When I first watched the epic and promising reveal trailer for I Am Alive in 2008, the game was supposed to be a full retail experience. Since then the it had gone mostly dark but eventually proved that it would stay true to its name and finally come to Xbox 360 as a digital download via LIVE Arcade. I Am Alive has changed quite a bit over the past few years but kept its core promise of unique survival gameplay and a disaster ridden city after an unknown but devastating event.
There aren’t many good survival-inspired games to be played on current generation consoles and many people, me included, have been craving for such an experience. After Ubisoft announced that I Am Alive would become a downloadable title, some of my initial red flags went up as I was worried that the game I wanted it to be, would never come out. While I Am Alive may not be the full blown survival epic I had wanted, it is an absolutely great experience that anyone who was intrigued by the initial trailer needs to play.
I Am Alive gets more things right that it doesn’t and that is no small feat, since I can’t help but judge it by some of my initial expectations since the announcement. Our unnamed protagonist made its way back to his home city where he is looking for his wife and daughter, as he arrives at his apartment, no one is there to greet him. The world of I Am Alive is bleak, sad, dangerous and is faced with an unknown future, if any. After I discovered some clues that my family was still alive I went on my way to look for them. On the journey across the destroyed city I was met by injured, helpless and dangerous people. When I was met with the different choice of helping someone, moving on or engaging a potential threat in unique ways, I started to realize that Ubisoft had put some thought into making I Am Alive, and not just capitalizing on the initial hype.
The game isn’t a third person shooter or fast paced action title. I Am Alive is a methodical and tense survival game. The city can be traversed by climbing structures and navigating via the map while trying to avoid the quickly upcoming sandstorms. Climbing in I Am Alive is not a simple task. When having to move up a building or bridge, I needed to take into account my stamina and if I ran out, I’d fall to my death. There are ways to regenerate while climbing but it requires loot items, which can be found around the world. There are also re-tries that can be earned by helping someone. These re-tries will be required if you die and in some modes can be limited.
As the main character journeys on, he documents his travels with a digital camera with which parts of the story are being told apart from what is obvious to the player. I enjoyed going on this adventure with a desperate dad who meets all sorts of people, while seeking to find his family as he is being faced with many decisions to get to them.
Other tense moments, and probably my favorite part of I Am Alive, were the enemy encounters. In a world where ammo and guns are limited, I had to use deception and sometimes retreat as my survival techniques. Let me paint you a picture, as I was making my way across the city, I was met with some rather unfriendly opposition who had only one thing in mind. Kill me and loot my dead corpse. I was equipped with a machete and a pistol – it had only one shot in the chamber. There were three enemies swiftly approaching, you do the math. After I noticed only one of them had a gun, my options became clear to me. As machete enemy one was coming closer, I pulled a surprise kill on him, quickly drawing my pistol, shooting handgun enemy number two and took care of machete man number three in hand to hand combat.
Scenarios like these are what make I Am Alive so great. Having to survive in a world as gray and hopeless as I Am Alive would not be my perfect dream but playing it and feeling smart as I made the right decisions, was close to the epic experience I was looking for after seeing the initial reveal for the game. Sure, I Am Alive has some issues with glitches at times and it would have been nice to mark survivors and potential threats on the map but none of those things took me out of the immersion and enjoyment I was getting from Ubisoft’s I Am Alive.
Score: 8.5 / 10
I Am Alive was developed and published by Ubisoft for Xbox 360 on March 7th. A copy of the game was provided to us by Ubisoft for reviewing purposes.