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I Am Alive: Urban survival adventure gets a brand-new look

Alive and...kicking?

Over three years since that thrilling announcement trailer at E3 2008, I Am Alive feels less like a title and more a confirmation of the game's existence. Yes, it is still in development and yes, believe it or not, it is finally coming out.

Yet this isn't the game it once was. A troubled development has led to Ubisoft wrenching the reins from the grasp of original studio Darkworks (hands up if you remember zombies-on-a-boat horror Cold Fear?) and handing control to their internal team in Shanghai.

You won't be seeing it on the shelves of your local retailer, either - it's now headed for the download services, with Ubi suggesting that's the best place for "original content and new experiences".

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So what's original and new about I Am Alive? Well, it's a post-apocalyptic cityscape that for once isn't overrun with the undead or other supernatural monstrosities. In fact, Ubi are keen to point out that this is 100% survival, 0% horror - a mutant-free zone that should feel all the more believably real for it.

STRANGER DANGER
It's still a perilous environment, mind. The mysterious Event - a disaster so devastating that it warrants a capital letter - has left the world with a coating of toxic dust. At street level, visibility is low and it's hard to breathe - with your every action using up a limited stamina meter, it makes sense to try to reach higher ground.

Climb above the cloud of dust, however, and you've another set of problems to worry about, as structural weaknesses make each step hazardous.

The environment isn't even the biggest danger. Your fellow survivors are your competition for essential supplies - some react violently if they feel threatened. Others require assistance, forcing you into conscience-wracking choices: share your rations with the needy, or keep them for your own journey?

Moral choices are a common storytelling device these days, but I Am Alive's decisions promise to be more than just black and white.

Which brings us to the game's monochromatic art style - it's a bold choice, that's for sure, and one that seems to fits the game's bleak tone. The gritty look falls halfway between The Road and The Book of Eli, with the occasional splash of crimson presenting just about the only colour you'll see.

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There will be blood, even if combat relies more heavily on intimidation (you can scare others with an empty pistol, for instance) than it does on traditional thirdperson gunplay.

It's not a game that's short of ideas, then, but by dialling back its budget, are Ubisoft crushing I Am Alive's ambitions? We shouldn't have to wait too long to find out.

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