I Am Alive is a adventure survival horror game developed by Ubisoft Shanghai as a downloadable arcade title for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Its currently out right now on Xbox Box Live Arcade and soon PSN (April 4, 2012). What initially caught my eye with this game was the fact that it was a survival adventure game set in a ravaged destroyed city. I love games like that. After playing through the demo of I Am Alive I witnessed some very unique and enjoyable gameplay elements that sets itself apart from many arcade survival horror games as of late.
Lets start at the beginning, the controls. For this Video Games Source article I played I Am Alive’s demo on my Xbox 360. Default button layout: RS-rotate camera, A-jump, B-crouch, Y-map, X-contextual action, Back-inventory, Start-pause, LS-move character, RT-shoot/ go faster, RB-switch weapon/plant piton, LT-equip weapon, LB-inventory. The default button layout gets the job done. There are many gameplay elements in I Am Alive and none of them felt out of place regrading control detection. Animations can use some work but that is a different story. Climbing, checking inventory and aiming your weapon in first person was decent. The demo did a good job on diversifing gameplay to make use all of the controls that this game has to offer.
You can play I Am Alive’s demo on two different difficulties, Normal and Survivor. I picked Normal. When you first start up the actual game you’re treated to a cutscene showing a man (protagonist) as he records himself. He is basically telling the camera he only has a backpack a gun and some climbing gear. He wants you to know he is basically a normal guy venturing into a destroyed city in search of his wife and child. The setting for this 3rd person survival game is impressive. The colors are mosltly grey, white and dark smoke due to dust. The city is covered in dust and ruined beyond belief. It looks obliterated. Dead bodies and destroyed cars litter the streets. The demo takes place in the city of Haventon which looks like a pretty big city that was rocked by natural disasters.
You start out making your way to a huge destroyed bridge that leads to Haventon and the protagonist’s apartment where he hopes to find his wife and daughter Mary. Here you will learn about stamina based climbing which is novel to me. I played games like Uncharted and always wondered why the guy never got tired from climbing around like a monkey. In I Am Alive you can only climb so long before your stamina gauge fills up. Performing taxing moves while climbing eats up chucnks of your stamina gauge. I was aware of how much stamina and how far I had to climb when I played the demo. If you run out of stamina you fall to your death. Climbing was pretty fun. The camera was ok and I always knew where to climb.
Another big gamelay aspect of I Am Alive that I enjoyed are the interactions with NPCs. You can choose to act or leave NPCs alone who are simply guarding their possessions you come across. The city is in chaos and people are either hurt, scared or ready to kill for what is rightfully there’s. There are also gangs and bandits that will try and rob you. For the latter you can pull out your gun and bluff thugs into leaving you alone. You can also let them approch you to perform a sneak attack. The gameplay has layers of interactivity regarding NPCs. Combat sequences are performed with QTEs. Bullets are very rare in the game and should only be used in true life or death situations.
The maps have a nice size to them giving the game a adventure feel. You can venture off the beaten path and explore a little. There are markers and a waypoint you can use at all times if you get lost. You will come into contact with people who need help (med packs for healing). You can collect Retry which is a checkpoint save for I Am Alive. As I made my way around destroyed Haventon avoiding people and helping some I finally made it to the apartment. There the protagonist reads a letter from his wife that is one year old. The protagonist makes another recording for his wife with his camera after reading the letter. Next a huge earthquake erupts and he runs outside to follow a fake vision of his daughter. The demo ends after that.
The demo for I Am Alive really mixed up the gameplay and shows that its not a one trick pony survival game. The atmosphere is delivered with good murky depressing art. The sound design brings out Haventon’s destroyed world. I would say the demo lasted 30 minutes. I walked around the map and used canned food to heal myself. The inventory system was easy to use. If I had to pick the best aspects of I Am Alive would be the stamina based climbing and NPC interactions. The atmosphere is really good too. The visuals could be better with the Unreal Engine. I guess that about does it. Thanks for reading and have a good day!