Let me begin this post with a short backstory about how I got to this point. A few days ago, I was watching a friend of mine play Ace Combat 7 (aside: it looks really good and I’ll definitely end up getting it at some point). At some point, another friend had asked us if Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was any good. The answer is a firm No. Assault Horizon is terrible. It’s an answer to a question nobody asked: what if Ace Combat was more like Call of Duty?
Also, this fucking song
The conversation then went on to other bad spin-offs of otherwise great anti-war series’. Like Front Mission. Front Mission had one. Evolved. Never played it. Front Mission also had a second bad spin-off: Left Alive. Left Alive happened to be on sale, and because I tend to make very impulsive choices in my life, I got it. I went in expecting a little bit of jank to it. I was not expecting an overwhelmingly great game, but I also didn’t immediately take the critical reception to it at face value; that IGN God Hand review gave me permanent psychic damage. Like, there’s no way a game could be that bad, right? Besides, the concept sounded incredible: a stealth-based game where you are in a hostile, war-torn environment trying to survive. That’s actually pretty damn interesting!
There are times where I might exaggerate the quality of something in order to make a joke, or to make a blog post more entertaining. Slight amounts of easily noticeable hyperbole.
I am not exaggerating here when I say that Left Alive is the single worst fucking video game I ever played in my life. Left Alive is bad on a level that I had previously only held for absolute dog shit like Manhunt 2 or Revolution 60. The difference, though, is that I went into playing those games expecting nothing, and still being let down. Left Alive was something I had expectations for. Not high expectations, mind you, but something along the lines of “janky ass PS2/PS3 game.” Something that wouldn’t be traditionally good, but still enjoyable on its own merits.
Left Alive is straight up a broken, unfinished game that completely falls apart by the third level. The enemies are either completely blind and deaf, and can’t see you running in circles or firing off a non-silenced weapon in front of them, or can spot you from an entire football field’s distance away while you are hiding behind a wall. There is no in-between. And the whole time, if there is an enemy in your proximity, a computer voice endlessly harasses you with CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. You are either strong enough to withstand an entire platoon’s gunfire directly to the face no problem, or you’re killed in one hit. There is no in-between. No in-between, no consistency, nothing. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Enemies respawn almost immediately, sprinting directly towards you (or, more often, an unarmed civilian you’re trying to rescue) like they’re Sonic The Fucking Hedgehog, completely destroying any progress you’ve just made. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING.
In this game, combat fucking sucks. The guns are terrible, enemies can withstand headshots and don’t even react to being shot until they’re dead. There’s no CQC aside from limited-use melee weapons. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. There’s the other method of combat, crafting traps and IEDs, which Left Alive is designed around, but materials are so limited and hard to come by that wasting even one improvised weapon is enough to reload a previous save. That is, assuming that they even work in the first place. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Molotov cocktails do such little amounts of damage to be laughable, and anything that involves electricity is a joke; I watched an armed guard walk into an electrified wire I set up, and all he did was literally sit and look at the thing as it kept trying to shock him. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Oh, and it has everyone’s favorite part of stealth games: forced combat! CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Because that’s something Left Alive needed: sections where you are required to fight up to a dozen soldiers or more, in a game where your offensive options are paltry and weak by design! CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. There are a few segments where you can climb into a Wanzer, in an attempt to even the odds. After all, this is a Front Mission game. Wanzers control like shit! There’s zero feedback to whether or not you’re doing or receiving damage. And because of the way the levels are built, with lots of impassible sections and tight alleyways, you can’t really do much with them. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING.
Here’s around the part of the game where I gave up:
You can see the blue marker where I need to go. There’s a bunch of soldiers, some drones, and an enemy Wanzer in front of me.
The other side of this park, several more soldiers, and a fucking tank. There are also a bunch of snipers on the rooftop that I found out about way too late.
Behind me, a bunch of soldiers, some drones, and snipers that I cannot shoot at, despite that bridge clearly being unprotected. Also, one of the few times where hiding behind this crate didn’t cause an alert to go off.
The other side of the street has a shit ton of soldiers, drones, and even more snipers directly above me. There is an underground sewer system I can take, with smaller groups of enemies. The problem though, is that it leads to the exact opposite end of the level, and not where I need to go! So how do you get there? I don’t know! My solution was to sprint past everything, tanking what bullets and rockets I could, and hoping that I lived long enough for the alarms to shut off by the time I got to where I needed to go. It certainly wasn’t through stealthy means, you know, the way the game was meant to be played!
Left Alive is garbage. It is almost hilariously unfair to play. It’s broken, the writing sucks, the characters are lame, the product placement is all over the place. Yoji Shinkawa was brought in to be the character designer, and look at this:
Shinkawa saw a scene that called for a black man, so he went through his notebook and remembered that, oh yeah, he made a black character about a decade ago, and just put Drebin from Metal Gear Solid 4 in there.
The only way that Left Alive could have been phoned in any more was if it had been developed by an actual telephone. I had watched a developer interview prior to writing this. It was a video featuring the producer, director, and Shinkawa himself. Nobody wanted to be there.
Nobody wanted to make this game. Nobody wanted to play it. Nobody wanted to market it. Left Alive is, by all accounts, a game that shouldn’t exist, yet it does. Normally, I could respect that kind of tenacity, but I can’t, because Left Alive is the worst fucking video game I have ever played. There are bad games. Genpei Toumaden is a bad game. Michigan is a bad game. Hydlide is…something other people say is a bad game. All of those games have at least one thing that makes them good, makes them redeemable. All Left Alive has is a concept. I don’t know what exactly the fuck happened here? Was it all a money laundering front (mission) for the mafia, inexplicably disguised as an entry in a long-forgotten RPG series? Who knows, who cares. Just play Gun Hazard instead if you’re dying for a Front Mission spin-off.