Play
Please use a flash video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Review

I Am Alive Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • X360

Constant tension and difficult emotional decisions make I Am Alive a powerful adventure.

Your city is in ruins. Destroyed cars litter the decimated streets and lie dormant beside the crumbling buildings that struggle to rise above the twisted train tracks. Dust swirls and cloaks, choking anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in its suffocating gusts. And the people are in even worse shape than the tattered city they still call home. Society has disintegrated as quickly as the structures that used to cage in its residents. Some people travel in wolfish packs, scrounging on the weak to feed their insatiable desires. Others huddle with their loved ones, thankful just to survive another day. How will you react in this bleak world? I Am Alive effectively conveys the broken state of society when devastation hits and no police force exists to keep order. There is no good or bad here, just alive or dead, and the tough decisions you make to keep breathing ensure I Am Alive's emotional depth.

The protagonist is an unnamed man in search of his family. On the surface, the decision to leave the main character nameless seems strange, especially when the supporting cast members all have a moniker to call their own. But it makes sense when you consider the purpose of this survival-themed adventure. Through difficult decisions and a constant feeling of dread, you are the main character in I Am Alive. By painting only a cursory character in the starring role--determined, loyal, loving--and leaving the rest of his details unstated, I Am Alive immediately draws you into this world and establishes that you, not a digital construct, have to make the tough choices.

When the event hit, you were on the other side of the country. Four hours to fly across the country, almost a year to walk back home. But your family needs you. Hints of betrayal, where you somehow let down your kin at some point in the past, are touched on and make you wonder what unforgivable act was committed to bear such a terrible penance. Like most of the details, you never find out exactly why the main character is struggling with guilt. It's never explained what "the event" entailed, either. Was it an attack by a foreign nation? Homegrown terrorism? Natural disaster? It's left to your imagination, but the cause isn't important. Only the effect. And when he arrives at his apartment, long since abandoned, with no clue as to where his family has disappeared or if they're even alive, you care.

Prepare yourself for the event by working on your upper body strength.

That bond is further strengthened by the appearance of a young girl. Mei is surrounded in a parking lot by angry men with bad intentions. She's alone, scared, and looks strikingly like your own daughter. In a flurry of violence, you slay those men because doing nothing would have made it impossible to live with yourself. Mei begins to trust you. Her mother has gone missing, and your protective instincts take over. Tied to your back, you carry her through the desolate remains. You establish an immediate connection with Mei because she's helpless, sweet, and doesn't deserve to live in this terrible world. She can't even remember what the city was like before the event hit. When she develops a fever, you rush to find medicine--it's an objective you must complete, but you need no encouragement. She's your only companion and your closest connection to your own family, so you do everything in your power to keep her safe.

Story details are kept to a minimum. Instead of pulling you out of the action with long cutscenes, most of the information is conveyed as you walk through this wasteland. At one point, you come across a group of survivors huddled together by a roaring fire in the heart of the subway. They see Mei on your back, tired and hungry, and they offer you some meat. You greedily accept their present because a piece of meat replenishes most of your health and stamina in one bite.

As you survey their camp, you come across a cage that is now filled with bones. Dog? Cat? Human? You can only wonder what sort of meat was handed to you. Later on, you find a starving, desperate woman struggling to carry onward. When you hand her a can of fruit, she shows her thanks and you feel good for saving someone in need. Walk by her position later, you find her hanging from a noose. You didn't need to go back, but you wanted to see how she was doing, and now you can't get that image out of your head.

It's better to ignore people shouting angrily beside a burning fire.

With direct routes destroyed by the event, you have to climb to get to new areas. You go up drain pipes, across rails, and down ladders as you take hold of anything that supports your weight. As soon as you grab on to a ledge, your stamina drops, and the pounding music solidifies the idea that time is running out. You're not superhuman, just a regular man, and you will die if you run out of strength. So you move as quickly and precisely as possible. Your limited reserve of items can be used to recharge your stamina in a pinch, but each morsel is precious. You have to make your resources last, which tinges every climb with the pressure of failure. If you press too far and let your stamina go below its breaking point, it won't regenerate fully when you step back on solid ground. There's permanence to your actions in I Am Alive that makes everything you do take on added importance.

When you aren't clinging frantically to the side of a wall, you weave through the chaos of your new reality. Although you only travel through a small part of the city in I Am Alive, it feels like an entire world. The devastation cuts off the quickest path to your destination, so finding out how to get where you want to go takes patience and determination. On the street, a poisonous fog continually saps your stamina, so you have to find ways to rise above the cloud. If you climb up to a fire escape to catch your breath, you can survey the landscape. You may walk in the wrong direction for minutes at a time, trying to find a way to cross seemingly impassable obstacles. There's a feeling of dread that permeates all of your choices. If you go off to the wrong place, you might not be able to climb to clean air. You might die on the street. So your heart races, but you press on and hope that you don't get caught in the fog.

There are times when the illusion is tarnished. You walk down an alley and the game boldly warns you that you're going the wrong way. Getting completely lost is difficult, given that you have a map you can access anytime, so such hand-holding is unnecessary. An intrusive heads-up display also strips away some of the realism. A giant red and white bar stretches across the top of the screen at all times, giving constant updates of your health and stamina. Handy? Yes. But there could have been a more elegant way to handle such concerns. I Am Alive is so effective because it removes many artificial barriers and forces you to make intimate and emotional decisions. The few unrealistic elements are a stark contrast to the engrossing world and only lessen the experience.

Such concerns won't matter when you're engaged in a tense fight for your life. Some people on the street want to attack you. They want to kill you. Aggression is a last resort for a man desperate to stay alive to see his family once more. So when you're approached by an armed thug, you hold up your arms instead of your gun. Slowly back away, try to calm him with your words, and lure him into thinking he has the upper hand. And then, when he lets his guard down, slit his throat with a quick slash from your knife. His companion will know you were playing possum. He rushes toward you, but you freeze him in his tracks with your gun. With sights aimed at his head, he doesn't realize the chamber is empty. You yell at him angrily and order him to back away. Steer him toward the fire and kick him into it. You've now killed two men and didn't have to waste any ammunition to do so.

Combat in I Am Alive is psychological. Because picking up one bullet feels like a bounty, you need to be smart and resourceful to stay alive. Reading the emotions of the aggressive survivors who are intent on your death is key if you want to make it through unscathed. When a group ambushes you amid the wreckage of a highway-turned-parking-lot, you need to immediately assess the situation. Who's armed? Do any of them have guns? Those are the most likely to cause you harm. But analysis goes deeper than that. There may be four or five attackers closing in, and you can't expect to kill that many with two bullets. So you listen to their words. You watch their actions. Who's weak? Who's following orders? And who's strong? If you can eliminate the leader, his subordinates surrender. Such mind games keep you on edge during every fight because you're never sure going in what mask your assailants wear.

Thick layers of fog cloud your view and drain your stamina.

Of course, there are people who don't want to kill you. Maybe they have their own stash of valuables to guard or their own loved ones to protect. When you approach them, they threaten you. They shout and yell, even pointing a weapon your way. But they don't want to fight. They just want to live. Keep on walking if you want. You're not a street thug, after all; just a desperate man in search of his family. But you can see a precious bottle of water just behind the man yelling frantically for you to keep moving. He sounds weak, scared. His gun probably isn't even loaded. So you take one step closer to him--just to see how he reacts. He yells but doesn't shoot. You take another step and then another. And then you're face to face. Do you kill him? Take his bottle of water? Or do you leave him be? The choice is yours. There is no punishment, either, because there's no police force to keep order. You have to decide if you want to kill the innocent or let him live.

Other people want your help. They're desperate for it. "It's my son! They stabbed him!" one woman cries. "My asthma is getting worse with every breath," a stranded man coughs. If you save these people, you earn another chance to retry should you fail. But think about the cost for a second. You have exactly one first aid kit on you right now, and the only other item that can cure you is the mystery meat you were given in the subway. Are you willing to give up your first aid kit for an extra life? Especially because you're more likely to die without that health? Sure, you find out pieces of the backstory when you rescue a survivor, but that's a hefty price to pay just to find out the women and children were evacuated to a northern city. And how about those people locked in a cage? You would have to fire your only bullet to free them, and you might need that bullet to protect Mei.

These decisions carry even more weight if you play on survivor difficulty. You have two choices when you start the game: normal and survivor. The only differences between them are how many items are scattered throughout the world and how many retries you have should you die. If you run out of retries, you could be sent back a half hour or more. It's a punishment that fits with the themes of the game. This is a cold, hard world, where your actions have severe consequences, so losing your retries has to communicate that you failed. On normal, you might have enough resources to spare a bottle of painkillers to a person in need, but on survivor, everything is different. There is no good or bad in I Am Alive because there's no telling how far a person would go to survive. Is it really wrong to withhold your only first aid kit from a complete stranger? Or to take medication from a person who most likely will be dead before the sun rises anyway?

One slip and a watery grave is yours.

The emotional weight is amplified by the stifling artistic design. Grays and browns populate this world, with the faded red, white, and blue of an occasional American flag the only striking colors. When the dust swirls, draining your stamina with every step, you can hardly see 10 feet in front of you. Hazy outlines hint at an upcoming oasis or deadly danger, and you have to walk closer just to make out what's right in front of your face. When you find safety at one point in the game, the bright colors are almost blinding. It's clean and pure in ways that you've forgotten could exist, and you want to spend the rest of your days in that brightly lit dream world. But you have to leave. And the dust engulfs you as you walk into the black night.

I Am Alive effectively draws you into a city gone to ruin by relying on instinctual human reactions to establish a strong emotional connection. From a technical standpoint, there's nothing special here. The controls are stiff, the graphics are murky, and the voice acting hits odd notes. But I Am Alive rises above these basic concerns to offer an engrossing experience that's difficult to forget. If you let this deliberately paced adventure get under your skin, it draws you into a world that shows how humans react when the rules are stripped away. Some just want to survive while others want to impose their will, and you're left to decide your own path. I Am Alive is a smart and well-crafted adventure that keeps you tense throughout, and it makes you desperate to know the fate of the family you so anxiously want to find.

The Good
Tough choices affect your and others' survival
Unnerving psychological combat system
Constant tension in all of your actions
Intriguing story elements conveyed through background details
Suffocating visual and audio design heighten emotional connection
The Bad
Intrusive heads-up display clashes with the raw aesthetics
Unnecessary moments of hand-holding
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for I Am Alive

About the Author

Discussion

93 comments
gugted
gugted

i wish the game had gone through a bit more refinement but it's really good, imo. the climbing can become infuriating on survivor mode but the combat interactions and psychological components were great ideas. i wish more survival/adventure games would utilize those mechanics

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

I absolutely loved this game and couldn't agree with the review more.  It really is "powerful" in some really amazing ways.  The gameplay is fresh, desperate and tense with well-thought-out mechanics, there's a story to care about which is well written and acted, the visual style is clever and the visual design is powerful, both adding to the lonely, survivalist immersion, and the game as a whole really makes you think.

Given the price of the game it's absolutely fair to give it the same score at The Last of Us, and the feel between the two is really not that different.  Tom haters need to find a new hobby.


-EDIT- I think I should add, if you're playing this game on PC and think it feels janky and crusty to control, it does.  You really need to play it with a gamepad, and when you do you'll probably be quite surprised at just how different the whole experience feels.  It goes from nasty and awkward to smooth and effortless.

helborhamy
helborhamy

seriously Tom?!! you are giving "The Last of Us" the same rating as this game?!

LdoSul
LdoSul

I simply didn't like this game. Just like that. And seriously, I only bought it because it looked exactly the type of game I usually like.

Warmuro
Warmuro

Is anyone encountered grappling hook- Drawing gun bug ? Game is great but minor-vital bugs like these makes the game unstable and unplayeble. Stamina meter is okay for me but what makes me sick is the deathly effect of the dust storm or whatever it is. 

MrTakeda
MrTakeda

He practically tells you how to play the game.

MrTakeda
MrTakeda

I lost count of how many spoilers there are in this review.

drknessfeeds
drknessfeeds

Actually enjoyed the game, was not to fond of the stamina meter depleting so fast but had a bit of nostalgia due to the difficulty. Reminded me of older games and after beating it I felt a bit more accomplishment than I feel over the more recent games that have been put out. I think it would have done better had it been a full release but being an arcade game it surpassed my expectations.

thekazumalord
thekazumalord

played it yesterday after downloading the demo on my PS3 and frankly...it sucked. it might have been a good game, if it had been a full game release, instead of the barely finished mess the had to put out. the high points were the graphics, and the destroyed city. some of the downpoints were: the slow to respond controls, enemy AI being far too aggressive, and not being able to use your machete when you wanted , only when the game decided to let you. it felt like an unfinished game.. which is a shame... i gave it a 3 out of 10

DeadMan1290
DeadMan1290

@Spets_Naz it's a Downloadable game that will be available in PSN in April.

Spets_Naz
Spets_Naz

Anyone knows if this in the PSN or is a "box" game?

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

Oh man, look at those proxies... Too bad this wasn't retail.

Cocotroid
Cocotroid

Oh, this has has more quality than a Zelda game? LOL! Good one.

THESonicBrain
THESonicBrain

This game supose to be on disc , bigger and open world and side missions like helping someone or exploring to find new items etc , a arcade mode with the limitations was a wrong choice I think , who don't have a xbox Internet connection can't play this one ... I gonna play anyway cause I like survive games and movies and the demo was fun ! ... but it's not available in Japan yet , lime many other games on arcade , and it sucks !

Crypto6969
Crypto6969

If its only 6 hours long, I guess 1200 microsoft points is a fair price.

Maluigi
Maluigi

@Crypto6969 It's around 5 or 6 hours long.

Crypto6969
Crypto6969

I have been following this game for a couple years. Originally the storyline was to start right after the "event" occurred, so you were struggling the first few hours/days. That would have been more interesting than a year later. I would have paid full price for the disk version of the game. I don't use XBOX Live so I am going to have to scramble to buy this version.

Kalan_Arkais
Kalan_Arkais

Wow, the climbing in the videos just screams Assassin's Creed. They must have used pretty much the same program to design that part of the game. Even the animation of it looks nearly identical.

Daemoroth
Daemoroth

More review, less spoilers please (For the love of God, do I still need to play this game after reading this "review"!?). In the future please write a REVIEW, not a plot summary. :-( Remember, more often than not someone reads a review to help in their decision on whether to buy it or not, not AFTER they finished it to find out if they should have enjoyed it.

RighteousWoman
RighteousWoman

I absolutely love the graphics and atmosphere but unfortunately I found that to be the best part of the game. The controls are in need of serious tweaking and the story just didn't hold my interest at all. Had they stayed on point and made this about finding his family than I think it would have enjoyed it more. As is, the family aspect is nothing more than an opener and winds up taking a back seat to far less interesting story mechanics, many of which are fetching quests. I would score it a 6 tops. The really disappointing aspect to this game is that it really did have a LOT of potential. The size restrictions for being an Xbox Live Arcade game really hurt this game. Had they made this a disc based release, increased the size of the city substantially, and made the story more about exploration and tracking your family down than random fetch quests....well, it could have really been an amazing game. As is its a mediocre game that will be quickly forgotten.

theblackfrog
theblackfrog

dunno why u had no emotions coz to me its very intense. there is one special scene but dont wanna spoil it (the woman behind the grid in the tunnels, giving her food) when u "met" her later again. the game shows u there is no hope and the human being sucks. i recommend this title so much...of course only to ppl who like this style of game

Maluigi
Maluigi

@PokeZeMuNKyZ It has two difficulty modes: normal and survivor. After playing it normally on normal, I wanted to check out survivor for the achievements, to explore a bit more than I did in my first playthrough, and generally to see if playing through a second time would help me to more emotionally connect to the characters. I also like to write reviews, and prefer to play through the game on each difficulty in order to get a better grasp on what I will be writing about.

PoKeZeMuNKyZ
PoKeZeMuNKyZ

@Maluigi why did you complete it twice then?

Maluigi
Maluigi

I've beaten it twice and have felt none of the emotions that this reviewer has been writing about. The fog prevents me from exploring and the story is pretty bad. Personally, I don't recommend it, even though there are a lot of good ideas here. Again, this is just my opinion.

iloveyourface
iloveyourface

@bobbyjoe321 it's retailed at around $80,000,000. hence the 9.0 rating. it'd have a perfect score if ubisoft wasn't catering to the rich.

bobbyjoe321
bobbyjoe321

Looking foward for PS3 release's date! Can anyone tell me how much is it?

mikmck2006
mikmck2006

I think the Left for Dead series sucks and Gamespot and IGN gave both of those terrible games a 9.0. So it is hard to trust any site for an accurate review. What I do is read to see if any of the key aspects I find important are flawed and if it is the type of game I like to play. I don't care if a game gets a perfect 10 if it is turned based. I like the post apocolyptic survival scenario. And at $14.99 it cant be that bad. Remember, there are other games at around 5 hours of gameplay that want you to pay $59.99.

Mikey2K10
Mikey2K10

The reviews for I Am Alive are proving highly divisive. IGN say "avoid it", while GameSpot notes its emotional aspects. I'm all for cinematic, powerful experiences yet I always read both IGN AND Gamespot reviews. It's a difficult predicament...

theblackfrog
theblackfrog

yeah @residentevil_VI, ign is sometimes strange. i mean that game is awesome im so thrilled when playing it and its just 15 bucks so one of the best xbla games out there.

gashoe13
gashoe13

Gamespot... spoilers, man. Please. Good review otherwise, though.

RESIDENTEVIL_VI
RESIDENTEVIL_VI

@theblackfrog iGn is a lame site i really get pissed off when i enter this site so i quit it thats wat u too should do

chrisPperson
chrisPperson

@SnakeEyesX80 In case you aren't just trying to be smug, a majority rule does not constitute an objective standard.

gamerx100
gamerx100

Just played the demo, it was really good, very tense and cerebral. the bridge view was breathe taking. although the graphics are not up to standards. but as far as the game play is concerned, i liked it. however, i can't say for the rest of the game since i only played the demo. also, i learned not to trust IGN's review. they're not really a gaming review site any more, more of in the line of Entertainment Tonight.

theblackfrog
theblackfrog

dunno whats wrong with ign and 4.5, please come on. this game is great. i would give it myself an 8-9 score. very tense game

SnakeEyesX80
SnakeEyesX80

@LucentWolf It's a good day to own both though!

romstewa
romstewa

This is the first time in my experience that an IGN review is more on point then a gamespot review. This essentially reads like a puff piece, while the IGN review quickly and effectively pointed out the glaring inadequacies of the game (and I'm not talking about graphics) that warranted a low score.

LucentWolf
LucentWolf

It's getting rather annoying the 360 always snatching these types of titles up, then leaving the rest of us to wait around. " Spring 2012 " for the Ps3. Siiiigghhh, was so excited today too to get to play this. It's a bad day to be a Ps3 fan. :/

bruno_fmenedes
bruno_fmenedes

@helborhamy'I am Alive' is a downloadable game, I think for sale at ~15$, while 'The Last of Us' is a high budget game, for sale at ~60$. So, I don't see any relevance in comparing the scores of those two very different products.

Herrick
Herrick

 @MrTakeda Yeah I stopped reading about three quarters of the 1st page.

Marcymaru
Marcymaru

 @Daemoroth This is why I've abandoned Gamespot, they really don't get it. I still remember the frustration after I've read Demon's Souls review... they spoiled HUGE things of the game. Just a bunch of idiots here at Gamespot, simply avoid them. ;)

yasso
yasso

@Shadowdanc3r Holy heavens! LOOOL! That review was awwwwwesome! I completely loved it. I must admit that I was totally in love with The Last of Us [before] its release, and I think it could've been the [only] game I ever pre-ordered (yep, was that excited about it). But after playing it, and after finishing it, I did share a lot of the sentiments of Escapist Magazine's reviewer...I was very disappointed in the handling of the main characters, especially Joel; disappointed in the existence of multiplayer and lack of cooperative play (in a game like this?? What the heck?!!!). It was superbly produced and presented, but it just...disappointed in the end, not too much, but enough. So yeah, The Last of Us is far from a 10/10...dunno whether the muppets who think it is perfect are actually thinking at all!

siegfield
siegfield

@bruno_fmenedes @helborhamy Yes price does matter in score of a game but not that much to change the score either from 10 to 8 (The Last of Us) or from 6 to 8 (I Am Alive). [Other critics and user scores are the proofs] Tom Mc Shea is only a guy who wants to be different, no matter the cost is!

I Am Alive More Info

  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Ubisoft brings a new survival adventure game to current-generation game consoles.
    7.4
    Average User RatingOut of 760 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate I Am Alive
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft Shanghai
    Published by:
    Ubisoft
    Genres:
    Action, 3D, Open-World, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language