Left Alive is one of those games that wants to cater to a broad audience. “Do you like stealth? We’ve got it! Do you want to annihilate the masses with a mech? We have that too! Oh, what’s that? You’re a 3rd person shooter fan? We’ve got you covered.” While all of that might seem appealing and even convince players to buy into your game, you need solid mechanics and gameplay to back up these claims, and sadly, Left Alive fumbles with every attempt.
Left Alive puts you in the shoes of not one, but three protagonists as they sneak and shoot their way behind enemy lines. The military nation of Garmonia has invaded the city of Novo Slava and these three characters must do what they can to spark the revolution to win back their city. All of this is good and well except that each of these main characters is just a hollow shell that doesn’t know how to appropriately express emotion, making it hard to care about any of them or their cause. One hero is a scarred revolutionary with a ton of emotional baggage, another is a cop that ends up in one bad situation after another, and the third is a Wanzer pilot (Wanzers are the mechs in this game) who couldn’t think his way out of a paper bag. It falls on these three to take on this militarized nation and save as many people as they can in the process.
The second you drop into this game things just feel off, and not like story-wise where something doesn’t “feel right”. I’m talking about the clunky, PlayStation 2-esque gameplay that is just straight up sluggish and difficult to enjoy. Walking feels too slow, running feels ineffective, and trying to pick up an item feels like it takes a full minute. I’m all for playing difficult games, being a huge fan of souls-borne titles I welcome a challenge, but there is a difference between intended difficulty and difficulty caused by poor game design. Left Alive absolutely suffers from the latter.
For starters, the environments look like something pulled out of last generation hardware. Bland, muddy textures and models that couldn’t have benefited from a few more edges and vertices make this game feel dated. The character models are ok, but when they open their mouths it reminds you of a PlayStation 3 game. The animation feels slow and out of sync, and the Wanzer models could use a few extra layers of detail.
In the first area, you’re dropped into the plaza that requires you to sneak your way around the outskirts of it, knocking out guards as they come along. The problem (well, one of them) is that their lines of sight are all over the place. Some might not notice you even if you’re walking directly towards them, while others seem to have X-ray vision and can spot me crouched behind a car. Ok, no problem, I’ll just shoot my way out. NOPE. Along with enemies having armor piercing bullets that siphon your health in seconds, there is also TWO Wanzers on either side of the plaza that will ruin your day before you can even attempt to run. Add to this the fact that a single enemy takes about two clips to kill and it becomes immediately clear that shooting your way to victory simply isn’t an option.
So I started fresh. I took my time, figured out where enemies were going and made a plan of how I was going to take them down. I began to follow the first one, crouched, following his trajectory until I was able to get him alone and then I pounced! This is when I figured out that a melee surprise attack is just as inefficient as trying to shoot everyone. It took FIVE hits to bring this asshole down, and by then the rest of the squad was closing in. I die again.
Next, I decide to use the consumables that you can craft to draw certain enemies away or bring them closer. Apparently, a can thrown about 5 feet will bring a guard over from all the way across the map, so instead of alerting one, I brought half the crew over to my position… I bet you can’t guess what happened next. Yep. I died.
I was finally able to clear them out by realizing that killing one, running far enough away to hide behind something and just waiting led the rest to eventually de-agro; even though 5 seconds ago they were all shooting at the wall that I was behind. This led to an agonizingly slow process. It worked, but it was dismal the entire time. I’m willing to forgive one rough section like this, but the entire game is riddled with encounters very similar to the one I just explained.
On top of all this, all three of your characters clearly at one time or another served as a Storm Trooper, because they can’t hit a god damned thing. Even when you’re aiming dead center, the recoil launches your sight up and you need to readjust after almost every shot. However, the enemies have precision aim and rarely miss, which, you guessed it, led to a lot of deaths on my behalf. The balancing in this game is just terrible. I can’t recall another shooter where the odds were stacked this high against me. The enemies are all sponges, from grunts to bosses, they take way too much ammo to kill.
Side missions set you up for failure as well. Generally, these optional quests can be rewarding experiences where you find something that sets you up better for the main missions. Not here. The only thing side quests do for you in this game is offer a great way to burn the little resources you have, meaning you’ll always be under-prepared for the boss fights at the end. Even if you elect to skip these optional areas, and you absolutely should, you’ll find the boss encounters will rapidly deplete any stock you might have been saving.
The game puts a strong emphasis on utilizing things like homemade bombs or tripwires, which is fine, but again these tools are finite, so knowing when to use them can become risky business. Not to mention the whole “craft on the fly” concept doesn’t work when the item wheel you pull up doesn’t slow down or pause the game, leading to even more frustrating deaths. The only time you can safely do this is when you know you’re out of harm’s way, and even then if it’s during a firefight and you’re behind cover, you’re not truly safe because some enemies can apparently shoot through layers of brick and steel. So that’s fun.
The most enjoyable aspect of this game is when you actually get to pilot a Wanzer (such a bad name) but those moments are sparse and not nearly long enough. That being said, getting in the cockpit of one of those bad boys makes you feel like a god for a short time. They’re just as clunky and difficult to control, but man can they kill shit. Decimating Garmonians is refreshing after levels of them whipping your ass repeatedly, but again, this side of the game isn’t utilized even remotely enough as it should have been.
All of this is made even more frustrating with an absolutely awful save system. The checkpoints you find are sparse, and way too far apart. Dying in the middle of a level sets you back by at least 15 minutes, and it means having to slug through the same repetitive garbage you already had to endure one too many times.
Overall, this game just needed a lot more time to cook. The story is mildly interesting, but its bogged down by poor gameplay and awful mechanics that make it extremely hard to play or want to play. Left Alive should have been left on the cutting room floor.