Reviews

Alpha Protocol review

 

Release Date:
Developer: Obsidian
Publisher: Sega
Singleplayer: yes
Splitscreen:  no
Multiplayer: no
PEGI: 15+

Alpha Protocol has the right idea’s, as it proudly claims on the box it’s an espionage RPG allowing you take on the role of Mike Thorton, the latest recruit to the secretive Alpha Protocol agency who work outside of the normal rules.
It’s every spy fans dream, allowing you to finally live out those daring missions and mixing it with an RPG is a perfect plan.

And in many places Alpha Protocol is a fantastic game, its main draw being its multi choice story.
And that’s where Alpha Protocol stands out from the crowd, its story has many choices to make along its path but unlike many games there is no moral system to tell you what is good or bad and the game never feels like it’s rewarding or punishing you for being one or the other.
Each choice affects the game in many ways giving Alpha Protocol good replay value, keeping a target alive can lead to extra help in future missions, extra weaponry in the Black Market and more.

The game also makes use of its fantatic diologue system, as you speak to a person a bar will appear as they speak giving you until they finish their sentence to choose your reply, this gives the conversations a more fluid feeling that other games like Mass Effect 2.
Options include professional, Call, Angry, Flirt etc allowing you to act your character to your wish.
In fact many missions are entirely dialogue based, allowing you to earn the trust of characters in the game which plays a major role,  judging the character of each person is important if you want to earn more allies. 

Of course this is all part of the games RPG nature, as you progress you can level up your character allowing you to put points in the different stats such as Stealth, Pistols, Sabotage etc allowing you to tailor the game to your playstyle, if you prefer stealth then missions can be completed entirely in that way while the guns blazing approach can also be used.
It’s refreshing to play a game that allows you tackle it as you wish, something that is also done via mission selection as you can often choose between several missions.
You can head straight for the main missions quickly, or you can take time and visit contacts and make allies to help in missions.

Along the way you gain a nice pile of cash, whether it’s from backhand deals or just finding it lying around and it can be used in a decently extensive weapon customisation.
Pistols, SMG’s, Shotguns and assault Rifles can all be bought though oddly Sniper Rifles are missing.
You can add barrels, scopes, stocks and more to them though there are some wierd choices like the fact that only pistols can take silencers and many parts just look the same.
Weapons tend to feel pretty samey as well bar their different stats which is a shame.
Armour can also be purchased and customised.

However, while Alpha Protocol may contain great potential it’s plagued by problems, both in gameplay and technical terms.

It’s the action elements that suffer most, the game uses a cover system which works as you would expect, tap “A” to take cover but it feels slow and unresponsive and often clunky to use.
The first few hours of gunplay is frustrating as well thanks to being largely stat based leading to many moments of standing at point-blank range and still not managing to hit the enemy.
Later on in the game gunplay picks up as long as you spend points in the corresponding skill tree, but even then it still feels slightly awkward.

The stealth elements are also mediocore  with no way to tell when an enemy can see or hear you, it’s a hit and miss affair as you attempt to guess the enemies range of vision and shadows seem to have no affect upon your stealth, and while it is certainly a playable element to the game it can begin to feel tedious.
It’s also hampered by the fact that pistols are the only weapon able to accept silencers giving you little choice in weaponry.

The various mini-games that are used to hack computers, doors etc can also become frustrating at points.

Alpha Protocol is also let down by dated graphics that show poor textures, rough edges and plenty of graphical glitches as well as texture pop in and mid level loading which all detract from the overall experience.

Voice acting is well done but sadly the lad characters actor is a bland person indeed leading to Mike Thorton having a monotone voice that never alters pitch leading to a rather lifeless lead character which is shame as the dialogue throughout the game is well written and there are several interesting characters along the way.

Throw in some dodgy animations and fiddly controls to help put a nail in the coffin of what should have been a superb espionage game.

But for all of its faults it’s an enjoyable game to play and I was quite happy to go back and put another hour or two into the game, it has a certain addictive quality that is hard to explain, perhaps it’s the simple addictivness of levelling up or the wanting to find out what happens next.

Alpha Protocol is a hard game to judge, as you play you can feel and see the games potential and the right ideas are all there from its superb multi branching storyline and dialogue system to the idea of combining espionage and rpg.
But many of its core mechanics let it down leading to a rather meager experience, it’s far from a bad game but it should have been so much more.

The Good:
+ the storyline and choices that affect it are superb
+ being a spy!
+ deciding whether its worth  letting a target live

The Bad:
- dodgy combat…
- and stealth
- It looks very dated

Scores:

Graphics: 6
It’s no looker and while the locations are varied you’ll often fine yourself in boring warehouses and houses. poor textures and pop in also leave their mark.

Sound: 7.5
Some pretty good voice acting but the lead character sounds like a monotone plank and other sound details sound a little lackluster.

Story: 9
Alpha Protocol excels in delivering a well told story but it’s the multibranching story and choices to be made that really stand out.

Gameplay: 6.5
Fantastic dialogue system and the games use of choices make for an engaging experience but the combat and stealth which makes up a vast majority of the game are sorely lacking

Lifespan: 8
The multiple endings deserve several playthroughs and each will last you around 10-15 hours but you can’t keep your gear and stats each time and many will find themselves struggling to run through a second time due to the disappointing gameplay.

Overall: 6.5
Alpha Protocol deserves a sequel to realise its potential and it could be the start if a great series, but as it stands it’s a great idea let down by much of its basic mechanics and technical flaws, it’s certainly not a bad game and it’s one that should be considered when the price drops, all of this leads to its score which is  decent enough, it may not go down as one of the greatest but it certainly has an addictive quality to it.

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