I Am Alive PSN review
And it really is. A game that seemed dead and buried more times than Wile E Coyote has finally emerged blinking into the sunlight – or, more appropriately, the dusty ruins of a collapsed American city. With more than a few echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the world is suffering in the aftermath of the Event and, one year on, protagonist Adam has returned home to try and reunite with his wife and child.
Whatever the Event was, it clearly didn’t involve the cast of My Little Pony distributing cupcakes and Valium while Shiny Happy People blasted out of rainbow-coloured speakers. Buildings have been reduced to rubble, a deadly dust cloud sits at ground level, and what humans do remain have turned into machete-wielding survivalists who’ll stab anyone who looks longingly at their tarpaulin bedspread.
It’s the atmosphere of this desolate world that’s I Am Alive’s strongest suit. Despite not being the prettiest of games (no amount of deadly dust excuses non-existent textures), the washed-out palette, makeshift dwellings and snarling lunatics who’ll protect themselves at all costs gives the game the tense and uncomfortable edge it needs. Think Fallout 3 with less sunlight and wildlife, and more bearded men living in upturned shopping carts.
As you traverse the city of Haventon looking for your family, much of the game plays like Uncharted’s climbing sections. Although slightly less intuitive in terms of reading your intended movements, a stamina bar makes things markedly more tense. Swinging, shimmying and (especially) jumping all quickly drain your bar – let it run down all the way and it’s a panicked rush to the next solid surface before you plummet to your death.
Combat is pleasingly nervy too. Although you do have a pistol, ammunition is extremely scarce, so only those enemies also packing heat tend to be worthy of a bullet. Intimidating attackers with an empty gun and then backing them into fires or off cliffs can help you out of a jam, and you also have a machete for when things get up close and personal.
The main problem with combat situations is that they quickly get repetitive as your inevitably approached by three or four goons as once. It’s then just a case of executing the same pattern each time: wait for one enemy to come close, stab him, shoot the one with the gun before forcing the others to back away. And then it’s back to clambering up rubble and inhaling noxious fumes.
Combat situations are tense as ammo is so scarce.
As well as not being a looker, I Am Alive has a couple of other issues. Glitching and clipping are too common – occasionally resulting in you getting stuck on scenery – and the fact that the sound fades out when you’re low on health gets incredibly annoying, as you’re low on health quite a lot.
Overall though, this is a survival game that gets way more right than wrong. Resources are genuinely scarce, a real sense of danger permeates the whole thing, and the post-apocalyptic setting has been well crafted. That a game with such a troubled development has turned out so well is impressive, and as a different gaming experience it’s well worth a play – even if it does feel like a warm up for The Last Of Us.