Monday, March 12, 2012

I Am Alive XBLA Impressions

It is a sad day when one must defend a game against unflattering remarks merely because of misconceptions and pre-conceived notions of quality. I have continually seen people complain about I Am Alive's quality, gameplay and length, but almost always they are comparing I Am Alive to full priced large budget games. There is some validity to many of the complaints about this game, sadly enough, but there are also overlooked positives. If you do not know of I Am Alive let me give you a brief overview. It is a story driven survival game with a lot of focus on climbing and supplies. The climbing is very similar to what you might seen in an Uncharted game, except the environment doesn't react to your climbing, I.E. no pipes falling or breaking because of your weight when grasping it to climb, and you have stamina when you climb, meaning you have to be pretty quick about it. The world you are traveling through is a post apocalyptic urban wasteland with few survivors and you control a man in search of his family. I will go into other details later, but now for full some impressions of the game based upon the demo, which is available on XBLA and it will be available on PSN at a later date.

Right off the bat I Am Alive presents you with a destroyed city in a world where everything has had a bit of grey scale applied to it. There are still other colors to be found, but almost everywhere you look you will find grey overwhelming everything else. It is unclear why the world looks like this or what happened to the world, but very quickly they let you know that it had to do with earthquakes and that the world ended event didn't actually end the world, everything that came after did. Whether that was the food shortages, lack of electricity or failure of the government to hold everyone to together, either way a year later there are few people left and very few supplies. Many people hate the grey scale cityscape and it does indeed make you dislike it after you rarely see any other colors throughout the demo, but it's also still possible to appreciate what they were going for and be slightly positive about the halfway successful  grey trodden environment that they created. Graphically the game is one of the better look games ever to grace XBLA or PSN, but just like most aspects of this game it isn't consistently great. You will see places that make you stop and stare for a moment, but for the most part everything else blends into the rubble.

Gameplay for I Am Alive is something that you will find intriguing or note based upon how you like your combat. For me the idea of having little or no ammo, sparse weapons available, few provisions to heal any wounds and having to judge your aggressor is an exciting idea. In the demo you are shown several types of survivors, those who just want to be left alone but will kill you if you get to close, those who travel alone and pray on those who look defenseless and large groups of hostile survivors who take whatever they want.  People actually react to you and will back away if you have a gun, but some will come immediately at you as soon as you take your gun off them. The execution of combat leaves a little to be desired, it's not exactly smooth and the animations are a bit clunky, but the idea is in the right place and if you are continually given choices throughout the game like those that are in the demo then combat could turn out to be one of the better parts of the game. If you are someone who wants fast paced smooth combat that doesn't give you a choice on whether or not to kill, then you will not like the combat in this game, but for those of who want to feel like you are actually trying to survive as one man in a dangerous world then it is appealing. Take a look at this video and see how it looks.

As you can see through that much of the game is told through a camcorder, which is presumably being left for your daughter. The voice acting is pretty well done and convincing, but the story leaves a lot to be desired, much like most post-apocalyptic story telling. Based on the many reviews I've read I can say that the game never get's any less vague than it is in the demo and you never learn exactly what the event was, but the story of the main character is something a little more tangible that may get you feeling sympathetic. There are also other characters in the game, like a little girl, which you see right at the end of the demo and is shown in many screenshots of the game that they have on their main website. 

Overall the game is very mixed. It has a lot of interesting ideas and it definitely could have been designed better, but the experience to be had is something that can be positive. It has been developed by Ubisoft and it's been in some form of development for years, which makes the game more of a failure to many due to it's long length of development, but they did succeed at making this a game of a survival, in which the gameplay actually reflects that idea. The game has two game modes, one which focuses on survival (basically medium) and another which let's you not worry about ammo and provisions so much (easy). If you are going to give the game an honest try you absolutely must try it on survival, because that's what it's all about. Going into a fight again three hostile enemies with only one bullet is a fantastic idea and it makes you really contemplate your priorities.

I Am Alive is a short game, which doesn't help people like it, but at the very least it is worth a try to see what they have created. My original point was that you shouldn't believe much of the criticism around the web, especially if someone is saying that the games graphics are bad because it doesn't look as good as Resident Evil 5, that's just uninformed biased ranting. I only feel I must suggest the obvious because of the rampant criticism that is everywhere regarding I Am Alive. If you want to check out some reviews of the full game I will leave a few after the launch trailer. Thanks for reading and check out the demo on XBLA or PSN in the future, it comes out sometime in Spring on PSN. The full game is $15. I leave you with this launch trailer, reviews to follow.

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Some Respectable Reviews
Game Informer Review

-Written by Sean Cargle


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