Developed By: Square Enix
Published By: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 / Windows
Reviewed On: PS4PRO
Left Alive is described as a survival action shooter coming from a highly talented team that consists of Toshifume Nabeshima (Director, Armored Core series), Yoji Shinkawa from Kojima Productions (character designer, Metal Gear Solid series) and Takayuki Yanase (mech designer, Ghost In The Shell: Arise, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Xenoblade Chronicles X). It is said that the game is set in the Front Mission universe and although I have not played any of the Front Mission games I was still quite curious and tempted to jump into this entry. Before we get into it have a look at the launch trailer yourself so you can have a feeling of what the game experience they were aiming for.
The game starts up very promising by establishing the central conflict and the main players that will be involved. Summarizing how proxy wars are a thing and Wanzers are basically the nuclear weapons of the world promising immense destructive capabilities. You start out as Mikhail, a rookie Wanzer pilot as the Republic of Garmoniya invades Novo Slava killing hundreds and thousands of soldiers and citizens alike. From then on players will get to alternate between two other main characters who provide little else with just branching storytelling but plays almost the same.
I was looking forward to going through the game as it gave off a lot of Metal Gear Solid vibes (I mean the art style was a huge source of that) but unfortunately, it did not hold my interest for very long. I mean there is something very promising here, but my enjoyment was constantly getting knocked down by the number of clunky and bad gameplay moments that I could not wait to get it over with. Even some random moments that happen throughout the game with the standard tropes just come off as incredibly dumb at times. For example, an antagonist that appears early in the game threatens to kill one of the leads and then decides not to because he got a call. I mean that could work if it was executed convincingly especially since he shows up randomly. One of the multiple dialogue choice sequences (another interesting but ultimately weird inclusion) results in him shooting an innocent person next to you which comes off as jarring and weird when he lets you go. Not to mention one of the other characters Olga, having a toy cat in her pocket. Why is she carrying around a toy cat in her pocket?
It is not the worst looking game because I feel that there are moments in the game where the texture and lighting work was somewhat pleasant to the eye, but those moments were very far apart. There were many rough animations and effects (especially the fire effect) that makes you wonder if the game was made back in the PS1 or PS2 era with just a graphical overhaul to make it passable as a PS4 game. Moreover, the framerate dips that can just randomly happen for some reason even though there aren’t many assets to be loaded in that scene.
Presentation & Gameplay
I can almost see what they were trying to go for. It feels like they wanted to be the next Metal Gear game with actual mech battles but honestly, it does neither particularly well. Initiating combat in this game is just straight up bullshit. Shooting feels incredibly unsatisfying and too floaty. Your character controls terribly. Sometimes enemies see you from a mile away for some reason or you can be right next to them, but they don’t see you. You can unload a whole clip into them, and they would still be alive. One of the more hilarious things is how headshots DON’T kill enemies (you must shoot them a bunch of times) but do showcase that shooting them in the head merely bobs their heads backwards. Throwing a Molotov into a group only for some reason have one of them on fire with the rest immediately alerted to your exact location AND the enemy on fire does NOT burn to death. The janky-ness starts out amusing but just ends up being incredibly frustrating. In addition to that, there are multiple dialogue choices that the game tells you matter down the line but doesn’t even show until much later you how they do so you have a general idea. To make that worse these sequences that you must make a choice can hilariously be made for you entirely too quickly. Escort side quests where you can only give instructions to the rescue victims on them, so you literally have to run alongside them, so you don’t accidentally let them run off and get themselves killed. It’s like they want you to just play the game with a look of disbelief most of the time. Most of the time I just rather avoid any confrontation and just run away without even trying to engage.
Although there are a few bright spots. Wanzer battles are alright but don’t feel as spectacular as they should have been. The UI is alright and crafting can be snappy.
What I Liked
- Artstyle – The influence is very clear and great. It is just unfortunate how the end product just squanders it.
- Wanzers – I don’t like it a lot but it was one of the few sections of the game that did not make me feel so annoyed.
What I Hated
- Everything involving gameplay – Maybe I’m being too unfair and just generalizing everything but that’s just how the game made me feel. So much wasted promise.
This is a huge misstep on Square Enix’s part by releasing this game as a full priced one. There is almost next to nothing here that even justifies that price tag. The art style and curious setting do very little to shield the fact that this game feels like it was made two generations ago. There were too many times where I kept telling myself that “hey it’s okay. It’s rough but there will be something here worth loving” only for the game to just leave me frustrated, annoyed and ready to just throw it into the trash and burn it. The most ironic thing about this whole experience? When I first booted it up and my wife saw the title screen she randomly exclaimed: “Left for Dead!”. I should ask her to give me the lottery numbers for next week.