Archive for March, 2012

I Am Alive

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by caseystorton


-Yes, I do still write game reviews. I Am Alive looked interesting to me when it was first announced. I liked the idea of NPCs reacting to someone pointing a gun at them the way that a real person would react to having a gun pointed at them, and the fact that enemies could be scared off even by an empty gun. Then I heard that it was going to be an Xbox Live Arcade game rather than a full retail release, which I found a bit odd. Nonetheless, I still bought it.

-The game starts with naration by our protagonist who’s name I already for got, explaining that he was away from his family on a business trip when “The Event” happened. “The Event” was basically the apocalypse, and now cities are in dark, dusty ruins with only a few scattered, desperate survivors left around trying to stay alive. Our main character has spent the better part of a year making his way back to his home town of Haventown to try and find his wife and daughter. Early on he finds a little girl named Mei, and ends up helping her, her mother, and their handicapped friend Henry survive in the world. Much of the cut-scenes are shown to us via a camera that the main character carries around, which was kinda interesting.

-First thing’s first, if you thought that Gears of War had a dull color palette, you don’t know the half of it. I Am Alive is by far the greyest game that I’ve ever played.

-This right here, this is about as colorful as it gets. The rest of the game has a grey man running around a grey, dusty city climbing grey structures and killing grey enemies with grey weapons. I get that it’s trying to accurately depict what this kind of apocalypse would really look like, but it’s just dull. Also, even with the limited colors, the graphics suck. It’s obvious that the graphics weren’t a huge focus here, with blurry textures all over the place and dull looking character models. I don’t really like to complain about bad graphics in games, as I feel that my attention should be on the gameplay rather than just focusing on what it all looks like. But as with Call of Juarez: The Cartel, I feel that I have the right to mention graphics that actually interfere with the gameplay. Many corners were cut just to save development costs so that this game could even afford to be a XBLA release, and graphic seem to be one of the first targets. Aforementioned problems aside, about halfway through the game they introduce really thick dust clouds that slowly deplete your stamina to add a sense of urgency to everything that you’re doing. This would be cool if they just put some heavy particle effects over the screen and make everything slightly blurry, but that would be too hard, so they just screw up the render distance. You can see clearly up to about 5 feet in front of you, followed by about 3 feet of awful looking blur effect, followed by fog so thick that you can hardly see anything at all. The effect is very sloppy, and there is a clearly visible line where the vision starts to blur rather than it gradually getting more blurry, which would have looked much better. There is also a lot of darkness whenever you go into a building. You have a flashlight clipped onto your shirt, much like in Silent Hill, but you can’t turn it on at will. It simply turns on whenever it wants to, which occasionally leaves you wandering around in the dark like a fuckin’ idiot trying to find the next platform or doorway to keep things moving.

-But I’m getting ahead of myself, I still need to talk about the gameplay. The combat mechanics involve quick surprise kills with a machete or auto-target long range kills with a pistol, bow, or a shotgun that you get for helping a survivor. At first it’s pretty cool having to quickly assess the situation and see which enemies have guns and which one you should try the surprise kill on, as everyone will mob you after the first attack. But as the game progresses, it turns into a chore. Fights fluctuate inconsistently between stupidly easy and obnoxiously difficult, where there are simply too many enemies coming from too many directions to know who to go after on the first try which leads to some rather annoying trial-and-error gameplay.

-There are also climbing sections that mainly serve as a diversion to keep you distracted and stretch out the playtime which still only took me about 4-and-a-half hours. The climbing is pretty straight forward most of the time, but it quickly grows tedious. It’s also not helped by some occasionally poor level design which may have you not seeing a platform and wandering aimlessly around the environment wondering just where the hell to go next. Each level has one and only one way through, and sometimes finding that way is much more annoying than it should be.

-Overall, I Am Alive was a big disappointment. The combat is bad, the climbing is annoying, the graphics are ugly, and they game is just short enough to feel cut down, but just long enough to get tedious. There was potential here for a great game had it been given the full-budget retail treatment that it deserved rather than this lazy, slapped together borefest that isn’t worth your time. 4/10