Not 4 Dead, but Left Alive

This Tokyo Game Show will be light on announcements, as indicated by the lack of titles revealed in the leadup to the convention and the showcases at the 2017 PlayStation Press Conference in Japan. But one of the biggest titles announced was Left Alive, an ostensibly-new IP from Square Enix for PlayStation 4 and Steam. With the announcement, the company provided all the info they needed to get some in the gaming audience intrigued.

Left Alive will be a third-person survival action shooter with veteran developers involved, including some who’ve worked at Square Enix for a while and others new to the company. It will be directed by Toshifumi Nabeshima, who previously directed some Armored Core games at From Software, and produced and provided writing for several others. Yoji Shinkawa is handling the character designs, who previously worked on the Metal Gear series and has recently had several opportunities to spread his wings thanks to no longer being bound by Konami. Finally, Takayuki Yanase is handling the mech designs, who previously worked on several mobile suits for Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and provided designs for Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Those names were already enough to suggest the game will be aesthetically pleasing, and piqued the interest of the audience despite the teaser containing no gameplay or info whatsoever. In the interim between the announcement and full reveal, though, we learned some details through prior hints.

Siliconera reported a little over two years ago that Square Enix was working on a new Front Mission game, and Nabeshima’s name was included in the article. While this clearly wasn’t announced as a Front Mission game, it hinted at this title’s full identity.

Instead of taking up too much time at Sony’s conference, Square Enix saved the bigger info for the pages of Famitsu magazine and a stream held at TGS. Left Alive will actually occur in Font Mission’s universe in the year 2127, setting it after Front Mission 5 and before Front Mission Evolved. (Just in case anyone thought Square Enix ejected Evolved from canon after it was critically and commercially maligned.) But it’s clearly not an actual FM game, thanks to the genre switch from a strategy/RPG.

It will primarily be an offline single-player game, and will star the three characters depicted in the main concept art. Players will switch between them at certain intervals as they progress through the game’s Russian city, which will have a stage-based structure. How they’ll reach their destination is up to the player’s decisions, as they’ll have the option of barreling their way towards the goal or sneaking around the environments they have to venture through for each mission. Whether this is an open-world game is currently unknown, but its stages will at least allow for open exploration even if its overall progression is linear.

Since this takes place in the Front Mission universe, its Wanzer mechs will be involved. The gameplay won’t be based around them, but the characters can temporarily use them. They also won’t have the deep, intricate customization from the FM games, which will be replaced with gathering and crafting mechanics for creating items and equipment. While that sounds far more generic than FM’s customization, that logic extends to the overall genre switch, since it’s clear their intention is to appeal to a larger audience than one an SRPG would reach. Hopefully they’ll make the best out of it.

Square Enix released a longer trailer after the information stream they held, though it’s full of text, and the snippets of gameplay pass by so quickly that you could blink and miss them. Enough was shown, however, to see how this looks strikingly reminiscent of the last few Metal Gear games. Stealth elements were shown in the video and screenshots, and characters will sometimes have to sneak around mechs. The Metal Gear franchise may be dead as we knew it, but this could be a fitting spiritual successor. Heck, before the project began development in earnest, the team consulted with Hideo Kojima and Kenichiro Imaizumi (also of Kojima Productions) along with Shinkawa to get their approval, which led to Shinkawa joining the project.

Keep in mind I said this “could be a fitting spiritual successor.” Square Enix has been vague about precisely who’s developing this, though some hints suggest it could be an internal project. That’s a little concerning given their tumultuous history with third-person shooters. Their most identifiable examples are The 3rd Birthday and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, both of which left much to be desired — though the former is better than the latter. But this is a new team with new talent, and hopefully they can overcome the hurdles that crippled those titles.

Left Alive will release sometime in 2018. Since the PS4 version is a big focus, perhaps they’re waiting until PlayStation Experience in December to provide a longer gameplay trailer. That would also give them enough time to add extra polish to the footage they release. This project is worth keeping an eye on, especially for still-dejected Metal Gear fans.

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