Review | Alpha Protocol
An illusion of fun…
Format: Xbox 360 (reviewed)/PC/PS3 | Genre: Action RPG | Publisher: Sega | Developer: Obsidian | Release Date: 28/05/2010 | Price: £44.99
Jennifer Allen sneaks her way through inevitable disappointment with ALPHA PROTOCOL.
I’M UTTERLY conflicted when it comes to Alpha Protocol. On the one hand I enjoyed the game’s narrative and its subtle nuances that make you think you can influence the game’s path. On the other hand I cringed at the oh so many moments that made me realise that Alpha Protocol is a badly constructed game. It’s a confusing mess, but one that, despite my better judgement, I did enjoy in places. Just not enough places to warrant me recommending it to anyone.
You play Michael Thorton, a man who must have spent years of his life muttering ‘It’s NOT Thornton’ to every call centre worker he’s ever spoken to. He’s also the newest member of Alpha Protocol, a covert agency that conducts missions that can’t be linked directly to the US government. Things don’t go too smoothly on his first mission though, and he’s thrown into a world of corruption and cover ups. So far, so very predictable spy story.
The spy who spoke professionally to me
After the first few hours of the game feeling very slow and mediocre, it was good to see what initially felt like an incredibly innovative approach to storytelling. Using a similar dialogue method to the Mass Effect series, you’re given a fair amount of choice as to how ‘your’ Thorton reacts to things. That’s not the innovative thing though, it’s the fact that it actually feels as if your responses really do affect how other people treat you and even so as far as affecting how the story progresses. Each piece of dialogue offers a few options such as reacting suavely, professionally or aggressively. There’s only a matter of a few seconds to make your choice, making things that bit tenser and more natural. It feels like it all makes a difference during the first playthrough, so it’s disappointing to see in further playthroughs that it’s actually all an illusion with most choices not really affecting a huge deal other than right at the end of the game. During the first playthrough however it’s quite exciting, at least if you ignore the fact that, more times than not, you’re better off just choosing the ‘professional’ approach. The second playthrough will quickly vanquish any illusions though, as you come to realise that this game is really quite formulaic, it just knows how to hide it well. You’re given a lot of choice as to how to approach things and what mission to do next thanks to having the choice of three different main locations to pursue. Again though, it never really feels as if there’s a significant difference depending on the order in which you partake in these scenarios.
It’s quite appropriate considering that Alpha Protocol’s developers Obsidian also developed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, the inferior sequel to Bioware’s classic RPG. Clearly Obsidian knows how to take fantastic ideas and implement them in a way that means they’re just not quite as good as they should be. This is unfortunately even more apparent when it comes to the action side of the game. It’s woeful to say the least.
Like a cross between a sub par Splinter Cell and the rather dodgy The Bourne Conspiracy, Alpha Protocol manages to fail at both stealth and action. The RPG style customisation options are quite varied on the surface. Much like the storyline progression, at first it looks like exactly what you could want from an action espionage RPG. The levelling up and class system allows you to specialise in various skills depending on what kind of spy you want to be. Do you want to be the subtle and sneaky Sam Fisher style character, or would you prefer to be the guns blazing Jack Bauer type? The options are there with various weapons to specialise in, technical skills to master and martial arts to learn. The problem is with how they’re implemented. It’s far too unbalanced making some sequences ridiculously easy while others are frustratingly difficult. If this was down to player ability it’d be fine, but it’s more down to the game obviously preferring players to go down a certain path in their character progression.
Pages: 1 2