Left Alive Review - No Will To Survive

  • First Released Mar 5, 2019
  • PS4
James Swinbanks on Google+

Rubber Gear Solid

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You awaken in a city under enemy occupation after neighbouring forces swept in and brutally laid waste to soldiers and civilians alike. You’re separated from your squad, your Wanzer mech heavily damaged and unable to operate, with nothing but the local army’s omnipotent AI, Koshka, to help guide you to safety. Left Alive’s opening salvo shows its certain potential, but while the premise pulls you in, the take away once it’s all over is one of resounding disappointment. Left Alive is an astoundingly infuriating grind that lacks in almost every area, making a wholly unrewarding experience.

Set in the same universe as the long-neglected Front Mission series, you alternate between three main characters--a rookie Wanzer pilot, a former military veteran turned beat cop, and a ghosted merc who’s been presumed dead for two years. Each character is on a different path to try and escape the city that’s overrun with enemy mechs and soldiers. Their paths will intertwine over the course of the game’s 14 missions allowing for some occasionally fun interplay between the protagonists, but that’s about as interesting as their story gets. Moments of both political and personal intrigue go for knockout blows with almost no set up, leaving them feeling flat and impactless, and the story never really gets back on its feet.

Surviving the numerous open-world sections of the city is the main point of Left Alive, avoiding combat where possible and traversing slowly and silently through the torn up streets littered with abandoned cars and flaming piles of rubbish. As you move from point to point, you’ll scavenge items and components--from empty cans and bottles to stripping parts from destroyed drones--in order to craft traps and projectiles. But even with these tools, progress comes slowly, and arduously, for a variety of different reasons, the chief of which is the game’s stunningly poor combat.

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Weapons in general feel woefully inadequate and underpowered. Guns are weak and make a lot of noise (inviting any enemy within a block to bear fire down upon your position) and headshots don’t ever result in a one hit kill. Bullet impacts feel scattered and inconsistent, with perfect reticle aim not ensuring a hit--even on the first shot. Melee weapons aren’t much better, you’re more likely to get knocked down yourself before you can them so it’s always a high risk move, and there’s no stealth bonus for sneaky attacks. Projectile weapons are more stealth-oriented as the AI aren’t able to track where a thrown item came from, but they are equally as ineffective at putting the enemy down for good.

The stilted and jittery combat sucks the air out of every enemy engagement, but you’re consistently forced into it. Koshka’s incessant reminder of “Caution, the enemy is approaching” on a loop when in close proximity to a guard just adds to the annoyance. Checkpoints and save points are scarce, and more often than not the direct route to each is blocked by a number of patrolling guards or worse, a comparably overpowered Wanzer, meaning a lot of backtracking to save points in safer zones in order to avoid replaying tedious sections. Although the game’s map tries to usefully point out high alert zones, it doesn’t feel like there’s any tangible difference between the two; safe zones are just as likely to be teeming with patrolling guards as alert zones are.

Side missions come in the form of other survivors, many of whom only need to be accompanied to the nearest shelter, of which there are a handful strewn about each map. Some will go easily, while others are in distress and need convincing to move via a handful of dialogue choices, though these feel trite--it never felt like it mattered if they were rescued or not. They’re helpless and will quickly go down if fired at, unless you clear their path beforehand they have frustratingly little chance of making it to the shelter safely. But the risk of taking more guards head on just to get survivors out quickly turns into a tiring and unfulfilling routine.

Wanzers are the only part of Left Alive that bucks its mediocrity. When moving through the city, these imposing behemoths will patrol along the wider open sections of the map, sweeping the area from on high. Most of the time they can be avoided by finding a clearer route, but sometimes you’ll need to get unnervingly close, creating a palpable sense of fear as you try to sneak by them undetected. Getting noticed by a Wanzer spells almost certain death, unless you can get your hands on a rocket launcher and a good sniping spot, which will take them down with a few well placed shots to the torso.

Even better is when you get behind the controls of a Wanzer and give the enemy a healthy dose of their own medicine. Weapons, from rocket launchers and huge assault rifles to shoulder mounted railguns, each has a distinct feel to them. For example, the railgun requires your mech to kneel to make a more stable platform and then a second to warm up before firing, but will cause tremendous damage with a direct hit. All weapons overheat at different times if not allowed to breathe out in between shots, but if you time it right you can easily alternate between your main four to unload continuous fire.

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Save for Wanzer-related activities, almost no part of Left Alive feels good to play; it’s painfully slow, inconsistent, and looks incredibly dated. Environment textures are muddied and lack detail, animations don’t blend together that well which gives everything a slightly jolting look. Blowing up an enemy vehicle sees it simply disappear into thin air behind a flat, low-res fire texture. When you mix moments like that with the already tiring combat, which is compounded further during some utterly infuriating late-game boss fights, it really hits home how far wide of the mark Left Alive is.

Perhaps the worst part is that you can see there’s something here, ideas that have some real potential but never even come close to being realised. The Wanzer combat is genuinely rad, but that’s it. Everything else comes with a heavy caveat; be it how underpowered you feel, the awkward movement, the inconsistent bullet impacts, the ugly environments… the list goes on. There’s almost no joy to be found in playing Left Alive, only bitter disappointment.

James Swinbanks on Google+
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The Good
Wanzer combat and designs are rad
The Bad
Outdated graphics
Combat leaves you feeling ineffective
Bullet-sponge AI stacks the odds heavily against you
Convoluted story never lands any of its punches
Boring side missions
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

James spent 25 gruelling hours completing the game’s 14 mission campaign and a number of side missions in New Game+ before deciding the enemy could keep the city. He played using code provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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Avatar image for coolermaster123

i rather be left dead

Avatar image for KiriharaZro

The Metal Gear formula is obsolete, move on, let it die even if Kojima try to resurrect it again with Death Stranding, it'll be a failure.

Avatar image for stealthy1

Oh god...Glad i didnt buy...

Avatar image for tsunami2311

like said before SQ game that actual got worse score then "the bouncer", I saw the stream of the game first thoughts where is this trying to be Metal Gear Solild game? Metal Gear Survive? a Half assed Mech game? I mean alot of the Animations looked like they took from Metal Gear Solid : TPP.

World looked devoid of life, which guess was part of the theme? but the hit detection on things was horrible in game world if you were with in 2 feet of fire people caught on fire. then we had solid windows on cars?

My only interest in this game when it was announced was the Art style I mean just looking at logo art work give me MGS vibe that and mech, but after watching the live stream of the game I lost all interested.

I think I rather Play FFXV and I completely despise but they did to FF with that game, but atlest IF i ignore it "being" called a FF game it decent

Avatar image for Alexander2cents

When is Yoji Shinkawa going to put his talents to making a Japanese Anime instead of bad post-MGS video games?

Avatar image for greaseman1985

Haha Japanese developers need to leave these types of games to the big boys and stick to making schoolgirl hentai games or whatever the hell floats their boat.

Avatar image for jcwainc

ok i except the review. but the one thing i hear graphics doesnt matter no more. but yet it keeps coming up in these reviews. so do they matter if so start rating these indie games on it too. games like stardew valley or undertale.

either stand by what you point out in all games or leave it out and focus on the game aspects.

Avatar image for MigGui

@jcwainc: Even though I'm not a fan of 8-bit or 16-bit graphics, they're not the same as badly rendered high-res graphics. It's like comparing a cubist painting with a poor "realistic" painting, one is not even trying to achieve high fidelity.

Avatar image for lordbeefjerky

@jcwainc: the difference between the graphics in games like Stardew Valley and this is, that the graphics perfectly fits Stardew Valley and the intention of the developers. In Left Alive the developers are going for a wow-effect that misfires badly, which is a good thing to point out.

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas

I saw a video for this that gave me a weird Metal Gear Survive vibe... Glad I steered way clear of this.

Avatar image for mari3k

They should made this turnbased... heres your result, hope they learned from it

Avatar image for lion2447

I guess it was also to difficult to add cars with see through windows, or even windows at all (see the orange, blue, and white cars.)

Avatar image for sladakrobot

Why does SE avoid to make a strategy Front Mission like it were a pest?

Avatar image for johnny0779

A perfect PS4 console exclusive......I guess Sony ended up getting something worst than Crackdown 3.

Avatar image for csward

@johnny0779: It's on PC you dumbass troll.

Avatar image for lion2447

@johnny0779: It's not exclusive. It can be purchased from Steam. Though I find the recommended settings hilarious. It requires a Vega 56 or 1070 to run at 1080p. I've seen PS3 games that look better. Even the PS2 had a few games that were very close to this (games that can now be emulated with much weaker hardware). Someone really messed up on optimizing the game, and this, from a mature publisher that knows graphic quality.

On a side note: How do you drive the orange, white, or blue cars in the pictures? Looks like no-one bothered to add windows to them.

Avatar image for Barighm

@johnny0779: We're not talking about a first party game here. Left Alive is Squeenix trash that nobody really cared about. Crackdown 3 was a premium AAA title heavily marketed by MS.

Avatar image for johnny0779

@Barighm: First party or not....gotta love those exclusives...don't you?

Avatar image for Yams1980

looks like it controls like a ps1 game

Avatar image for Neo_Sarevok

I remember the art instantly drew me to the game. I didn't even care about the title; I thought of it as "That MGS-looking game." Once you look past the art though, yea, it's garbage. I hope Yoji Shinkawa doesn't lose any future art opportunities because of Square Enix's mess. Shinkawa doesn't deserve to have his name dragged thru the mud, and I hope Square Enix paid him a LOT of money to even flirt with this project.

Avatar image for dunpeal83

Well, I wouldn't buy THAT for a dollar...

Avatar image for ratchet200

What happened to you Square Enix...

You used to make such fine games and now we get this.

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@ratchet200: I think you're talking about back when they were SquareSoft

Avatar image for neurogia

LOL. This game is such a waste of decent art.

Avatar image for deactivated-5d4e6334bc1ce

@neurogia: Yoji Shinkawa... one of my favourite artists. Love him... too bad the game is just nonsense.

Avatar image for niv0070

@neurogia: Exactly what I thought, the art is really good, well... too bad.

Avatar image for vice404


Avatar image for lion2447

@vice404: Scrap-Metal Gear!

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

There are also fucking escort missions.

There are escort missions in a game of this time and era - unbelievable. It's like the people who made this game never learned anything from the fumbles of other game developers that tried to do escort missions.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

The astoundingly unbelievable thing about this game is that the developers clearly have designed some modicum of gameplay for Wanzer combat, and could have gone in that direction.

Instead, they do ... this.

Fucking Square Enix and its decision-making - there has some head-shaking idiocy from its Japanese project leaders this past half-year.

Avatar image for Art3Zero

Hahahaha all dead after this review.

Avatar image for lembu90

RIP Front Mission. At least we might have Phantom Brigade in the near future.

Avatar image for Barighm

This is so sad. It's pretty much spells the end for Front Mission in the west.

Avatar image for lembu90

@Barighm: I think SE wants to kill Front Mission franchise so bad but fortunately former people who made previous FM games currently developing "Project Stella", a true spiritual successor to FM games in term of gameplay.

Avatar image for Barighm

@lembu90: Unfortunately, that's not very exciting. The original FM games weren't that great in the first place, and this is the same team that made Starly Girls. I also have no reason to believe this game will make its way to the west.

Now, if we're talking about a successor to FM3, that's a different story.

Avatar image for pookeynoodle2019

This is the sort of rating I expect the ps5 to get

Avatar image for uninspiredcup

Is this the prequel to Left4dead?

Original unfunny joke.

Avatar image for valgaav_219

WGOTY- Worst Game of the Year lol

Avatar image for lembu90

@valgaav_219: The game abandoned its roots, what do you expect from it anyway?

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

Man critics are panning this but what can I say? I kinda enjoyed it the games average but for me personally it had some charm.

You're one man/woman behind enemy lines and the game doesn't hold your hand in that respect it was hard but fun. Each chapter is an open map with a main objective and side objectives it reminded me of Metal Gear in a way but you can actually make some choices throughout the story plus it's more difficult than MGSV but that's also partially due to the sometimes clunky aspects of the game. It also has a crafting/weight system similar to MGSV but weight management is a bigger factor so you can't carry a whole arsenal of weapons. Also there is mech combat which I enjoyed. Negative being the gun play can be somewhat clunky but I found the shotgun was the best weapon you could have for close quarters as you could near one shot all the enemies in the game or if you spotted roll towards them and blast them in the face without anyone else noticing. Also the menus are a pain in the arse especially when they don't pause the game when you're trying to do something.

I would rate it a 6 and I had more fun with it than Anthem. It seems to be sitting at a 7.4 right now on Metacritic for user scores which is interesting.

Avatar image for Barighm

@gamingdevil800: The mech combat was great. Even the review acknowledges that. The problem is this game is trying to be a bad MGS game, which is bizarre when they have a solid mech combat formula.

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

@Barighm: I don't know what the other games in the series are like but I assume they are all mech combat based?

Avatar image for Barighm

@gamingdevil800: They're SRPGS, but is has always been purely mech focused. There were a couple mediocre third person shooters in there with a lame attempt at giving pilots a chance to shine.

The reviewer said the mech combat in this game was actually very good though, so if they got that part right, why in the world would they bother with the rest of it?

Avatar image for pookeynoodle2019

@gamingdevil800: Lay off the glue kid

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

@pookeynoodle2019: Hello Soul Edge.

Avatar image for tsunami2311

wow I do believe this got worse score then "the bouncer" which saying something, cause I think that was one worse scores a square game got? if there was another square game that got worse score I unaware of it, I would be curious to what game it was?

Avatar image for balugha

@tsunami2311: Then there's at least one reason to own it lol

Avatar image for tsunami2311


hah one way to look at it

Avatar image for balugha

Yeah... I'd say the game is a 5 at best.... 3 is a little harsh.

It's also pathetic how other reviews/people are taking points away because there's no autosave.... not the game's fault you suck? lol

but this game is WAY more challenging than others because of how "poorly" it was designed. if you want a challenge; pick this up when it's in the bargain/clearance bin.

Avatar image for lembu90

@balugha: I think this "game" deserved 3 for being a shitty MGS clone and killing of Front Mission franchise as a whole. I already suspect that LA will be a crap from it was announced in Tokyo Game Show 2017 and today I was right. Critics and consumers want proper turn-based strategy Front Mission game not a shitty MGS clone but unfortunately it is clear that Square-Enix won't make any more turn-based games except for Octopath Traveler and Dragon Quest.

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Left Alive More Info

  • First Released Mar 5, 2019
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Average Rating10 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Left Alive
    Developed by:
    Square Enix, ilinx inc.
    Published by:
    Square Enix
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol