Give it to me in a nutshell: Downloadable title for Xbox 360 in which you must climb, barter and fight your way through an earthquake-ridden, dusty city in search of your lost family after you ran away at the first sign of trouble. You big nancy.
It's a bit like X but with Y: It's a bit like Uncharted with none of that Nathan Drake charm and an ever-decreasing grip gauge, like Shadow of the Colossus.
You don't fall off very often during climbing sections, but you do tend to leave yourself weak-limbed and useless
If this game was a sandwich, it'd be: A sandwich everyone had told you about – they were going on about it all day at work, and the many delicious and unusual fillings within (you think brie was mentioned at one point) – but, when you get to the shop, there's no sandwich, and it was all a lie. Just a disappointing wrap and a packet of dust flavour crisps.
If this game was a girl, it'd be: One you really want to to like, but can't. After three months of toying with getting serious – and maybe even some real moments of happiness, and some breathy and exciting bits - you eventually cut things off, and before long you barely even read her Facebook updates anymore.
This is how almost every fight starts, which is nice at first but gets kinda old kinda quick
Three awesome things about it:
1. I Am Alive handles combat differently from other many games – so while you've got a gun, youv'e only got around two bullets in it at any one time. Picking your targets of the homicidal dickbags who hang out in the wasteland is critical, and retries are scarce so you're forced to think decisively and fast – but you can intimidate folk who are only packing melee weapons, which lends another side to the combat.
You will kick this man into a hole. He doesn't come off well out of the exchange
2. Everything is limited. Health doesn't regenerate, and it's possible to damage your stamina (your climbing ability, in other words) by climbing stuff when you're already exhausted. Getting to the top of a tall building is much more satisfying if you've had to carefully plan out use of your resources, and only make it to the top floor as a hyperventilating, noodly-armed wreck – and even then, though 'correct' route is rarely just laid out for you to take. That Ezio guy has it pretty sweet.
3. Even though the graphics aren't top-notch – this is a download title, after all – they're certainly unique, and the black and white world of the city coated in dust is a treat to explore. The character models could use a bit of work, though, but at least they do look appropriately grubby considering that the world ended a year previous.
Three rubbish things about it:
1. While the idea behind the combat is novel, it quickly becomes formulaic – let one guy with a gun walk towards you, surprise him with a knife to the face, steal his bullet and shoot it at the other guy with a gun, steal HIS bullet then shoot the toughest looking-guy with a knife and knock out the others once they surrender – and it feels like more like a to-do list of mayhem than a tense simulation of post-apocalyptic murder in the streets.
This section took us a full half hour. By the end we were spitting swears under our breath
2. The climbing – which makes up the bulk of the game – is not as exact as it could be. Often we'd push up and our chap wouldn't go up, which doesn't matter in something like Assassin's Creed or Uncharted, where retries and checkpoints are ten-a-penny, but when your grip is a resource akin to health or bullets and death could mean replaying fifteen minutes of the level, it makes for some pretty frustrating moments. We may have thrown a controller at one point, and upset the cat.
3. At one point, we walked into the middle of a room to be confronted by three angry men. One of them pulled a gun, so we let him approach and stabbed him hard in the neck, killing him. His mate, who saw the whole thing, said “He's dead! We should find out who did this, and stop them!” Not a big thing on it's own, but it points to a general lack of polish that shows through at all stages of the game. Unfortunately.
Should I buy it?
I Am Alive is available now, and while we'd love to be able to recommend it, we really can't