Left Alive review – a maddeningly messy mech/stealth hybrid

March 8, 2019
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Left Alive is the second new release this week that reminds me of a PS2 game, although perhaps the comparisons this time around aren’t so favourable. Devil May Cry 5 is a full-blooded return that reimagines Capcom’s action formula and delivers it with the muscle and aplomb of the current generation. Left Alive, meanwhile, takes some fairly rusty, more contemporary mechanics and smothers them in the janky wrappings of a mid-tier PS2 game. It’s a flaky, barely functioning stealth game that’s almost entirely awful. I kind of love it.

Maybe that’s because the promise of its set-up still manages to occasionally shine through the grot. This is ostensibly a spin-off of Square Enix’s Front Mission, the mech-infused strategy series whose last entry was another spin-off – Double Helix’s third-person shooter Front Mission Evolved – some nine years ago. It’s helmed by a veteran producer of FromSoft’s Armored Core games – another mech series that’s been missing in action – though given the expertise on tap, as well as the thirst for a decent mech game, the machines remain mostly in the background.

Instead, this is primarily a survival-infused stealth game – think Metal Gear Survive without that game’s strong foundations, with a clunky, unreliable moveset and AI adversaries who aren’t undead but don’t seem to act on any human impulses, and who are either blindly ignorant or supernaturally aware of your presence depending on their own whims. It’s bizarre how much Left Alive wants to be Metal Gear Solid; there are fudgy treatise on the human cost of war and hard to follow strands of conspiracy theories while familiar audio and visual cues have been seemingly lifted and clumsily pasted over the action.

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