I…you know, in my last post, I just got through saying I didn’t want hand holding in a video game, and the very next video game I played grabbed my hand in a vice-like grip and dragged me along, kicking and screaming the whole way. I Am Alive is a game that I wanted to like because many reviewers said it had “gritty realism.” BULLSHIT. If you think this game is realistic, you are a severely sheltered and ignorant moron. The game is so awful in every facet that I don’t even know where to begin.
Oh wait, yes, I do. In the opening scene, the bland, dulls as fuck hero makes a video for his wife using a camera. He’s so boring that I know he gave his name, and I just don’t care to remember it, or even to look it up for the purpose of this review. It’s not all that important anyway. But so our hero highlights his handgun, what looks like it might be a 9MM semi-auto of some sort. (This is relevant in a moment.) Then he says, “I’ve never even fired a gun before.” BUT HOLD THE PHONE. You mean that a year after a post apocalyptic event that changed the world, this dude NEVER went hunting for food with his gun? He’s just been carrying it around, just in case? And if that’s so, how come he’s got perfect aim from the first shot? Most people I know who fired guns without training jerk the trigger, or don’t expect the kick and have the gun fire wild the first few times. When I first fired a gun, my accuracy was so piss poor, I was lucky to still have my shots on the edges of the paper target. But not our so-called “hero.” No, he fires sure and true with the first shot.
After he gets a bullet, and this…this is a fucking bit of stupidity that I really can’t stand. To get a bullet, you slit this guy’s throat. THE INSTANT HE’S DEAD, YOUR GUN IS LOADED. There’s a sound effect of a revolver cylinder spinning, and a click of the cylinder being fit back into a revolver. But our hero isn’t carrying a revolver, nor is anyone else. Assuming that the gang boss had his one round chambered, (and that everyone everywhere is carrying the same caliber of handgun) to get your own gun loaded, you would have to slide the top of the dead guy’s gun to eject the live round, drop your own clip, put the bullet in the clip, put the clip back in, and then cock your gun to chamber the round. But, since the game writers have obviously never fired a gun, all of this happens INSTANTLY.
Most every other video game that you have an empty gun, there’s an animation of loading the clip. That’s slightly implausible in some games for how fast it happens, but they at least try to concede some precious seconds to giving reality lip service. Not this game. Reality and this game aren’t on speaking term. This game doesn’t even bother with a loading animation. Slash a dude’s throat, VWORP! His bullet teleports into your gun chamber. You don’t even have to cock it or pull back the hammer.
Then there’s the fact that the bad guys have unlimited ammo. If they fire and miss you, they can fire again, and again, and again. But, if you kill that same dude without him firing a shot, he’s only got one bullet. Reality isn’t even in the same zip code with this game. I’d compare the writing to lousy lemon fan-fiction, but that would be insulting to bad fan-fiction writers.
You want more? How about using a machete, not to clear brush or overgrown weeds, but to CUT THROUGH PADLOCKED CHAINS holding fences shut. NO. You would fucking ruin the machete, and what you want for this job is a long ass pry bar. Which would have made an effective weapon if the game makers had the hero find one. But our game makers seem to love their machete, even if they never have the hero use it for the real purpose that such a tool is made for.
This is even more annoying during an early scene where my path appears to be blocked by some fucking waist-high weeds, and the dude won’t hack at them. Instead, I’m made to go cut a chain, wander around a bit in this stupid invisible corridor and find a back way into the same alley. My dude can only jump when the game makers want him to. He can’t step over shin high curbs, or climb over the trunk of an abandoned car. I can climb over the open bed of a pickup truck, but my gimp hero can’t. There’s no opportunity given to wander or get lost, no chance to avoid gangs by simply walking a different road. This is a game so restricting, it might as well had been a 2D side-scroller for how little freedom it offers to players.
And then there’s the issues of stamina. People, I have multiple sclerosis, and I’ve got better stamina than the weak ass gimp I’m controlling. He can’t even climb a ladder without needing to rest. I thought the stamina was going to come into play after he was involved in heavy activities, but instead, even the most mundane shit drains stamina FAST. And when it’s less than half depleted, the game starts playing some drum solo shit in the background, like this is going to build tension. Instead, it’s irritating, and serves as another reminder that the people making this game are heavy handed with the melodrama.
The worst offense is the fucking hand holding hint system, which is bound and determined not to let me guess at anything. I can’t explore five feet off the intended path before a fucking popup says something like “HINT: Go the other way. The story is behind you.” If it’s not the hint system, it’s either my character or someone else telling him where to go. I had a kid strapped to my back, and I DARED to walk five five away from the intended direction. So she says, “No, go the other way. The good places are higher up.”
Here, let me give you another example. A dust storm has rolled in, and I’m supposed to head out in this foggy mess to find medicine for that little girl, who is now running a fever. The medicine is in a crate hanging from a crane at the top of a building. I could bitch about the effectiveness of medication stored outdoors in a damaged crate, exposed to the elements for a year of scorching temperatures. That’s actually a valid complaint about this so-called “gritty realism.” Or I could complain how the same crate with medical supplies also has grappling hooks packed. WTFBBQ?
But no, my problem is, to get to the building I have to climb up, I first must descend from an elevated train track into this foggy dust that’s so thick, I can’t see the building I’m headed for. For the first time in the game, I was really worried about getting lost and dying from exposure to the dust. BUT NO, I’ve barely started walking in this hazy soup when my hero says, “I think I can climb that.” Then the camera zooms ahead, clearing the dust and sharpening the camera focus so I can see something forty feet ahead of me. It’s not the least bit realistic that he should see that, but my real complaint is, the game won’t even shut the fuck up long enough to scare me about dying. It has to go out of its way to ruin its attempts at atmosphere.
And, once I’m climbing the building, there’s items tucked away in places that don’t make sense. A bottle of water is left on a ledge with no access from inside the building. Right next to that is a gun with a bullet. So someone before me climbed up and put these two items out on a ledge…just because? I wouldn’t make this a big deal if this were a standard action game, but this is a game which is trying to convince me “this is what it would really be like to be stuck in the post-apoc world.” And nothing about this game is what it would really be like. The guy I’m controlling wouldn’t survive in the real world because he’s got zero survival training, and he’s got the stamina of an asthmatic with severe anemia.
And let’s talk about bit characters who all cry out for help when you get near. There’s roving fucking gangs around every corner, so no, no one in their right mind is going to start shouting “Hello, is someone here?” Even when this is used as a trap, there are TWO other dudes in the same area who also want me to do something for them, both shouting “HELLO? IS ANYONE THERE?! IF YOU’RE IN A GANG PLEASE COME HERE AND KILL ME!” How did any of these people survive a year when they’re too fucking stupid to survive ten minutes without me?
I’d forgive most of this other stuff, but there’s this goddamn hint system that never goes away. I’ve slid down a steep incline ten or fifteen times, and yet EVERY SINGLE SLIDE, “HINT: Hold RT to slow down as you slide.” I FUCKING KNOW ALREADY, SO SHUT THE FUCK UP. A gang shows up? “HINT: Aim at the guy with the gun first, and if you kill him, his flunkies will surrender.” GUGH, WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP?!?! At least let me fail once or twice and die before you get up in my face with unsolicited advice! BUT NO, there’s no option in the menus to shut the fucking hints off. To be anymore annoying, I’d need a physical disc to shove up my ass while playing. Possibly wrapped in sandpaper.
I’m not done yet, but I’m not quite ready to quit either. But I have to warn people before I’m done, don’t play this game expecting realism, or even a challenge. There MIGHT have been a challenge, if the game would shut up and let me play myself. Because then there would be a risk of me fucking up and going the wrong way.
I’m going to try and finish, but it’s going to be a major struggle, especially given that I don’t feel anything for the character, his story, or any of the people he meets. Normally, I have some moral problems with killing people in games, but here, I wanted to kill everyone. No, I mean EVERYONE. When I get to the woman being used as bait, the game tells me that I have to find another bullet to shoot off her handcuff, and all I want to do is cut her hand off with my machete. THAT’S how little the game is working to engage me. It gives me so little choice about my path that I’m looking at an innocent hostage as a huge pain in my ass, and I want to do violence to her rather than waste time looking for a way to free her “the right way.” By firing a live projectile at her wrist…yeah, okay, what-fucking-ever. I mean, my machete is already cutting through thicker chains binding fences shut, so why not the much thinner handcuff chain? Just, because. (y_<)
The dust in the game seems to me to be hiding how lousy the graphics are, or how all the vehicles are the same cheap ass models. (seriously, if you play, read the number on the first school bus…you’ll see the same number after twenty feet on a dozen undamaged, undusty, non-rusted buses.) It could have been genuinely scary to stumble blindly through this toxic cloud, but the game refuses to let me be scared. It refuses to let me feel ANY emotion besides irritation. That’s why, even unfinished, I’m giving I Am Alive two stars. It’s not so awful that I’d reach for the lowest score ever. It’s just so coddling and irritating that playing every sequence feels like a chore my mom gave me when I was wanting to do something fun. Like play any other video game besides this shit.