Burn Me Alive Review – Burn After Reading
Developed by ASD Studio
Published by ASD Studio
Available on PC
Caught in the fires of grief, one man takes a hellish descent into an inferno of diabolism and depravity. Unfortunately, it’s hard to generate even a spark of passion for the resulting game.
Burn Me Alive takes place in 1977, putting players in the shoes of widower Henry Gray. Having lost his wife and son to a house fire several years ago, Henry now works as an onsite caretaker of a graveyard in Tennessee. A serious alcoholic, his only companion is the family dog Charlie, whose barking late one night awakens Henry and sets the game’s events in motion. Someone or something has taken an interest in Henry and tasks him with completing a mysterious ritual in exchange for resurrecting his lost family. Played from a first-person perspective, Burn Me Alive’s roughly two-hour-long story revolves around solving puzzles, finding hidden objects, and some light combat.
Before listing the game’s flaws, it’s worth going over its merits. For one thing, Henry actually has a character model; if the player looks down, they’ll be able to see his body and feet, and a few of his interactions are even animated. This sounds like a minor thing to point out, but considering how many first-person games reduce the player character to a set of arms or even just a floating camera, the extra effort is appreciated.
Burn Me Alive also manages to be scary, albeit in the most simplistic way possible. Make no mistake; you’re not going to be haunted by the game’s themes, nor is its atmosphere going to linger when you stop playing. Instead, darkened hallways and jump scares (some better executed than others) do at least manage to create tension, even if it’s the cheap jumpiness that comes from waiting for the next thing to pop out and go boo. Still, given the horror games out there that don’t even manage to do this, credit must be given where credit is due.
But besides these fleeting scares, there’s scant little to recommend the game. From a technical perspective, it’s an unqualified mess. The fact that installing it took up 5GB didn’t bode well, and such apprehension soon proved justified. Crashes were frequent and the framerate was abysmal, hovering at around anywhere from 17 to 25 FPS, and sometimes hitting lows of 12 and 14. This was running on an Intel I5-3470 with 8 GB of RAM; not the world’s most powerful computer, but something that should have been more than capable of running this smoothly. The game also lacks a number of basic quality of life features, including something as simple as a brightness setting.
In truth, better performance wouldn’t have been able to make up for the other letdowns. It may give a flavor of the game to talk about the ham-fisted environment design, which simply throws every creepy thing that could be found on an asset store into the mix without taste or restraint. That a traumatized, drink-addled cemetery caretaker would live in a filthy shack is conceivable enough. That the same shack has Silent Hill 4’s iconic locked door at the end of a hallway, Layers of Fear-esque nightmare paintings strung up everywhere, and a massive pentagram etched onto one wall; less so. Later on, Henry finds an altar with Warhammer 40,000’s star of Chaos on it, after that, there’s a fountain with a statue of Cthulhu. Why? Because… horror.
Taken on an individual basis, most of Burn Me Alive’s failings are all things we’ve seen elsewhere. Player character control is clunky, but that could be said of many a classic survival horror title. The voice acting is really no better nor worse than standard horror fare, even if the writing clearly suffers from not being written by a native English speaker. And it’s hard to criticize the schlocky story knowing that there are AAA games out there that play out like they were written by a 12-year-old (looking at you, Resident Evil Village).
What kills it is the price point. If Burn Me Alive was free or only cost a few pennies, none of the above criticisms would matter that much. It could be accepted for what it very likely is; an attempt by some very junior developers to get to grips with the Unreal Engine. Some enjoyment could even have been had; a jump scare may not be high-brow, but you can still wring tension out of it. At the time of writing, however, the game is retailing for £13.50 here in the UK (or $18 US). Such pricing signals that this game should be judged as a professional commercial product, not an amateur endeavor done for fun. By such standards, it fails.
Burn Me Alive hardly set the world on fire. Its embers should fade with no more said.