There have been quite a few ‘post apocalypse/survival’ games out there; the world is a complete mess, and everyone fends for themselves, using whatever they can find. Now, it’s fine with me, but one thing has bugged me about them… provisions and weapons seem to still be in plentiful supply. Open a wrecked fridge, and you find a working shotgun.
What we need is a game that makes a future wasteland more unforgiving and… well, plausible. Does I Am Alive mange to pull this off?
The game is set in a fictional town of Haventon. The world was the victim of a calamity known only as ‘The Event’. I can’t help but think of the sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look, but I digress. Civilisation is on the brink of extinction, and a layer of dust covers most of the planet.
A lone wanderer called Adam scours the town looking for his wife and daughter. You control this Adam. On the way, you must go up against other survivors, who will do anything to actually survive. They may defend their home, raid abandoned buildings, and prey on stray wanderers, including Adam.
Walking through the wreckage, I honestly felt sympathy for the other citizens, as they looked scared, confused, and desperate to survive. Not like other games where they just looked a bit muddy, but perfectly healthy.
The game plays out like an urban Prince of Persia, with more emphasis on realism and realising human limitations. To get from one area to another, you may need to scale various walls and crevices, in order to reach your destination. And by “human limitations”, I mean you can’t just hang on a wall long enough to make even Spiderman jealous. Any extraneous action costs stamina: from climbing, to running, and even jumping. If you are climbing upwards, your stamina will steadily decline. If it empties, your overall capacity will drain too. This means that you will have less stamina the next time you have to climb. For example, you scale a tower, and you run out of stamina, you may only have half the original amount of stamina than what you started out with. Lose all your stamina, and you die.
This adds a level of planning to your exploration. You’ll need to scan the environment to find the most cost efficient route. And you can’t rely on med kits or health items; they are very far and few between. This means you need to savour whatever item you pick up.
Combat works a little different here. Yes, you have a gun, but ammo, like food and health, is a rare commodity. I never had more than one or two bullets in my gun. However, and here’s the feature I like… you know you have no bullets in your gun… but your opponent doesn’t. Point an empty gun at a bully, and they’ll freeze in place, with the assumption that you have a bullet with their name on it. You can use this to subdue them and make your escape.
You can make use of a machete, but only in surprise attacks. This forces you to plan your attack if you have to face multiple enemies; who do you kill, and how can you come out of the scrap with the least amount of resources spent. I had to greatly change how I approach an enemy, as I couldn’t charge in and shoot blindly like a veteran Call of Duty player (Oh yes… I went there). And while it was counter intuitive, it was very exhilarating.
Like a number of Ubisoft games, there is a degree of linearity in I Am Alive, which is a hindrance in some cases. With a survival game like this, I’d like the chance to choose my own route, and explore the city. Doesn’t have to be a sandbox game, but some degree of freedom to move how I like would be quite good.
Who knows, if The Event does occur, anyone who buys this game will know exactly what to do.
I Am Alive is currently available on Xbox Live Arcade and coming to PSN very soon.
For more info visit www.iamalive-game.ubi.com