|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Darkworks, Ubisoft Shanghai|
|Release: TBA 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
I Am Alive is a title that seems to shift in and out of the gaming radar. Production issues and questions about the strength of the game continually keep the release at bay, while even the media format is constantly changing. First announced back at E3 2008 as a triple-A title, it is now down to single-A status, and will be in downloadable form only on Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network. Most of the game's elements will never be viewed as original, and many believe the concept to have been done too many times to garner any success. That may be the case, but there are certainly some interesting variations in the gameplay dynamics that may quell the disbelievers when the game releases, presumably this winter.
One thing Ubisoft Shanghai—the developer that took over the reins after Darkworks backed out of the project—must do is take the story's plot points and make it real. There must also be a strong enough focus on the main character that we'll feel compelled to help him on his journey. The character in question, originally named Adam Collins, has been reworked, and is now without a moniker. He is simply the everyman without special talents, though he seems to possess an unwavering determination. In this fictional post-apocalyptic America, he returns to the city of Haventon (modeled after a major Midwest metropolis similar to Chicago) in order to find family members whom he hopes are still alive. After a cataclysm known only as The Event, society has broken down into lawless disorder, with sparse groups of survivors forming bonds only to keep themselves alive for another day. There will be few safe havens for our hero, and fewer displays of comradery from those he meets, yet within him clings a small fragment of hope, both for his personal mission and a renewed social order.
Those who may extend an olive branch, or who are simply begging for help, will put our hero's conscience to the test. Because of the setting, precious resources like food, water, and ammunition are in rare supply. Without these reserves, traversing the ruined city will take its toll on your stamina, and dealing with hostiles becomes more challenging. But offering these valuable resources to another could result in binding ties, with repayment down the road.
The platforming action will seem similar to the Uncharted series, only the jungles of I Am Alive are of the urban variety and require maneuvering around unstable bridges and skyscrapers. The difference is that you won't be able to scale these ledges to your heart's content for an indefinite amount of time. As your stamina decreases, you must keep an eye out for a landing to rest. You could also dip into your adrenaline reserves, but this lowers your maximum stamina. Every move will need to be thought through, with the wrong choice resulting in a contradiction of the game's title.
Combat will require an equal amount of strategy. Remember that our hero is not Batman; should he find himself surrounded by a dozen enemies, he won't be able to simply dance his way to victory, striking blows as each enemy takes its turn to attack. Instead, intimidation will be key, whether that comes in form of taking out the supposed leader to drop the morale of the rest or pointing an empty pistol in hopes that the opposition won't call your bluff.
The mood of the game will be of a somber tone, and even successful encounters will feel far from joyous. The visuals and sound will reflect this. The ground level of the city is filled with toxic dust and fumes, with its grays creeping up the rest of the city like vines. There are hints of red spaced throughout, most prominently on our hero's wristband—which may draw parallels to the girl in the red coat from Schindler's List—and considering the backdrops, the powerfully emotional evocations may hit hard in the game. The music will be become more intense the closer you are to losing your stamina, adding to the suspense of each moment.
I Am Alive certainly has several hurdles to overcome if it wants to hold any sort of profitable ground, even in the downloadable marketplace. The gameplay variations are intriguing, but the focus must be on taking the plight of the story and making it as real as possible while presenting a hero that truly is the everyman, one we all could relate to. Do that, Ubisoft, and you will not only get our money, but also our enthusiastic congratulations.
CCC Contributing Writer