The end of the world was a long time coming. With rumours of I Am Alive beginning in 2008, a change in developer and a total re-working, at some stage of it’s life, I Am Alive barely seemed to be breathing. Fortunately UbiSoft stayed on target and finished the game.
The basic premise of the game, is that it’s been a year since the event that destroyed most of humanity, laying waste to cities and creating a toxic dust cloud. You play a man who has spent the last year making his way back to his home in a mid sized American city, in a effort to find his wife and child. We come into the game as he nears the outskirts of the city and has to find his way across a badly damaged suspension bridge.
It’s on this bridge where we learn one of the games unique game-play mechanics; stamina. You only have a certain amount of stamina, and for walking around it’s fine, but when you start climbing, your stamina starts to rapidly fall, and if you don’t make it to where you’re climbing – or at least to a ledge that you can rest on – before your stamina runs out, you’ll fall to your death. You can visually see your stamina running out via the HUD, and the ominous music that starts playing will send shivers of dread coursing through you body.
Once you’ve learnt a few tricks about climbing and resting, you’ll be onto the next game mechanic, solving the puzzle of where to go next. Sure, you’ve got a mini-map you can pull up, but that only shows you what direction to go in, not how to make it across a woefully destroyed bridge.
Then it’s on to the sewers where you’ll get your first taste of humanity gone bad. You have a gun but no bullets, so you’ll learn how to threaten and bluff your way to getting past people, or forcing them into a position where you can kick them off a ledge to their death. Soon you’ll have one or two bullets (and you’ll need to use them wisely) and a machete. This gives you more options for dealing with bigger groups of survivors, intent of killing you.
I Am Alive is a very linear game, though there is plenty to explore, and you really have to explore, because you can find items that will save your life, such as water and medicine, both essential for restoring stamina and health.
The graphics seem somewhat dated when you first begin, but the story and moody dust filled post apocalyptic cityscape draws you in almost completely and the odd graphical glitch doesn’t seem to bother you.
Two things however will get on your nerve. One is the occasionally niggly controls that can make it had to get your character to climb where you want him to, and then there’s the long periods between save points, necessitating some very long replaying of certain parts of the game.
But these are only niggles, and once you allow yourself to get drawn into this horrific new world, you won’t want to leave.