Alpha Protocol Review

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Date Released: June 1, 2010
Date Reviewed: September 6, 2010
Players: 1 Player Only
Length: 15-25 Hours
Replayability: Good

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Introduction

Alpha Protocol: The Espionage RPG is a 2010 game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by SEGA. Inspired with elements from many of the most popular videogames of the decade, Alpha Protocol adds them together into an ambitious RPG with mixed results.

Concept

Alpha Protocol is a third person action RPG that gives the player many more choices than most in the genre generally offer. Foremost is the dialog system, similar to that of SEGA’s Sakura Taisen series where you must continue a conversation with a character by selecting the sentence the player feels is the best response, but all within an allotted time. Along with this comes a selection of weapons, gadgets and items the player may equip depending on how they want to play.

Everything the player does within Alpha Protocol will potentially change the story, how characters will react around you, if they will support or work against you and even change the type of gameplay you can experience. As advertised, your weapon is the choices you make.

Story

The game starts off with a civilian airliner being shot down by a fictional terrorist group named Al-Samad. You play as Agent Michael Thorton, the newest member to Alpha Protocol, a service which is set in place for covert operations that the United States will be able to deny if necessary. Your first mission is to assassinate the leader of the terrorist group, but when he is captured he claims that a defense contracting company named Halbech sold him the missiles with information with how to carry out the attack. You are given the choice to kill the terrorist leader or let him survive (effectively making him an ally), but right after regardless of the decision made, Thorton’s location is hit with a missile strike, and he only barely escapes. Presumed dead by his government, Agent Thorton learns Halbech is planning to ignite a new Cold War only for their profit and that they have a member (or members) of their own hidden within Alpha Protocol, potentially making the only people you can come in contact with exactly the people who want you dead.

Early on the player will realize that there are no “Good” or “Evil” paths, but only how the mission has to be completed and who you want on your side. Each choice can potentially alter the rest of the game and everything is taken into account especially when the game is winding down to a conclusion.

Gameplay

When the game starts, the player is given the choice as to what kind of gameplay style they would prefer. Depending on what you choose you are still able to shift your style throughout the experience, and you can even make new play mechanics by attempting missions in different ways. While it is not smart to dash into a room filled with enemies all around you equipped with just a pistol, if the player wants to do that it is possible as the game is just challenging enough to not make the experience a bore, but fair enough you are to beat any mission with any weapon combination, even if severely under-leveled. The same cannot be said about sneaking as many of the stages have bosses that have to be aware of you for you to move on.

Similar to BioWare’s RPG Mass Effect, once the player levels up you are able to choose which fields you would like to grow, such as if you want more health or to make you better with a specific kind of weapon. Also similar to it are the timed abilities you will be able to unlock if you build up a specific stat. These will let you be able to do such things as slowing down time to aim your weapon better, turning completely invisible while sneaking, having unlimited ammo or being able to see enemies through walls. This gives Alpha Protocol a wide variety of options to the player, but much of it comes in far too late in the experience and it leaves a bad first impression as even basic weapons will be hard for many players to use in the outset of the game.

The AI has a good amount of issues, while they do flank you from all possible angles once you are in cover and they never “Forget” you were around once someone saw you (like most other games like this do), they might not notice you when you are next to them and they can only notice ‘some’ dead bodies, even if they are right in front of them. Almost every enemy will try to take you down with weapons or gadgets such as grenades or things that can distort your vision. However, when they are close enough they will usually charge you and try to take you out with their fists or the butt of their weapon. You can fight with your fists and legs, but many times it will catch you off guard, forcing your character to stall. If you are caught within many enemies or if they are behind your camera it can get frustrating as to how you can escape this. Later on you will be able to get powers that knock them all away, but again, this can leave a very bad first impression and should not have been an issue to begin with.

Sound originalreviews

As much of the game takes place in cutscenes with many conversations, poor voice acting could have hurt the experience a lot. Thankfully for the most part the cast is very good with such well-known actors such as James Hong, Jim Cummings, Nolan North and Gary Anthony Williams, all of which add much character to their respective roles. Not every line by every character in the game is award winning material, but considering the vast amount of character types, accents and different kind of reactions they can all give, it is an impressive feat that there are so few issues to be found.

The music will change depending on how you play a specific level. If you are sneaking around the music will be really mellow but wary and if you go out blasting bullets in every direction the beat will be fast and loud. Each setting has it’s own types of music and instruments included giving each their own flair, but even with many of the songs using a full orchestra nothing in Alpha Protocol particularly stands out as a very memorable track – Outside of the licensed song “Turn Up The Radio” by the band Autograph.

Visuals

Alpha Protocol features some extremely detailed sections and some horribly blocky areas with low quality textures that are possible on the Dreamcast. For the most part it is the former, but much of the earliest sections in the game have some of the worst graphics, so again, many players will have a bad first impression.

All of the characters have good lip syncing, but it does not really have any effect on the player as all of the characters move in an extremely robotic fashion and are usually devoid of most emotion. Making matters worse are some sections such as when you are climbing a ladder and cannot break your animation, enemies can surround you and shoot you while you slowly trudge up or down, removing a large portion of your health, if not just killing you. This is not helped when some of the sections are a bit too small to begin with, and how you cannot just jump down to a lower section without a whole new animation starting up.

The art for the most part is perfect for what it needs to be. The menus are sleek and easy to understand while the dialog system is easy to read within the limited time you have to read it and know what the other character is telling you. All of the weapons are customizable with different upgrades, and it actually effects how they look in-game. Michael Thorton himself is also customizable based on outfits that change how much armor he has, or how fast he can run, but the changes you can make to his face, such as his hair and eyes have no effect on the game at all and were most likely added in very late to the development.

Special Notes

Alpha Protocol had a troubled development history. Half way through development the budget and development team was increased with the cancellation of the Aliens RPG, Obsidian Entertainment’s other game under SEGA. Because Alpha Protocol had planned as a smaller release at first the process became unequal and much of the title had to be rebuilt with new fundamentals. It was delayed multiple times to finally be released late – To mixed sales and opinions. Because of this, Mike Hayes, the President of SEGA West announced that because the title cost so much to develop it will not be getting a sequel.

Conclusion

Alpha Protocol: The Espionage RPG is a game that attempts a lot of great concepts without really excelling at anything in particular, not a bad game or a great one, just good. A lot of promise was here and could have been addressed in a sequel, but that is not going to happen now. Many obvious issues hold the game down, but there is a lot here to enjoy for whoever is willing to give it a chance. If you want a good and mature story without all the gore and want a game with a little bit of everything and do not mind a few sections that are rough around the edges then Alpha Protocol will keep you busy for weeks.

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Formats: PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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One Response to “Alpha Protocol Review”

  1. Obsidian CEO wants to make Alpha Protocol 2 « The SEGA Source Says:

    […] Regardless of the outcome, we have given Alpha Protocol a positive review. […]

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