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I first heard of Ubisoft‘s I Am Alive while browsing the Playstation Network (PSN) and was hesitantly impressed by the stills provided. A quick browse of both youtube and other review sites, gave me justification to throw down cash for this downloadable game. The idea of an post apocalyptic world to explore, minus the FPS aspects had me following the status bar eagerly. Thoughts of Corman McCarthy’s “The Road” flooded my mind, a world of inevitable decay. Ruins of buildings slowly falling further into disrepair, tough people scrabbling for survival.

I found the first cut scene to be generic, however a tried and true beginning for many a game and film. A man in search of his family, his noble quest witnessed only by his camera. I thought that the cut scenes might improve in time with my progressing through the game. Sadly they did for the most part they just serve as simple updates to the plot. They do almost nothing to add to the plot or character development. The language in the game feels undone as the protagonists name is “Adam”. The name of the world crushing event? “The Event”. I heard an internal dramatic reverb whenever “The Event” was mentioned.

The graphics were OK, they seemed much more on par for the PS2. Although some of the views during the game were beautiful. My favorite thinking spot was the semi-collapsed bridge in the beginning, the river underneath made to sit and watch. The constantly opaque atmosphere quickly became a nuisance. I understand the concept of it and “Silent Hill’s” trademark fog is often used to great effect. In “I Am Alive” it just seemed to add to the overall drabness of the game, with the exception of the aforementioned panoramas the graphics were passable at best.

The game play… in all fairness, I’ve never loved the jumping, climbing, swinging adventure games. I make a piss poor Lara Croft, a sad excuse for a persian price and only a passable “Pitfall Harry”. I really tried to keep this in mind as I played and tried to concentrate on the fun of exploring and the combat system. I won’t lie the visceral thrill of running my first trio of attackers bolstered my hopes. I was willing to patiently go through the occasional shimmy up or down the side of an office building. I was however unwilling to do so ad-infinitum, in the words of Stephen King “Hell is repetition”. You quickly learn to pace yourself and reserve the use of items. The climbs become so tedious and the items so sparse, you will find yourself waiting for your stamina to deplete. At least you can start the climb over from scratch and after the first 2 times, at least you know which direction to go.

The combat system at first fun then torturous, the simple battles are a lot of fun. As the bandits became more advanced, they also became better armed. Fair enough, the game would advise “take out the attackers with guns first”. I would do so only be shot in the back by a formerly knife wielding thug, the frustration was quickly mounting. The NPC’s in the game are useless and don’t present meaningful dialogue. When it’s all said and done I got ¾ of the way through the game and just dropped it.

I really wanted to like the game but by the time I put it down, I was just to frustrated. Frustrated by the gameplay and lack of any meaningful story. A post apocalyptic world is basically a blank slate and I just felt like I was replaying any 90’s survival game.

I Am Alive is available as a downloadable game game for both PSN and XBLA. Visit the official website for more information.

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