I Am Alive Review (PS3)

I Am Alive is an incredibly special and fearless game. The gritty, no-holds barred city of Haventon plays host to more than the fallout of ceaseless earthquakes. It is the ultimate test, challenging any inhabitants to a testing game of survival. One of these survivors is Adam. Plagued by the severing of family ties, he treks towards the aforementioned hell-hole in order to find his daughter and her mother. Haventon is Adam's Limbo, tasking him with the opportunity to clear his troubled soul.

Even this interpretation provides more information than this downloadable release. Any personal insight comes from gutsy exploration, a task that isn't easy amongst the hostile roads and back alleys. Earthquakes continue to rip through the city, chucking up fatal doses of dust. Vision is always obscured, forcing you to stay alert with every trudge. Subtle visual cues and changes in sound point towards potential dangers, meaning your senses must always scout the area. Polluted air means you can only see what's a few metres ahead of you. I Am Alive suffocates with grainy, monochrome visuals, but this is an extremely important tool for the progress of your journey.

Haventon is in ruins. Note: You don't need to bring sunglasses

In Adam's time of need, scavenging is the only means of survival. Items are barely visible until you're in close vicinity, ensuring you'll sweep entire areas for a smidgen of hope. Often, even the most thorough scouring results in nothing to show. Each can of soda, fruit cocktail and batch of painkillers offers a vital relief, especially if you've expended too much energy or been injured. Occasionally you'll stumble across full medikits or strange pieces of meat, both of which offer a complete rejuvenation to your health and stamina. While the former offers legitimate aid, the latter is symbolic of the lengths some people are willing to go in order to stay alive.

If collecting items doesn't become a natural process, you'll inevitably stumble into trouble. Every action you take has an effect on Adam's physical state. Stamina is absolutely key, as once this has completely depleted, health begins to evaporate. Often, climbing is the only way to meet an objective. The exertion of energy is a test of speed and balance, as if you don't move quick enough, Adam will plummet to the ground. Once he's all puffed out, health can be sacrificed for a final push, but this is a deadly strategy. Effective climbers will take stock of their situation, outlining where the resting points are on a building. Pitons offer temporary respite for the most arduous of ascents, but they never hide the notion that each step could be Adam's last.

Such subtleties ensure this title is a daunting prospect from start to finish. Supplies are limited, throwing up a number of significant problems. Most other survivors aren't looking to make friends, instead defending their territory like feral beasts. You'll receive a machete early on, but the gaining of a rare gun indicates just how brutal this game is. Most titles offer endless amounts of ammo, but you'll be lucky to ever carry more than 4 bullets at any time. Indeed, until the final quarter of the game, ammo is even more difficult to unearth. The lack of lethal power forms the basis for a combat system that tests your nerve like no other.

Don't expect a child to help your cause. Most gangs are hostile to ensure survival

While plenty of harmless victims litter Haventon, most crave your blood. One more death means one less person to share spoils with. Gangs of men litter the city, confronting any strangers who cross their path. Early on, you learn that you can eliminate enemies through a game of cat and mouse. By putting your hands up, one often comes over to give you a mocking push. Surprise him by whipping the machete out, and then quickly reach for your gun. The rest of the group will realise you aren't messing around, and react in a number of different ways.

Weaker members can be coaxed into dropping their weapons and eliminated with one fatal strike. Daring types don't bend so easily, instead opting to take you on in a direct encounter. The only way to keep your heart beating is by executing the tougher foes first. After working out who has a gun, you can send them to the ground before anybody else gets close. Be sure to retrieve their ammo quickly, as if you don't, his buddy will. The art of intimidation can be used, but this becomes a less effective tactic as the game progresses. Still, any person who can be forced to stand on the edge of a building deserves to be kicked off it, right?

This challenging gameplay would fall short if I Am Alive didn't have the brains to back it up, but it certainly does. Plenty of adult themes provide the game with a profound sense of brutality. Women are used as tools by surviving men, forced to reproduce against their will. You can save dying allies in the city, but only if you're willing to part with precious equipment.

YES! A BOW! Wait, what do you mean I only get one arrow!?

A lone women sits quietly in the sewers, contemplating suicide. Do you give her the means to live, or let her hang herself? If you opt for the latter, expect to take full responsibility for her swinging corpse later on. An elderly couple sits atop a roof, drinking their troubles away. They beg for wine, but if you can't provide it, you won't see them sitting there when you return. Morality is continually called into question, producing the lose-lose situation of helping others to survive or keeping all the goodies for your own well-being. Adam's odyssey is full of subtleties such as this, ensuring you take the brunt for each decision made.

To put it simply, I Am Alive is one of the most important releases this generation. Ubisoft should be commended for producing a title that challenges many adult themes. The effort is an amazingly brave and thought-provoking one, resulting in a product that is memorable and undeniably unique. People will be talking about this for years to come, and with good reason. This title was a huge risk for the mega-publisher, but results in substantial reward for those willing to give it a chance. Adam's quest is tense and persistently nerve-racking, but when the dust settles, the result is one of gaming's richest examples of contemplative storytelling.

Top Gaming Moment: Admiring Ubisoft's brave efforts. This is a unique and thoroughly engaging product throughout.

Platform Played: Xbox 360

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