Konami may of killed Metal Gear but can Square Enix pick up the torch?
Left Alive takes place in Russia during a war between Garmonia and Ruthenia. Taking place in the city of Novo Slava, it follows three heroes and their fight for survival. Firstly, we have Mikhail, a Wanzer pilot (Wanzers being Left Alive’s answer to Metal Gears) and greenhorn in the Ruthenian army, who finds himself fighting in the streets of Novo Slava. Olga is a respected police officer investigating the human trafficking epidemic at the hands of the Garmonian Empire. Lastly, we have Leonid, leader of the NGFP, a liberation force, fighting against the invasion of Novo Slava. He was sentenced to death for the murder of the previous NGFP leader, for which he is innocent.
Watch the Left Alive launch trailer below:
So, where to begin? Metal Gear had a complex narrative of different political parties and armed forces which got confusing but at its heart, was character driven. Left Alive bombards you with far too much information. I understand they are trying to build a world but there is a lot of context we don’t need to know, constantly thrown at us. This would be fine if the characters were engaging but they aren’t. They’re not exactly terrible but they aren’t given as much depth as the game thinks they have. The plot itself becomes banal and I just wanted it to be over. Left Alive does fare better with its side quests. These small missions have glimpses of interesting and touching moments.
The Metal Gear series had a unique control scheme that despite being complex, worked really well. Left Alive, put simply, is a complete failure. As you are crouch-walking through the level a small indicator appears at each side of the screen to indicate where an enemy is, and it works well enough. What isn’t fine is the horrendous voice over that says “Caution! An enemy is approaching” whenever you’re near an enemy. It goes off at 5 second intervals. even if you’re crouched behind a single stationary enemy and if you are near several enemies you’ll be bombarded by the same line every couple of seconds. This alone, made me want to uninstall the game after 10 minutes.
Is the stealth good, though? NO! You can be crouched right in front of an enemy who is oblivious, yet another can see you from miles away. As a shooter it’s even worse. Zero recoil and awful hit detection make firefights impossible. Left Alive is meant to be played as a stealth title where you employ traps to covertly take out enemies but you’ll never have enough items to effectively do so, as the enemies have a habit of being lured one at a time. The biggest insult is when you are spotted and killed instantly you must do almost everything again. This could be 30 minutes of gameplay and you’ll get killed a lot. As a Front Mission title, you will be piloting a Wanzer at times and it’s works well enough, despite the lack of recoil on shots.
There’s much wrong here. Firstly, the button layout is stupid, several menus to cycle through that all hotkey to the same button. You never really know what you have selected and when you throw in the dice rolls of combat and stealth it becomes a constant chore to play. The broken stealth would be at least manageable if there was a take-down mechanic and firefights would be OK if shooting was possible. One time I was hidden behind a wall, the enemy spotted me and ran around to my side and shot me, missing half of his shots. I missed half of mine (We were a foot away from each other) and I was set on fire with no way to put said fire out. I watched as my character died, not due to lack of skill but completely broken mechanics. Oh, and yes, I had to do about 20 minutes of gameplay again. All is not lost folks because I found a solution. Run, run to the next checkpoint and you might survive.
View some Left Alive screenshots in our gallery:
When it comes to visuals I get to at least compliment the game a little. The character models are great, and the particle effects really shine with the great lighting system. Framerate is also rock solid until you fire a gun. Both firing a gun and using a melee attack tank the framerate. Messing around with settings, dropping from 4K to 1440p on a 1080ti, I still had huge drops. I’m talking from 60 to around 5, even though it’s brief, it’s unacceptable. While the sound design is generally average, there are no gunshot sounds. Insanely, mouse tracking is slower than using a controller. Even the voice acting is a misstep. A Japanese game set in Russia with American voices could work but not when they are bad anime voices, unlike Valkyria Chronicles. Also, the soundtrack was totally forgettable.
Overall this game made me think of Vampire Rain. Confused? Vampire Rain is my most hated game, ever. Left Alive fails to convey a solid story, despite potential in its side-quests. Left Alive fails to deliver even a competent gameplay loop. While it manages to look quite nice, there are a lot of technical issues. There’s absolutely nothing to recommend here, it not only does nothing to stand out, it completely fails to be even average. On top of that, it has the nerve to charge full price! You can pick up Metal Gear Solid V for next to nothing and Valkyria Chronicles is another masterpiece, go play them and save some money.
Left Alive was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix Release Date: 5th March, 2019 Reviewed On: PC/Steam Also Available On: PS4