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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Left Alive is a stealth-based action game with third-person shooter elements for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Players assume the roles of characters attempting to survive a military invasion of their country. They witness atrocities, including the executions of innocent civilians, while attempting to help where they can. Players have agency in how they react to situations, but the protagonists are generally led along a path trying to do good for their country. Along the way, they fight back using a variety of weapons, explosives, and even giant combat robots, killing enemy soldiers amid sprays of red blood and cries of pain. Parents should also be aware that players can make their characters drink vodka -- a collectible resource in the game -- for a simulated drunken effect, and that strong language is peppered throughout dialogue.
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What’s It About?
LEFT ALIVE is set in the world of Square Enix's long-running Front Mission series, which imagines a distant future where countries have fallen into warring economic blocs. The story begins with one of these powers invading another, and the player takes on the role of a young wanzer (giant military robot) pilot trying to evade capture. Later chapters introduce additional playable characters, including a female officer in the middle of an investigation when the attack occurs and a war-tested veteran soldier. Key narrative scenes allow players to role-play these characters, making decisions about how they react to situations. There's no right or wrong way to handle each scenario, but the player's choices will affect the tone of the characters, making them seem cowardly, heroic, cautious, or daring. Action is focused on stealthy movement and planned attacks, with players able to collect resources to create various traps and explosives in an effort to avoid direct combat, which is risky since ammunition is limited and enemies are powerful. Some missions allow players to also pilot wanzers, providing a break from stealth in the form of large-scale military combat.
Is It Any Good?
There are some interesting ideas here, but they never merge into a truly fun and playable game. Left Alive's firefights can be punishingly difficult, encouraging players to exercise caution and plan out strategies to deal with enemies rather than rush in with guns blazing. But the stealth systems -- which involve much more than just hiding to avoid detection -- aren't fully formed. Resources, including both bullets and items needed for crafting explosives and traps, are so scarce that wasting them by accident can leave you virtually unable to complete core objectives. And the covering system is unreliable. Sometimes enemies won't see you when you're standing in the open just a couple of buildings away, while other times they'll somehow spot you when you think you're properly hidden, crouched behind an object or wall. Factor in seemingly superhuman foes -- who are all crack sharpshooters with nearly unending health -- and some clumsy controls that make the player-controlled characters feel like rookie soldiers, and the end result is a lot of unavoidable deaths and restarts. Challenging games can be fun and rewarding, but this one isn't.
The only redeeming part of the experience is the story, which sometimes tries to dig into the philosophy of war and conflict similar to the Metal Gear games. Two of the three characters (the wanzer pilot is a bit flakey) are compelling and sympathetic protagonists who make you want to see their stories through. And being able to make decisions that help shape these characters is a plus, even if it doesn't always affect the story as much as you might think. Sadly, the storytelling takes a backseat to that clumsy, tough, and frustrating stealth action, which ends up putting a thorough damper on the whole game. Left Alive might be worth enduring for die-hard Front Mission fans starving for whatever they can get from a once popular series now dormant for nearly a decade, but there's little here that will be enjoyable for anyone else.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Is the impact of the violence in Left Alive affected by the scenes that show the execution of civilians to heighten the drama and make players invest themselves emotionally in the story? Do you think this sort of storytelling tactic works, or does it feel like graphic violence for the sake of graphic violence?
Do you role-play how the character would or should respond to the situation, or do you put yourself in the character's shoes and make decisions based on what you think you would do?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Release date: March 5, 2019
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- Topics: Robots
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
- Last updated: December 14, 2021
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