I Am Alive...
I Am Alive is a pretty bleak action/adventure game from Ubisoft and it manages to evoke a post-apocalyptic world full of danger and survival right from the get-go. It's a suitably grim tale of one man's search for his wife and child, against all odds and the ever-present dog-eat-dog world that he now inhabits. If the environment doesn't get you, the roaming gangs of survivors will.
Fortunately our hero (called: Adam) isn't completely without hope or the tools to survive, he has a gun (with no bullets), a flashlight, camcorder, backpack and a climbing rope/hook. He can pick up other weapons, like a machete and a longbow along his adventure and the trick is to really get into the headspace of a survivor, think like a survivor and pick your battles.
So without further ado, here's the skinny on the game.
There's a lot of survival in I Am Alive, you'll be constantly struggling against the very world that Adam lives in. There's a complete traversal mechanic for climbing around the various sections that require an Uncharted-style clamber-fest. Adam doesn't have infinite stamina though and the moment you're hanging by those fingertips, that bar starts running down...and once that bar's down, you need to press a button rapidly to perform extra or extreme effort moves.
This depletes your maximum stamina too, which means less stamina to rely on for later stages of the climb. Or in general, until you can eat some food/drink some drink and top it back up. Managing your supplies of restorative items is a mini-game in of itself, with careful consideration required when having to negotiate the treacherous world one year on from the Event.
There are quite a few supplies to get in the gameworld, though not all of them have an immediate use for Adam. They can be given to various NPCs that he encounters in order to earn more retry tokens, and complete Side-Quests in the game. A medipack might be able to heal you to full health, but it could also save the life of a poor kid who got on the wrong side of someone's knife in a back alley.
These decisions are the ones that you have to live with as well, what do you do? Do you become a Samaritan and save the people who live in your world, or do you walk on by like so many others and leave them to their fate?
Then you have combat, which is a tactical affair. You can get the drop on your enemies by playing patsy until it's time to strike with a quick surprise kill, taking out the gun wielding enemies first if you know what's good for you. You can intimidate people with your gun, especially if you have bullets in the clip...but don't wait too long or they get wise to your ruse. You can also force them back towards environmental dangers, forcing them near holes and so on...
There's also the bow and a few other tricks which we're not going to spoil. That kind of wraps it up in terms of gameplay, the game does a good job of introducing the systems and how they work though, so you're never left in the dark about how any element functions.
Then we come to the graphical side of I Am Alive. It's bleak looking and does a good job with a grim palette, to bring the atmosphere of a post-apoc world to life. The Dust settles everywhere and the sky is a horrible melancholy colour which adds to the oppression and helps drive the graphical aesthetic home. It's not meant to have a wonderful happy effect on the player and their mood, so it works for us.
The animations are solid and there's a lot of time/effort/thought that's gone into the movement and traversal animations for the game. Combat is pretty quick and decisive and there are some nice set-piece stealth and surprise kill animations.
Physics plays a pretty minor role in the game and it's the environmental based stuff that appears, swinging ladders, crumbling ruins and so on.
The music is designed well enough and again has that haunting post-apoc feel, melancholic and soulful.
Sound is solidly designed and the voice work is nicely done, with some pretty decent script and storytelling thrown into the mix.
Overall: I Am Alive has a few issues, the combat system could have been tweaked a little better and response time often feels somewhat sluggish in the bigger encounters. There are no noticeable frame-rate issues or screen-tearing though, so it's a pretty good. The game has 21 Chapters with around 7-10 hours of play depending on your chosen skill level (Survivor or Normal) and how much you explore the world around you.
All in all, it is worth the money and definitely needs to be experienced at least once. Try the demo, if you like it, grab the game and experience the desolate struggle for survival.