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Left Alive

Left Alive

Can Square Enix channel the spirit of Metal Gear Solid into its new mech-filled stealth 'em up?

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Square Enix's latest production potentially had it all - a crack team including Yoji Shinkawa, the art director from Kojima productions; a three-strand narrative with an engaging setting; lots of innovative ideas; and comparisons to the Metal Gear series. A third-person survival shooter with an emphasis on being stealthy in a world filled with mechs - the comparisons with Kojima's baby were unavoidable.

We used the word "potentially" before because, sadly, the studio didn't quite pull it off. So, what went wrong? There were lots of great ideas in there, such as an emphasis on building your own IEDs and traps to take out the opposition soldiers, and it reminded us a little of Metal Gear: Survive in this respect. Then there were optional missions you could take or ignore, a map that showed danger zones, and an intriguing story.

However, these promising aspects were all undermined by poor mechanics and a sluggish control system, some wonky AI, and graphics that sometimes looked rather low-quality. But we'll start with the things we like.

You take control of three characters in a war-torn country called Novo Slavia in the year 2127, in an area of the world that looks not too unlike Russia. Genocide is being committed by the occupation forces, and our three heroes have been 'left alive', searching for other survivors and improvising the weapons they'll need to use to help them make it out.

Left Alive

First off you take control of Mikhail, a rookie Wanzer pilot (Wanzers are the mechs), and later a police officer called Olga, and also Leonid, an innocent accused of being a criminal. The setting is bleak, and the intro really sets it up to be a great game. There's snow on the ground, dead bodies are littered everywhere, and we're thoroughly intrigued.

Alas, straight off the bat though you're confronted by a tricky control system. It feels sluggish and like you're not totally in control, with the shooting suffering from the same unevenness, meaning it felt tricky and clunky to aim. It simply didn't feel intuitive, and even after a few hours we were still accidentally throwing cans, alerting enemies, and getting annihilated.

We started off on the medium difficulty, which turned out to be insanely hard, as we ended up getting killed way too easily. We soon found ourselves starting again on an easier setting, but even then it was brutally difficult at times.

We like a challenge, but these difficulty spikes ripped the fun out of Left Alive. Enemy soldiers would cut you down in an instant, and on top of that, they seemed to be immune to headshots, with bullets having very little effect in general. You could throw homemade bombs, hoping for the best, but we often found ourselves replaying the same sections over and over again and becoming increasingly frustrated.

Left AliveLeft Alive

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There seems to be multiple ways to traverse the maps, but realistically there is only one option to take if you're going to avoid the ridiculous kill zones. You have the option to take on your enemies in a shootout, but stealth seems to be the only way to make it through. The problem is that the stealth mode simply wasn't very good. For one, there was no takedown - you just had to whack them with a melee weapon until they went down, then deliver a killer blow.

You always had the option to throw a can, which they would follow, but the AI in this game provided another challenge, as they were either completely unaware or totally omnipotent. Some you could sneak behind one of them, but then another that wasn't even looking at you would suddenly start firing. We found ourselves running or rolling away (which often worked), and then coming back around 30 seconds later for another pop, which seemed to be about the amount of time it took them to forget you ever existed. At other times they would run around in a circle trying to find you, which looked almost comical. Because of these faults, sometimes legging it through an area worked better than sneaking.

Once you activate your comms system, it spends most of the time telling you that "an enemy is approaching" in its robotic voice, and seeing as they were always nearby, this was a pretty constant announcement up until the point we muted the TV. The soundtrack faired better. When getting into combat some contextual music would start up, and it felt a bit Metal Gearesque. The voice acting sounded sincere too, and there were even some dialogue choices that affected the story, which we rather enjoyed. It's the old maxim that "your decisions matter", but it seemed to add something to the experience.

Left AliveLeft Alive

That said, it all felt a little rushed. A lot of people have bemoaned the graphics, and while we enjoyed the bleak feel and the ominous lighting, and the mechs also looked cool, some of the textures weren't up to standard at all. The cars were pristine and had little detail, while the fire effects looked a bit like they were bolted on to something that wasn't damaged. That, combined with invisible walls and huge piles of rubbish you couldn't cross, made the environments feel too controlled.

One saving grace was when you got to take control of the mechs and just blast your way through, destroying other huge machines. It was fun, but it wasn't the main part of the experience, with the overall emphasis being on the ground combat instead.

All in all, there were a few good ideas as well as a few minor problems that normally we could forgive, and it had a great premise and some interesting dialogues choices. However, we didn't feel engaged enough with the story and characters to worry too much about what might happen. In fact, that's the big problem with Left Alive; this could have been something really special, but the frustrating difficulty spikes, unintuitive level design, and inconsistent AI meant that we couldn't really connect to the story. We're sure that some people will enjoy the extreme challenge, and there are some interesting ideas in there, but on the whole, this one is less 'left alive' and more 'left a lot to be desired'.

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04 Gamereactor UK
4 / 10
+
Interesting story, Some nice ideas.
-
Inconsistent AI, Sluggish controls, Brutally hard at times, Poor level design.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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Left AliveScore

Left Alive

REVIEW. Written by Roy Woodhouse

"This could have been special, but frustrating difficulty spikes, unintuitive level design, and inconsistent AI meant that we couldn't really connect to the story."

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