It was E3 2008 when Ubisoft released the teaser for I Am Alive. That little video generated a ton of buzz and then the game just kind of vanished. People started to assume the title drifted off into vaporware land but thankfully that's not the case as I Am Alive is, well, alive.
Ubisoft finally showed off what developer Ubisoft Shanghai has been up to since they took over the production of the game and I'm happy to say that I'm really impressed with what I got to see.
I Am Alive (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade [Previewed]) Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai Publisher: Ubisoft Release: Winter 2011
I Am Alive begins with players watching a tape of the nameless protagonist, as he recounts the past year of his journey to get back to his hometown of Haventon and find his family. It was a year ago when "The Event" occurred, which destroyed all forms of technology, rocked the planet with earthquakes and finally enveloped the world with a toxic-like fog.
Once the video ends, we find ourselves right on the outskirts of Haventon. The bridge to the city, like most everything else, is in shambles due to all of the earthquakes so you'll see yourself doing a lot of climbing and exploration in order to make your way forward.
The big twist to the climbing, and really anything you do, is that all your actions are tied to a stamina bar. At the top center of the screen is a long bar, the first half of which is white and the second half is red. Jumping, running, climbing -- any action other than walking basically -- will drain your bar. The stamina meter does refill once you're standing or walking.
The challenge comes into play when you find yourself doing something like climbing for too long. As you're climbing the bridge back into town, you'll run into dead ends which eats into your time. Once the stamina bar is completely drained, you have to repeatedly press a button in order to press on and hope you can make it to a platform and rest before you fall to your death. Once you've past the stamina threshold, your stamina bar won't refill all the way. Instead, you'll have to use items like water or health kits to get your stamina filled back.
Next, Stan Mettra, Creative Director on I Am Alive, took us into the city where the poisonous fog that I mention earlier is filling the streets of Haventon. The fog drains your stamina and will eventually kill you if you stay in too long. The only way to escape it is by climbing up buildings to get above the fog.
Once on top of buildings, you'll find other survivors and they play a big part in your experience. Everyone is scared for their lives, and most people you encounter will react to your presence by verbally threatening and waving a weapon at you. If you're close to hostile characters, your character will put up his hands attempting to show he means no harm. You have to make sure you don't do anything to scare people like this, as running or even holding a weapon of your own will cause them to attack.
Of course, if you don't want to deal with these overly hostile people, you can just kill them. You have to think about how you proceed in the world though. Is using that one valuable bullet on a guy who's really scared worth it? In this case, no, but Stan went ahead and shot him anyway. There's no morality system in play, so doing something like killing an innocent won't have a negative effect, other than wasting that bullet.
Another type of person you'll run into are folks in need of help. We ran into one girl who was handcuffed to a chair and was begging you to free her. You know that bullet we wasted? We could have used it to free the girl. Instead, we moved on as there was nothing we could do.
Helping people will have rewards around it, such as getting valuable items to help you on your quest or getting someone's perspective on The Event. The Event knocked out all technology, killing mass communication instantly and literally leaving everyone in the dark as to what was going on. People will give you their perspective as to what they witnessed during The Event, allowing you to piece the story together and get a better understanding of it all.
Stan then took us to a later level which sees the main hero carrying a little girl on his back now. You're looking for the girl's mom and the search takes you underground to the subway station. People are holding out down here as well, including some really mean characters. Entering one room sees a gang of four guys immediately surround the main character and threaten his life, even with the little girl on his back. The main leader of the pack is pushing you over and over again trying to show that he's a tough guy and eventually he will strike at you with his weapon.
Whenever you're face to face with a threatening character, an option for a quick kill comes up. One of the guys in the group has a gun, so Stan backed up into him and then performed a quick kill by slicing his throat open. The three other guys immediately rushed your character but pulling out your gun and aiming it at the group makes them all stop dead in their tracks. They're now at your mercy, and you can either dispose of them or let them be. Stan goes ahead and first kicks a guy into a firepit, thus burning him alive. Then he takes a shot at another guy. The last guy is understandably terrified and on his knees, so Stan simply knocks him out with a punch to the back of his head. Oh, and let's not forget that there's a kid on your back the whole time here.
Aiming your gun pulls the camera into a first person view, both to help you aim and, to me at least, make the scene more impactful. Another cool thing in regard to the gun is that you can still flaunt it even without bullets. People will get suspicious and even attack if you're holding the gun too long without firing. There's a melee weapon system as well, but I didn't get a real sense of it beyond the quick kill mentioned earlier.
It's obviously hard to gauge just how hard I Am Alive will be since there wasn't any hands-on, but it definitely seems like the game will be really challenging. You really have to think about how you'll handle each situation, as one false move can kill you. What's really interesting is there's actually a continue system much like arcade games of yesteryear.
There are Retries that you can get during your quest which can be used to spawn you back to the last place you died. If you don't have any Retries though, you will have to start the level all over again. Ubisoft Shanghai dabbled with the idea of making players restart the entire game if they had no more Retries. Stan told us that "Demon's Souls would have been a joke" in comparison had they gone that route.
Lastly, I want to touch on the wonderful art direction. Most of the outside area I saw had a black and white visual ascetic going on, almost like a grainy television channel. There is color, but it's mostly overwhelmed by the dark theme. The underground section, funny enough, had more color than outside but that was largely thanks to a fireplace in the middle of a room casting a red and orange glow.
My time with I Am Alive was only about 15 minutes, nowhere near enough time to truly take everything in. What I did get to see was really intriguing and I love the unique approach that's being taken with the exploration, combat and the narrative. Let's just hope that approach doesn't get overplayed or dull as you progress through the story, which I was told will be pretty comparable to the average length of a AAA title.
Photo Gallery: (4 images)
Click to zoom - browse by swipe, or use arrow keys
Halflocke Underhero a 2d side scrolling rpg on indie gogo
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/underhero-videogame#/extatix Heading off to Spiel in a bit. A whole lot of games there, just of the cardboard variety. I love me some board games.absolutfreak Finally finished The Witcher 3. Definitely one of the best games I've played in my 30 years or so of gaming. Now onward to Ground Zeroes/Phantom Pain.Nathan D *playing an old ps1 game* "START and SELECT don't bring the menu up?! WELL WHAT THE FU-oh, it's Triangle..."TheDefenestrator If anyone's playing Marvel Puzzle Quest (any platform) you should join my Alliance, RedRightHand, and help me kick some Galactus butt for their second anniversary event. (Please?)Shinta MGS Online Day 3. I have 3 character up to level 10 now, one in each class. They're all pretty handy, but I do miss the scout's mark speed the most on other classes.RadicalYoseph The SW: Battlefront is pretty and has great sound design, but the gameplay is so shallow and has seemingly no depth! If the full game is like this I will be disappointed.Torchman *looks at Amazon preorder* This one's for you Chib'CJ Andriessen Dear Playboy: Love your video game coverage, but how about you start making some topless unboxing videos? Seeing someone unwrap a copy of Call of Duty is boring. Seeing a topless Playmate unwrap a copy of anything is awesome!OverlordZetta In happier news, Level-5 is already talking Yo-Kai Watch 2's Western release, and better/worse yet, they're considering amiibo support for the series! And hey, if they can't get Jibanyan into Smash, that'd be one way to get the West's attention.gajknight I drank a glass of Ovaltine for the first time in years today. It was nice. Like drinking a glass of my childhood, complete with ignorance, embarrassing angst, tears (so many tears) and night terrors. Ah, the good 'ol days.OverlordZetta [img]https://i.imgur.com/GGuxv05.png[/img] This is just depressing. Digital classics on consoles are such a great idea, but it's like not a single company wants to really go through with it. StriderHoang My heart will always be yours, Papyrus #2spoopy4meGoofierBrute I recently beat Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow again, but this time I played on Hard mode from scratch. Outside of dying a few times due to me being an idiot, and enemies hitting harder, it was actually easy. Like really easy. Gamemaniac3434 Today I replated bacteria that I made take up a plamid hopefully stitched onto the genes generatlight. Taken from other dead bacteria and put into a non glowing species, to make it glow. Fucking microbiology is the best.Pixie The Fairy It seems fairy farts are a fragrance, a soap, incense, a vaping liquid and a kind of nail polish. I'm clearly in the wrong line of work and need to eat more chili.Cannibal Steven "You gave the Lost Soul a big smile, like you remember she likes to do... For some reason she sort of wants to smile back..."
I'm not crying. Not one bit.ChrisHannard Just tried 'The Last Of Us' on PSNow Trial, only to be told... 'Something went wrong. Try again.' Game-appropriate error message or quickie plot-summary? TheAngriestCarp I hate when people say crap like "I admit that [thing] in games is problematic, but I still enjoy it" because it's an underhanded way of contradicting your own views while convincing yourself that you aren't a hypocrite.ChillyBilly Well shit. I knew I was more than likely going to enjoy Star Wars Battlefront (cause you know, giant Star Wars nerd and all) but holy cow, the beta is fucking great! I need the full game like, now.