Review by Julian Benson.
I've done terrible, terrible things to stay alive. I kicked a man off the third storey of a building for a bottle of water, threatened someone with an empty shotgun while I stole their food... I even left a women to be molested rather than use one of my precious bullets to stop her attacker.
I am Alive takes all the third-person running, gunning and jumping of the Tomb Raider series and applies it to a world in apocalypse: dust storms suffocate anyone walking unmasked in the city streets, bandits kill or rape anyone who can't defend themselves, and life-saving food and medicine are in short supply.
It's taken a year for you to return to your home city of Haventon following 'The Event'. You're in search of your family but quickly fall in with a group of survivors, helping them find medicine and safe passage out of the city.(opens in new tab)
Alive's 18-certificate is deserved: it has scenes of sexual abuse, cannibalism and bleak morality, but they're not gratuitous, and the designers have been canny in using the brutality of the game to inform its simple mechanics.
Similarly to the Assassin's Creed games, you can scale buildings, using windowsills and drainpipes for handholds. But in Alive, your limited stamina makes every climb potentially deadly. Over-exert yourself with long jumps and your maximum stamina takes a hit. Spend too long between rest points and you'll fall to your death. It conveys the danger of climbing in a way the Assassin's games never tried.
Combat too has a twist. Always short of ammunition, yet having to deal with large groups of enemies, you're forced to use surprise and your environment to survive. Slice the throat of the first person to get too close, then pull a gun on the remaining bandits and force them to back up against a ledge before kicking them to their deaths.(opens in new tab)
Unfortunately, because you face so many enemies you must repeat the same encounter many times, always following the same routine: surprise kill, shoot, ledge kick. Each time you go through the actions it highlights the simple mechanics. If there were fewer enemies, this underlying system wouldn't be so obvious, and tension wouldn't turn to boredom.
The climbing too, while tense, can become a grind. Little things like the violin score that gets louder as your stamina diminishes quickly become annoying: it makes even a short jog sound as if it's an epic struggle.
The game's setting – an American city, with all its skyscrapers cracked and its streets empty save for abandoned, rusting roadblocks – is an arresting sight that makes I am Alive stand out against other survival horror games. However, despite the work that's gone into creating a cohesive experience, it falls just short of being satisfying. It's an entertaining five hours, but it's an experience that won't flash before your eyes in death.