supplies, gangs roaming deserted streets, collapsed buildings and desperate survivors trying to scrap enough resources together.
Game play takes the over the shoulder camera prospective and provides what at first seems like an open world sandbox map, which after awhile become true to an extent. The map seemed small on first glimpse but the game does an excellent job of tunnelling you towards your destinations through tunnels, subways, alleyways and scaling building creating a miniature maze, those of you who enjoy exploration probably won’t like this aspect and even though after a certain point it becomes a little less linear it’s still pretty limited.
Scaling buildings become a major part of moving around the city (later on you gain the grappling hook for some serious batman swinging impression) but climbing has its own problems as it’s a consist drain on your stamina which if depleted effects your health and could result in a fatal slip up. The ash cloud that consumes the street level, makes the causal stroll down the street harder as this evil fog gnaws away at your stamina as well, which results in you climbing streetlights and signs often to escape the fog level to give your stamina bar a chance to refill.
Combat consists of fooling your opponents and being clever with what little ammunition you have, this gives a great desperation to combat as ammo is actually very hard to come across and is mostly dropped by enemies. To counter this you get a melee weapon in the form of a machete early on, but as I mentioned before you have to be very reserved with your trigger finger. You will encounter gangs of three or more where you might only have one lone bullet… How do you counter this problem? By using a variety of tactics from faking surrender; luring enemies in close to attack with ‘Hacky’ (my machete’s name) or tricking your enemies into thinking your gun has more bullets than it actually does.
Not everyone you encounter are angry thugs looking to kick your ass, you come across survivors who give you little side errands to do for them (usually the “get this for me” style jobs) which produces really no resource benefit for you.
“What no tins of food for my efforts getting you that water…. what crap… what’s the point then?”
Yes, you gain no tinned goodies or letters of recommendation but you get “retries” which become very important when you come across more difficult sections of the game where you might die multiple times, these allow you to keep retrying the same section before the dreaded game over screen takes over. If you’re into pretty visuals and beautiful mutli-coloured masterpiece environments then I wouldn’t recommend this game for you. The game relies heavily on black, white and grey’s with the only other colour ever to emerge being red but even then very rarely; many would grumble and say “clearly Ubisoft didn’t give much in the way of a budget for the art department” but I thought it was a nice change and reinforces the post-apocalyptic concept while adding the sense of sheer despair and unease.
Overall I actually really liked ‘I am Alive’, there were areas that were basic and could of been padded out to make it a bit more engrossing (I’m looking at you storyline!). The realistic aspect of combat which required more thinking than quick trigger finger reflexes was one of its strongest features, this kept me occupied searching every corner for bullets which in the end kept away the bad taste of a weak storyline. I am Alive won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s going to fit more in a post-fall of society junkies game library than say Fifa Fred’s game pile.