Left Alive is a dull mess in every single aspect. Though the premise had some potential, the clunky gameplay, boring story, wooden characters, and buggy presentation make Left Alive a chore to play through, even if you’re a diehard Front Mission fan.

Left Alive
Developer: Square Enix
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) and PC
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 code for review

Like many people, the use of Yoji Shinkawa’s art drew me to Left Alive prior to its launch. Shinkawa-san, of Metal Gear Solid fame, has become associated with quality in my mind, so I thought it would be worth checking out Left Alive. I was unfortunately mistaken, as Left Alive is one of the most frustratingly dull games I’ve played in recent memory.

The story is where all of Left Alive’s potential lies dormant. As three different characters (a rookie soldier, a grizzled police officer, and a misunderstood fugitive), you have to navigate an occupied city that lies in the middle of two newly warring nations. The idea of taking on three different perspectives of people left behind in such a major conflict is novel, but Left Alive never takes advantage of this premise. Every character goes to the same places and does the same things, fighting nameless enemies and saving braindead civilians. Rescuing civilians is a pain because of how ridiculously dumb they are, as they’ll walk into danger even if you’re closely escorting them. It doesn’t feel like you’re in a war-torn city as much as a community of empty offices that are now a bit messier than before.

The characters don’t fare any better. The rookie soldier, Mikhail, is about as interesting as a tax form, as his character seems to exist purely for the sake of giving players a “new person’s” perspective on the crisis. Olga is almost interesting, but her insistence on staying in this war-torn area despite repeatedly acknowledging how dangerous it is and how she’s just one person makes her difficult to empathize with, even after learning about her backstory. Even though Leonid was framed for murder, he’s so flat that I couldn’t bring myself to care about who framed him or why. The characters make or break a story like this, so having three planks of wood as your main cast makes Left Alive feel ironically lifeless.

Add in an A.I. companion that repeatedly screeches “enemy approaching” whenever an enemy is even remotely close to you, and you have a grating and broken stealth game.

Gameplay in Left Alive jumps between being a “stealth” game and a third-person shooter, but it doesn’t succeed in either of these categories. Sometimes enemies will randomly see you sneaking around no matter how well hidden you are, while they’ll sometimes not notice you rolling right beside them. The poor layout of each level doesn’t help in this regard, as there are lots of empty areas and dead ends that make sneaking around enemies far more difficult and time-consuming than it should be. Add in an A.I. companion that repeatedly screeches “enemy approaching” whenever an enemy is even remotely close to you, and you have a grating and broken stealth game.

Left Alive’s combat is even worse than its stealth mechanics, which is certainly saying something. Any gun other than a shotgun will do negligible damage to an enemy, meaning your pistol, rifles, and machine guns are all essentially useless. You’ll burn through all your ammo after killing one to two enemies, leaving you wide open to enemy fire. Melee weapons are a bit more effective, but their tendency to break incredibly quickly (making them do practically no damage) means you’re better off avoiding combat whenever possible. This could be a positive in a stealth-based game, but in Left Alive it is a frustrating flaw.

Left Alive isn’t terribly ugly or particularly nice-looking, outside of its mech designs. I’m a sucker for mechs and robot suits, so I found the hulking mechs to be a highlight of the game, as they look great and are fun to use on the rare occasion where you get to pilot one. The game also occasionally assaults you with walls of tutorial text that are way too much to take in at once, especially when it interrupts or impedes gameplay.

The Final Word
Left Alive is a boring mess that succeeds as neither a stealth game or a third-person shooter. The characters and story are boring, the gameplay is messy and clunky, and nothing about the game, outside of its few mechs, stands out as interesting or fun. For the best Left Alive experience, just look at Shinkawa’s cool art online.

MonsterVine Rating: 2 out of 5 – Poor

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