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April 18, 2012
I Am Alive - PS3 Review
Release Launch Price Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Looking over the city ruins in I Am Alive.
The apocalypse is a prolific setting for fictional works, from books like Stephen Kingís The Stand, to TV shows like The Walking Dead and movies such as I Am Legend, there is no shortage of material set just after the apocalypse. I Am Alive is the latest game to use this setting, with humanity brought to its knees by Ďthe eventí, reducing life to little more than a daily struggle for survival. After a somewhat troubled development that included multiple delays and a switch of studios mid-way through, I Am Alive is here. Was it worth the wait? Read onÖ

In I Am Alive you play as a man searching for his wife and daughter in the aftermath of Ďthe eventí. Your character was on a plane when Ďthe eventí took place, and what was a four-hour flight one way has turned into a one-year trek to get back. The game begins with you on the outskirts of your home town, eagerly awaiting the reunion with your family. The world has changed since you were last here; buildings have crumbled, train lines have been shattered, white dust covers everything and is a health hazrd unto itself, and to top it all off many of the remaining survivors are far from friendly. Getting through all of that to your family will be no easy task so youíll have your work cut out for you.

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Hanging on for dear life.
Straight off the bat I have to say I really enjoyed both the setting and the tone of this game. Itís refreshing to find a post-apocalyptic world that is not inhabited by zombies for a change. The whole game takes place in the town of Haventon where you search for your family. Most of your time is spent climbing over or through collapsed buildings to get around town, or searching every nook and cranny for anything of use. Resources are scarce and all food, water and weapon is worth its weight in gold. There arenít many people left in Haventon, but what few there are either need your help or want to hurt you. Itís an oppressive world, but one thatís enjoyable to play in.

As stated above youíll spend a lot of your time climbing in this game. Climbing is not as straightforward as most other games though, as your stamina depletes constantly while you climb. You can jump while climbing, but this uses extra stamina so itís not recommended unless absolutely necessary. During long climbs itís possible to use up all of your stamina and when this happens you have to tap R1 repeatedly for extreme effort; otherwise youíll fall to your death. During periods of extreme effort your stamina capacity diminishes, reducing the length of your stamina bar until you replenish it with an item.

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I Am Alive uses muted colours to convey destruction.
Fear of falling isnít your only worry Ė survivors have a nasty habit of wanting you dead, so you need to deal with them too. You start off with a gun (but no bullets), before long you acquire a machete, and later on youíll pick up a bow. Enemies are almost always in groups, and given the scarcity of bullets (youíll often walk around with just one) you canít always rely on your gun to get you through these encounters. The machete is useful in that it allows you to surprise attack one enemy, but after that the other enemies will rush you. A gun, even without bullets, can intimidate people, making them think twice about charging you Ė unless they have a gun of their own, in which case youíre now in a gun fight.

Intimidated enemies can be clubbed into submission or kicked off ledges and into fires. Dispatching them this way will save you bullets, but you donít always get away as cleanly as youíd like. The bow is great because you can collect your arrows from fallen enemies, but itís slow enough that unless you surprise your enemies you may well take some damage before the fight is over. Some enemies have bullet-proof armour, so for these guys you have to specifically target their unprotected areas. This is as easy as clicking R3 and aiming, but theyíll head straight for you while you aim so you have to be quick.

Fights arenít particularly hard, but death, at least occasionally, is inevitable. At the start of the game youíre given three retries and you use one every time you die. Happily the restart point for these is always nearby, but if you use up all of your retries then you have to go back to the start of the chapter (called episodes in the game). You can find more retries around Haventon, or earn them by assisting injured survivors. At the end of each chapter your retry counter is reset to three (if it is below three) on Normal difficulty, but on Survivor the counter is never reset Ė youíre on your own.

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It's a struggle for survival in I Am Alive.
As mentioned at the top of the review, I Am Alive had a troubled development, including a switch of developer mid-project. Originally planned as a full retail release but eventually released as a download-only title, there are some aspects of the game that donít gel as well as you might like. The story is probably the worst hit in this regard. While the game starts off as a quest to find your wife and daughter, that focus is lost by the end of the second chapter and much of the rest of the game is performing side-quests for survivors. As far as the story goes it feels like weíre only just getting started and then the credits start to roll. Understandable given the circumstances of the gameís release, but not perfect by any means.

The visuals, like the story, have been short-changed. There are plenty of rough edges and screen-tearing, but while this would have been a major issue in a full-priced release itís easier to let slide in a downloadable title. The world is covered in white dust (rubble from fallen buildings perhaps?) which has the effect of making the game look black and white more often than not. The dust plays a role in the game by hurting your stamina and obscuring your vision, but I couldnít help but think it was designed to disguise the lower quality of the graphics, as well as do away with colour. By no means does the game look poor Ė the protagonist moves well, the camera moves automatically as you climb, doing a great job of showing where to go next Ė but itís definitely not in the upper echelon of gaming these days.

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Climbing is integral in I Am Alive.
Music is used sparingly in the game, but when it is there itís all about heightening the tension of onscreen events. If youíre running low on stamina during a climbing section the music will get tense for example. The eerily quiet streets add to the oppressive atmosphere and make sure you take every turn with at least a modicum of caution. The sound effects and limited amount of voice-acting are all perfectly fine, but they wonít win any awards either.

I Am Alive is an interesting game to try and give a score to. On the one hand it has many shortcomings including a disjointed story, dated visuals and short length (around six hours). On the other hand I had a lot of fun playing it and I look forward to playing through again on Survivor difficulty and finding all twenty survivors. At the end of the day, for me at least, the fun trumps the technical shortcomings. Although I Am Alive is not perfect itís still and enjoyable romp, and for just over $20 itís worth picking up if the post-apocalyptic setting interests you.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSFunctional but also dated. A bit too black and white for me.
SOUNDThe music heightens the tension, and the sound effects and voice-acting are decent enough. Silence also plays a role in adding to the atmosphere.
GAMEPLAYHaving to scrounge for resources adds to the atmosphere and the stamina bar for climbing is interesting. Most importantly itís fun to play.
VALUEA tad short at six hours, but there is replay value.
OVERALLI Am Alive is by no means a world beater but itís fun and innovative enough to warrant a closer look from survival horror fans.

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