Reviews: Alpha Protocol

Love this game

Got this game for Christmas, completed it twice, regardless of what the reviews say, in my opinion, this beats ME 2.

One point over the majority of Bioware games that this game possesses is your relationships with other characters , in this game, their interactions with you change depending on your relationship with them and so on, and things like playing as an arrogant jerk can come back to bite you later.

The characters are mostly pretty entertaining, Steven Heck is definitely the most fun, with his conspiracy theories and sociopathy that's so OTT that you can't help but laugh.

The gameplay meanwhile, though not perfect, allows for a decent range of different approaches, you can sneak about, go in full attack, rely on non lethal gadgets or grenades, while your range with weapons (Especially the pistol) do improve as you level up, at first the range for them is pretty lame, with precision shots with the pistol only working at very close range.

The main problems with this game are the graphical glitches, with objects sometimes rendering as you enter the area, a pity since this is an otherwise good looking game, despite all the reports with other glitches, I've only encountered one major one so far, which kept me locked in a crouch position till I reloaded a save.

The Romances seem to be rather rushed, moreso than Mass Effects "Three convo's and you're done" romances, because at least with that game you knew you were going into a romance, while I managed to romance Madison St James purely BY ACCIDENT.

Thornton is also a step down from The Exile from KOTOR 2, pity since aside from Dragon Age's player character, Obsidians Exile was my fav WRPG player character.

Still, a very good RPG, the plot is entertaining, the characters memorable, the choices themselves - despite moving away from the traditional dialogue trees I tend to prefer - are pretty inspired, and the gameplay, despite needing so getting used to, is varied with well designed levels, overall, awesome

Shakey, but stirring

First of all, I apologize for the terrible pun :'(

Alpha Protocol is a great character-driven TPS conspiracy thriller, but it does stumble in a few places. The good:

  • It's a solid TPS, if you invest a lot of points in a weapon and health. The AI, while not brilliant, is a bit better than the whack-a-mole opponents found in other cover-based shooters like Mass Effect.

  • The dialogue is fantastic and many of the characters are well-developed, as you'd expect from an Obsidian game.

  • The game is clearly made with replay value in mind.

It's certainly not a title without flaws however. The not-so-good:

  • The game is incredibly buggy, even years after release. The game uses a checkpoint system to save progress, but restoring to a previous checkpoint often carries over baggage which you're likely reloading to avoid in the first place. Trip an alarm & reload? The alarm is off- but the level will be magically filled with the guards the alarm summoned. Accidentally shoot a marine in the head during the chaotic escape from the American Embassy? Reload and you'll have regained Mina's favor, but the end-of-mission summary is convinced you murdered soldiers and Leland taunts you about it later. Thorton also frequently gets stuck on level geometry and shotgun-toting goons fire bursts of assault rifle rounds. Why Obsidian cannot playtest their games is beyond me.

  • The conversation system relies on timed adjectival dialogue selection. Sometimes this works well, and leads to tense, compelling character interaction. Some of the options give little indication as to what Mike will say however, lacking context and/or having multiple possible meanings. It's also obnoxious when a character says something of vital importance at the very end of their dialogue, giving you literally a second to pick a response.

  • The game is pretty clearly built with blast-it-out combat in mind, with stealth being a chore.

  • Although I appreciate the attempt to encourage repeat playthroughs, it's almost impossible to complete all your dossiers in one run, meaning you'll leave the game with a lot of unanswered questions and hanging plot threads.

In all it's a solid 8 or 9/10 title (depending on how much you care for character interaction), just be aware what you're getting into.

Closest thing we'll ever see to a new Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines.

This game lacks polish in important places; the boss battles are just as bad, if not worse than those in Human Revolution; HR usually gives you an option of some kind (throwing the explosive barrels at Barret, for example) whereas the bosses in AP tend to require knowledge of how they work mechanically so the player can exploit map or AI flaws (having trouble getting away from Brayko when he snorts his coke? Just run around the center podium, he can't turn around it as fast as you can. I mean, DUH.) Out-of-cutscene animation is often ridiculous; watching everyone walk makes you think they all slept on the floor last night and woke up with stiff muscles everywhere.

And it's all worth it. Dialog choices are so important that even the Internet's biggest unprofessional asshole described it as the game just showing off. Any weapon can get you through the game if you actually have a brain about spending your skill points (if you're bad at RPGs, specialize in pistols, and you'll be fine.) Dialog and cutscenes change based on how skilled you are at certain things. Characters aren't just talking heads; they get involved enough to make you love or hate them depending on what kind of a person you're playing Mike as. It's impossible to make everything go your way in a single playthrough, but you can come close enough to be satisfied that the game isn't cheating you for the sake of fake re-playability or "realism." You can easily get four or five playthroughs that are radically different from each other in interaction alone, not counting the simple things like tackling missions and locations in different orders.

What irritates me consistently about reactions to this game isn't that some people don't like it, it's that so many who don't like it clearly played it for less than an hour and decided to be internet tough-guys about it. The amount of complaining that's outright incorrect about this game is staggering, and the winner is probably "the pistol is useless." Anyone who's even attempted stealth will tell you the pistol is the most overpowered weapon, in an arsenal that's overpowered.

AP is not nearly as good a shooter as Mass Effect. It is, however, a much better RPG. If you enjoyed Bloodlines or if you enjoy an action-oriented RPG that leans heavily enough on the RPG side that your character sheet is important, you'll like this game.

This needs to be a cult classic

A man meets me in the café, he's not the person who I was told I was going to meet up with, but I expected things might turn out like this. He's a rival and an adversary, but we share a degree of mutual respect, a clean cut practical man, he's trying to get the size of me and potentially dissuade me before we meet in a more hostile environment, maybe he can recruit me, eventually that option will get given to me. We talk, he begins to cut me down, analyse me from the inside out psychologically, and I mean me not the PC, I've been careful, professional, keeping casualties to a minimum, silent in Rome, did a good job in Thailand, motivated by duty etc. And then I do the same to him, I've been paying for intel, digging it up on computers and talking to people and know I pay him back like for like, exposing every flaw, every insecurity. I plant the seed of doubt in his mind, he likes me, maybe his superiors don't have his best interests in mind. Maybe when the time comes he'll hesitate on that order.

This is Alpha Protocol at it's best, a vast interconnected web of relationships and events. A spy RPG is doing well when I only realise that I could have trusted that person as they lie dead on the floor beside me. And I could have saved them, the fate of almost every NPC will pass through your hands at some point in this game and the choices will have very real consequences, both in short term relationships, money, weapons, plot, which enemies show up on which levels. There are no wrong decisions, just the decision you chose with the consequences that came with it. You get perks for stealth kills and violent kills

Previously in RP Gs, the player would read a possible dialogue, interpret it for its mood and judge how the NPC would respond. Recently RP Gs like Mass Effect just removed the full dialogue leaving people to red/blue conversations. AP gives you broad moods instead and asks you which best suits your purpose. There's a timer so conversation feel panicked.

The gunplay/stealth isn't bad, although it's RPG focused with aim circles and abilities that help a lot, but you always want more conversations and less combat (get pistols). When the levels mix it up as best. There are bugs but talk was overstated, but nothing that really spoils the enjoyment.

It's not perfect, not polished, but there is real gold if you're willing to dig

Know what this game is, and is not, and you'll love it.

A lot of the complaints I hear about this game come from games who, apparently, never read a review of the game and didn't have a good understanding of what it was going in. So let me make it clear what this is IS NOT, first.
  • This game is not Splinter Cell, or Thief. Stealthing your way through everything is not always practical, it is never necessary, and it's rare that you're rewarded substantially more for being quiet than you are for being loud. Don't expect Alpha Protocol to be a perfect stealth game.
  • This game is not Deus Ex. While there might be multiple approaches to a problem and branching plotlines, there's really only ever one way to go through a level map, and no real sidequests. Don't expect Alpha Protocol to be super-diverse in its gameplay.
  • This game is not a spy-themed Mass Effect, whatever third-person-shooter mechanics they have in common. In general, the plot and the choices you make in it are more complicated than in Mass Effect, and the rewards are often less immediate.
  • This game is not like any FPS where you can pick up any weapon and use it proficiently: if you want to succeed, specialize.

Now here's what this game IS:
  • A pretty good TPS. If you've invested plenty of points into your weapon of choice, you'll be able to enjoy hours of fun blowing people away, up close or behind cover.
  • A semi-decent sneaking game. While it's not always important, it's often helpful to take down enemies silently, avoid setting off alarms, and go through the locked, unguarded door instead of the unlocked one with a bunch of people with guns behind it. If nothing else, it's a nice challenge that adds a level of complexity to the gameplay.
  • A fantastic story. This is definitely a game you'll want to play more than once, to experience the variety of ways it could play out. You're never heavily punished for your decisions.

If you enjoyed all the games on the "this game isn't" list, chances are you'll like Alpha Protocol, as this game combines some of the elements of all of those without quite turning solidly into one of them.

My biggest complaint is that Alpha Protocol uses a checkpoint-based saving system, which can be a real pain in the ass if you want to save right before a conversation (and you can't look at the menu while in dailogue) or before you do something that might blow your cover. Oh well...

This generation's overlooked gem

I purchased Alpha Protocol quite cheaply from an on-line site's clearance sale.I wasn't really expecting much when I finally got round to playing it a couple of months ago due to critic apathy and stories of glitching. I don't understand where that hate came from as this is the greatest game Bioware never published. It's better than the first Mass Effect (and uses a system, which is, in many ways, similar). The money was clearly spent where it counted: script, voice acting and story. The story is pretty much as good as you'll get in a video game (perfectly serviceable spy hokum) and demands repeated play-throughs to allow you to everything from taking over the world yourself (good and evil variants) to sailing off into the sunset with whichever of the women you've managed to seduce.

Combat can be played steathly or shooty (or some mixture of the two) and, bar a few boss fights, is always fun and intuitive. The story is the star though. This game should have been huge. It really is as good as, if not better, the best of those Bioware style "player choice" RPGs (it , does away with any element of simplistic moral judgement for one thing) yet it remains a curiosity. Given the love that was obviously spent on the game, what happened to it must break the developers' hearts. I am on my third play through on the 360 and, other than occasional minor graphical glitches, have had no problems.

Choice is Your Weapon

Alpha Protocol is one of those games that is terribly underrated. While far from the be-all-end-all of gaming, Alpha Protocol is a solid espionage RPG that is distinctive in it's branching storyline, balanced character builds, and use of consequences to define how you influence the plot and setting.

First, the bad. Gameplay is not the absolute best, I will admit. Enemy AI is relatively weak, with guards regularly walking into ambushes and traps, not taking good cover or flanking, and generally being typical videogame morons. When you're shuffling gadgets, ammunition types, and special abilities you'll have to constantly shift between menus, which slows things down, as you can only have one ability or gadget hotkeyed at a time. Graphically, the game is competent but not perfect, and some of the environments are relatively bland. There are some clipping issues, texture pop-in, and a few characters look plastic.

All of that said, the game has an amazing, interconnected storyline and a cast of distinct characters. Treachery, deception, and secrets are commonplace, and the game demands that you explore and dig into the pasts of other characters to find the truth. Thirty Xanatos Pileup applies to this game like no other. As a spy thriller, Alpha Protocol delivers. In addition, the use of the reputation system is particularly impressive in how it influences the storyline and your own abilities.

In regard to abilities, the game is remarkably balanced. Every set of abilities has its function. If you don't put any points into a skill, you'll be terrible at that skill, and even then you'll need to figure out the niche a particular skill is most effective for. For example, pistols are most effective for stealth attacks at short range, though with enough points in them you can use them for selective long-range attacks using Chain Shot. Nearly any build is viable as long as it is reasonably sane and you know how to use it. Stealth, martial arts, technology, firearms, etc. all have their uses and figuring out how to use them most effectively is a major part of the game. And once you both know how to use a set of skills and put enough points in them, youc an turn Mike Thorton into a pure badass.

Overall, a solid and satisfying game with a great story, good gameplay, and some flaws.