Often you’ll hear people talking about how it is a bad idea to get excited for a videogame before you have actually played it. Usually this is not a problem and the hype train arrives on time with plenty of cargo. That is what myself, like I’m sure many others, were hoping would happen with Left Alive. Unfortunately it didn’t and what the hype train delivered instead was disappointment. Utter disappointment.
The setup for Left Alive - which takes place in the Front Mission universe - is our three playable characters are all caught in the middle of war-torn Nova Slava. Outnumbered and outgunned, players must do whatever they can to survive while uncovering the story of these three people. As the focus is on the human side of war and not the mechs, much of the gameplay is boots on the ground with moments of mech combat found throughout, with dialog choices and optional missions to complete that impact the direction of the story. Players will have to face grave challenges, tough decisions and live with the consequences of their actions.
On paper this sounds like a promising gaming experience, but the execution of said events is less than ideal. For starters, controls are uncomfortable at best with the same buttons being used for multiple actions leading to plenty of wrongly performed abilities. The movement of your characters is akin to wading through waist high mud and the animations are all over the place. That is before you even try to engage in combat which features a weightless melee system and gunplay that is impossible to aim.
Thankfully though the focus of using traps and crafting is functional and works mostly as intended. I say mostly because on most occasions the enemies would stop just before a trap and stare at it for ages before returning to their starting position. If you are lucky enough to lure enemies into said traps then they do what they say on the tin. As you will need to craft these from the materials you find in the world, all while managing your weight limit, you’ll have to think carefully about how to approach most situations.
What Left Alive does do right however is present players with fairly open levels to navigate however they see fit. These are varied in scope and setting, offering plenty of routes and points of interest to uncover. Though the placement of enemies can result in a linear path to your objective there is still room to break off and explore. That said, and even though it is a positive element of Left Alive, the title still manages to quickly undo this fun.
Large sections of levels are completely empty while others are full of, franky, way to many enemies and mechs. You might think you have found the best route forward only to have a squad of soldiers appear in your way with next to no way around. If combat was more reliable and fun then this wouldn’t be a problem, but as it takes multiple headshots to down the most basic enemy, combat is just troublesome. There is also no option to play Left Alive non-lethal or in full stealth. You will have to kill and you will have to fight.
It should also be noted that the enemy AI is laughable at best. There is no clear indication to how far the enemies can see or hear which often leads to varied results. You’ll be spotted across a level, while in cover, even when on the other side of a building. Want to throw a tin to catch the attention of a lone guard? Sure, but you’ll also make that mech two roads down aware as well. All this and they have the aim of a god, being able to track your position through walls as well. Sure, your characters are meant to be on the back foot against a highly advanced invading force, but this is just not enjoyable.
Things don’t pick up for Left Alive in the presentation department ethier. Even on a PlayStation 4 Pro in both the title’s performance and high resolution settings the world of Left Alive is lifeless. Environments are dull with washed out textures that have a habit of unloading, animations are awkward, and particle effects lack depth. If you were unlucky enough as well - or just stupid - to install the World of Tanks collaboration then look forward to seeing in-game adverts for another game while you explore Nova Slava. The only saving grace is that the character models during cutscenes actually look rather nice.
All of this is then wrapped up in a save system that is unforgiving. Auto saves happen few and far between unless you just failed an objective in which it saves right at that moment, with manual saving only being available should you reach one of the set locations. Now this works but considering how quickly you die and how long it can take to navigate levels, you’ll be losing a lot of progress on a regular basis.
At the end of the day, Left Alive is a disappointment on multiple levels, but its biggest offense is missing the mark on what could have been a brilliant experience. It even encourages you to play through the experience multiple times, but with dialog choices and decisions that lack any real depth or impact, why would you? It is an absolute pain to get through one playthrough of Left Alive, let alone two or three. Had this title had a bit more development time to refine some of the systems I generally think Left Alive could have been a brilliant experience. As it stands, Left Alive is dull and uninspiring, albeit functional and playable. You won’t be missing out on much by skipping this title.
LEFT ALIVE (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
The game is unenjoyable, but it works.
Left Alive falls short in many areas. What could of been an interesting title ends up being one you best avoid.