Dust to Dust

Whenever we think of the apocalypse nowadays, it always seems to be vampires ruling the Earth, the dead rising from the grave, or nuclear fallout, and the various problems that would then result from surviving any of those hellish fates for the planet. But what if the biggest problem you would find yourself facing is your fellow man?

Driven to the brink of madness like starving dogs fighting over a single slab of meat, I Am Alive is an interesting glimpse at human nature as you play as Adam, a man who was stranded on the other side of the country when an event happened that shook humanity to its core and after a year of traveling on foot, has finally come home to look for his family. What’s most interesting about I Am Alive is that what happened before doesn’t really matter as your primary concern is dealing with its effects on the environment you find yourself working through now. Never specified, whatever triggered the apocalypse has pushed what’s left of humanity to their baser natures and your primary enemy has become other survivors, and the dust from the fallout of whatever cracked the earth in two.

The atmosphere that I Am Alive portrays hits you like a ton of bricks from the second you take over as Adam. Dark, bleak, and desolate, even the tutorial may make you want to give up hope. But, as you press on, you’ll come across other survivors as you search for your family. Some folks are friendly, and some not so much. And then there are others still who won’t attack you unless provoked and you have to choose whether a confrontation may be worth what they are hiding.

Once you peel back the layers of atmosphere though, you begin to realize that I Am Alive is a very bare bones game. The graphics are barely worthy of the last generation of consoles, never mind this one, and the combat is more like an intricate puzzle than something you would expect in a survival game. Many situations play out where you have four enemies encircling you and only two bullets. A surprise attack with your machete could take out one, but that still leaves one unaccounted for. At first this requires some fast thinking and faster trigger work, but once you realize there is no real A.I. and all the enemies slip into one of only two or three patterns and the game becomes repetitive and dull when it comes to the combat aspects.

The character development is also very poor and as sad and as bleak as this world you are in is, you have a hard time caring for many of the NPC characters and their simple fetch quests. I admit though, there was one shocking moment I had where I did feel bad for an NPC after I failed her. If only I had found a second food can in time.

The controls for the most part are a bit stiff, but you can work with them once you get used to Adam’s limitations. And the inclusion of a stamina bar makes a lot of sense and makes your exploration of this new world the most hazardous to your health as running out of energy while climbing a skyscraper could lead to instant doom. It also gives the game a bit more of that realistic atmosphere as Adam is clearly no Nathan Drake or Altair. Despite this flash of ingenuity though, I Am Alive’s strong atmosphere and interesting premise isn’t enough to pull it up to elite status everything considered.

SUMMARY: A wonderful job creating the bleak and oppressive atmosphere of the post-apocalyptic world you find yourself in, the combat and character development leaves much to be desired.

  • THE GOOD: Moody and atmospheric unlike most any other survival game out there
  • THE BAD: Repetitive, puzzle-like confrontations with poor enemy A.I.
  • THE UGLY: The last generation graphics are more depressing than the actual tone of the game

SCORE: 6.0

I Am Alive is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA) and PS3 (PSN). Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.