The lights are on
You are alone in world that is no longer fit for the living.
However, despite all that is against you, you are alive. After a one year trek,
you find yourself in Haventon, the hometown of your estranged wife and your
daughter. The year following the Event, a series of cataclysmic earthquakes,
has been a tough one. With the infrastructure of modern society in shambles,
the conveniences of life have been replaced by with an everyday struggle. Toxic
duct storms, a product of the Event, turn the streets of Haventon into an
unlivable wasteland. People are mostly in one of two groups, criminals and
victims, and you are one of a few variables in a world that has declined into a
decidedly bleak form of futuristic horror.
The player controls the nameless protagonist from a third
person perspective beginning from the moment that he picks up a camcorder on
the outskirts of Haventon. Haventon is a crumbling city covered in the dust that
leaves the entire world seen through a bright grayscale filter. The inhabitants
of the broken-down city fall into one of three categories. Victims are those
who require some form of assistance from the player and will provide
information on the Event or where your family might be if you help them. Street
gangs are the people who require the player to enter a physical confrontation.
The third group is made up of NPCs that add to the narrative but do not fall
into the category of victim or enemy.
Combat in I Am Alive is a combination of ammo management,
strategic positioning, and controlled threats. While combat is interesting
conceptually, you will soon be able to recognize situations and handle them
with ease. Combat turns into a time sink that provides no real challenge or
benefit. Throughout the game, it tries to introduce a bow, more enemies, or
enemies that can only be killed with headshots, but these attempts to freshen
up the combat fall short of the desired goal.
The stark world is one of I Am Alive's strengths. Your first
impression will be of a desolate city leveled by an earthquake. However, you
soon realize that the Event took a larger toll than just breaking a few
buildings. The Event broke lives. The environments vary from apocalyptic
cityscapes, foul sewers, and dilapidated buildings. For a five hour adventure,
a variety of settings are presented. The largest problem with the setting is a
lack of interactive objects. In a game about survival, searching containers and
looking under everything is usually part of the experience. All usable items in
I Am Alive are hidden in plain sight, and the items have a beam of light
shooting from them. Also, certain object, especially in dark areas, suffer from
poor rendering. Most walls that cannot be climb are distinguished by their
limited detail. While the world is dark and apocalyptically atmospheric, the
poorly rendered buildings and cars will break the immersion for some.
The visual effects and audio cues are a major issue with I
Am Alive. First, when the dust takes over the city, the particle effects that
denote dust in the city only reduce the fidelity of the picture. Also, when you
are low on stamina the same panic-inducing music plays throughout the entire
game. It is effective the first few times you hear it, and after that, it just
gets annoying. When you are low on health, a red filter will intrude on the
outer edge of the screen - similar to the effects of shooters warning you to
take cover and let your health regenerate. The difference in I Am Alive is your
health does not regenerate, and if you cannot find proper supplies or choose to
save those supplies for victims, you may be stuck with this ridiculous filter
for long, painful periods of time.
I Am Alive has a lot of, theoretically, solid concepts.
However, poor execution of these ideas lead to an experience leaving you
wondering what could have been. The story, scale, and solid art direction are
enough to make the experience welcome for those who play a wealth of games. The
lack of polish in objects and non-interactive parts of the environment as well
as certain design flaws (e.g. hoarding needed items for victims who require
other items and the aforementioned visual and sound design flaws, etc.) hold I
Am Alive back from being a great game. The scope and delivery of the story will
be important for the genre and downloadable titles moving forward, but the disappointing
shortcomings make it a game that most will find reasons to remember fondly
while being justifiably disappointed.