Yeah, skip this game. I kinda wrote like 15 openings to this review, but couldn't really capture the pain and frustration I experienced while forcing myself to play Left Alive.
It's not a good game, it's not even an OK game, it's just bad. It's one of those games you struggle to understand why it was made and how did it even pass quality assurance. I, along with everyone else, had high hopes for this game as it kinda looked interesting in the reveal trailer and, just maybe, it could fill in the void left by that other far more superior action-adventure stealth series.
Left Alive wants to be Metal Gear Solid, but it fails, brutally. It is a really really hard game, not the good challenging-satisfying hard game, but the unfair "f*ck you" game. Everything in the game seems to work against you. The controls are janky, combat is broken, enemy AI is unfairly broken and stealth, which is kinda like the most important thing in a stealth game, is f*cking broken!
What makes or breaks a stealth game is its stealth combat and what tools you have in your arsenal to mess with the system and how said system reacts to your actions. Think of the axes, hammers, screwdrivers, throwable coins or the exploding rubber ducky in the recent Hitman games. Think of the amazing powers and weapons in Dishonored. Think of the myriad of weapons, gadgets, and horse poop in Metal Gear Solid V. Think of all these games and how fun it was to use all of those tools at your disposal to mess with the AI. Left Alive doesn't have anything like that.
"For the first playthrough, it is recommended to proceed on Light (difficulty mode)." - this was written in the review guide so naturally, I started to play on the Standard difficulty. Well, I died like 8 times on the tutorial level... ON THE TUTORIAL LEVEL! What?!
You cannot takedown an enemy from behind and headshots don't do sh*t. How can you even call your game a "stealth game" when it lacks the two most basic entry level aspects for a stealth game? Instead, you have to hit a guard with a shovel 3 times before you can kill him with a 4th hit. That might sound good, but try to hit a guard 4 times when there are 5 or more guards and a giant mech shooting at you. Well, you die. Hit the guard with a broken melee weapon, he will get up and well, you die. Try to shoot a guard on the head, you might hit him a few times, then miss or run out of bullets and well, you die. Try to make a run for the objective and well, the enemies will turn you into a f*cking strainer.
To make matters worse, there are also instances where you are forced to fight and there's only one exit, guarded by 5-6 enemies waiting to drill you with bullets. And what do you have in your arsenal? A semi-broken pipe, eight bullets, two empty cans and maybe one or two grenades/molotovs with the exploding radius of a cherry bomb... good luck.
So the combat is atrocious, but can you at least sneak and skip combat altogether? Well, apart from when you are forced to fight, sure you can try to sneak around. But the eagle-eyed guards and flying drones will spot you, they will alert everyone, rush you and they will kill you. Oh, you might think to open the map to find a safe place you can retreat to or craft some traps via the shitty UI to fend off the coming enemies. Well, think again as it takes a while for the menu to load and during that time the game doesn't pause so you die. Depending on if you manually saved or not, you might have to start the whole level from the beginning. And on top of that, you have the godawful Koshka AI repeating over and over again "The enemy is getting closer to you" all the time. Does that sound fun?
Why? Just why did they make this stupid design choices? Did this start as a hardcore horror project and later pivoted towards a stealth game? This kinda makes sense and I believe it would have been better for them to market the game as such, a horror experience.
Now that I am thinking more about this, the story and setting would further explain these odd design choices. A war between two fictional eastern European countries erupts and the three characters you play in the game are caught right in the middle of it. Left alone, you must try to overcome the overwhelming odds.
That's as far as I can go talking about the story since I did not finish this game. As I said at the beginning, I forced myself to play this game, but I only went through the first 3 chapters out of 14. In those 3 chapters, I played as Mikhail, a young Wanzer pilot stranded alone behind enemy lines and as Olga, a young policewoman also and you guessed it stranded alone behind enemy lines. There's also a third guy you play as, but I never got that far to see or play as him. The main reason why I forced myself to play this game was to explore and learn more about these characters, their backstories and this war setting in general, as it is interesting. And I also wanted to see how far the branching narrative could go based on my choices during the cutscene dialogues. You get hints that there might be something more behind this war, that there is someone pulling the strings and that's always interesting.
Unfortunately, everything else in the game works against you. The stealth gameplay and AI are atrocious. The presentation looks and feels dated, like PS3 era dated and the Metal Gear inspired characters, mech, and world designs cannot redeem it. I wanted Left Alive to be good, but there's nothing good about this game, apart from its setting. That alone is not enough to save it from the uninspired, dated and broken rest of it. Thanks for reading!
The game is available on PC and PS4. Square Enix provide a PS4 review copy.