I Am Alive

Is there daylight at the end of Ubisoft's survivalist tunnel?

Ubisoft recently introduced I Am Alive with this quote from Italian socialist author Ignazio Silone: %26ldquo;An earthquake achieves what the law promises but doesn%26rsquo;t in practice maintain %26ndash; the equality of all men.%26rdquo; When you have to hang your game%26rsquo;s hat on the philosophies of a controversial World War II Italian wordsmith who may or may not have spied for the Americans, you know you%26rsquo;re aiming high.

I Am Alive is not based on anything Silone wrote, of course, but the aim is the same: to create an equal playing field, strip away the rules or order that bind society and see what boils to the surface. As a gamer that means making choices. Who to save or kill? Do you search for survivors or food? Money or water? Will you help or hinder a rescue? What could have been a standard survival game, in Ubisoft%26rsquo;s hands, is turning into a nasty, complex glimpse into your soul. And Ubisoft hasn%26rsquo;t needed to put a single mech in the game to do so.

Set in Chicago in the middle of a sweltering June heat wave, a massive earthquake destroys the city and you will have to make choices. You will play as Adam Colins, a 24-year-old junior executive who, two hours earlier was enjoying an expensive coffee and wondering how he was going to get the exclusive corner office. Now his sole goal is to find his girlfriend Alice who is lost somewhere in the city. The earthquake was so devastating it toppled skyscrapers, collapsed bridges and sealed the city off from civilization. It has created an island nightmare where Silone%26rsquo;s vision of equality, of a rule free society has come true. In this new society you don%26rsquo;t buy expensive takeout coffee, you take it.

Played in first-person, this adventure will demand you make core choices: rescue, steal, protect, attack or heal. Adam%26rsquo;s journey to find his girlfriend is fraught with dangers, and the fragile balance of the rubble under your feet won%26rsquo;t be the only concern. Lawlessness has broken out. The streets have become twisted and distorted.

To ultimately find Alice you%26rsquo;ll need to gain access to hidden and secure areas. Align yourself with factions that have formed in the city and befriend other stragglers. There%26rsquo;s a doctor called Riley who has decided to stay in the city and help as many survivors as she can. Maybe if you can find people and take them to her she%26rsquo;ll help you. A fireman, Peter, wants you to bring stragglers to his makeshift refugee camp. Elsewhere, Vigil is an ex-soldier who is protecting a group of helpless survivors; again help him and he%26rsquo;ll help you.

The concept is for a choice-driven FPS in a similar vein to BioShock, where decisions and alliances determine where you can go and what eventually will happen to Alice and Adam. The game will span nine days, suggesting progress is made sporadically with the game opening or locking areas of the story depending on players reaching certain milestones. There%26rsquo;s also the whisper of a deeper conspiracy that points to a man-made reason behind the earthquake. We can%26rsquo;t wait to have a deeper dig into Ubisoft%26rsquo;s rubble. Pass the pickaxe.

Feb 3, 2009

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