I Am Alive puts you in the shoes of an apocalypse survivor and gives you a choice between salvaging your humanity, or turning into a unfeeling pragmatist
I Am Alive uses a lot of popular tropes in modern gaming. It’s a third-person adventure, its hero is a free-climbing expert and its story is set in a post-apocalyptic future. But the game’s developers have managed to weaves these common elements into a compelling whole that is by turns engaging, chilling and horrific. Play this game with the lights on.
I Am Alive: Plot
That’s not to say I Am Alive is a horror game, even though its combat mechanics owe something of a debt to the survival-horror classic, Resident Evil.
Rather, the best point of reference for Ubisoft’s new downloadable nightmare is Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road. Like that great author’s novel of a dystopian future, I Am Alive takes an unblinking look at the depths humans can sink to when a rule-of-law is obliterated, and how staying alive can push individuals to commit acts of frightening extremes.
The player takes on the role of a man named Adam who has spent a year walking across America towards his home, after a series of earthquakes left most of the country in ruins.
After he returns to his hometown, he finds the streets piled with rubble, and the only signs of life there are predatory gangs who loot and kill, and victims who are helpless and abused. As Adam picks his way through this human wreckage in search of his wife and child, he comes across people in need of his help…
I Am Alive: Gameplay
To say more about the plot would be doing a disservice to punters who plan to download a copy. Suffice to say that the mood and tone of I Am Alive is note-perfect.
Unlike other games that simply use the post-apocalyptic setting to set the player up with interesting weapons and some monsters to shoot, I Am Alive makes its backdrop feel like a genuinely authentic reality that not only affects the player’s actions, but also impacts on the characters who populate it.
It shows what humans are capable of at their worst when all hope goes out the window, and at their best when they cling to their humanity even in the face of impossible odds.
It also helps that Adam, the player’s vector in all of this, handles like an actual human being rather than some superhuman protagonist. In his travels through the wrecked city I Am Alive takes place in, Adam will be required to scale collapsed buildings, bridges and even the odd skyscraper.
Unlike the heroes in other games, however, Adam can’t hang indefinitely off the side of a high structure. Players need to keep an eye on his stamina bar, which slowly depletes the more effort he employs in climbing. When it’s gone altogether, they’ll need to hammer the control’s triggers or he’ll fall to his death.
This realism extends to the combat too. When the player encounters murderous adversaries, they will usually only have one or two bullets available and a melee attack that only works on one opponent.
Confrontations play out as tense, nasty affairs; players need to take down the alpha males in the groups they run into as quickly as possible and they can then bluff their way out of trouble by brandishing an unloaded gun.
I Am Alive: Features
If they’re lucky enough to have a couple of bullets, players should think long and hard before they pulling the trigger. Ammunition, along with every other useful item in existence, is in short supply in the world of I Am Alive, as befits a dystopian hellhole.
It’s best to hang onto a life-saving health pack, a stamina-boosting bottle of water or a couple of bullets until it becomes absolutely necessary to use them.
This brevity of assets also informs the game’s side-quests. The player will come across a number of victims in the game who will be in need of one item or another.
During these encounters, players will have to consider whether or not they’re prepared to give up their precious inventory items in the name of the greater good. Charity begins at home, after all – especially after the end of the world.
There are a couple of instances that take players out of the game. Control prompts appear on screen too often, items of use are surrounded by a glowing halo and the inclusion of a leaderboard seems absolutely at odds with the game’s searing narrative.
There’s also the issue that if players blitz through the game without doing any of the side-quests, it’s all over for them in a brief five hours.
I Am Alive: Verdict
Those who don’t explore every inch of I Am Alive, however, are missing a trick. This is a game the player needs to give themselves to. They will be disturbed by some of the things they see here – they will be sickened and appalled – and by the end credits, they’ll be drained. But isn’t that what great art is supposed to do?
I Am Alive availability: Available now
I Am Alive price: 1200 MS Points/£10.50