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 With the infrastructure of modern society in shambles, the conveniences of life have been replaced by with an everyday struggle.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.


6.75 "A Downloadable Title That Will Be Remembered More for Its Ambition Than Its Quality"

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.

Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai/Publisher: Ubisoft