Review by AndywoodCubeGmr
"Unpolished, but one of the most ambitious games of this generation."
Alpha Protocol is certainly a game with some serious ambition behind it, sporting a highly interesting and suitably twist-filled spy story-line, a top quality dialogue system and a decent sized cast of deep and interesting characters. In addition to this the game has a simply staggering amount of storyline branches which can change depending on even the slightest of actions from your depiction of our lead character, Michael Thornton. Add all this to a solid skill development system (this is intended to be RPG first, shooter second after-all) and you could be left wondering why the game came out to such a mixed critical reception (Current Meta-scores stand at 63 and 65 out of 100 for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 respectively).
Well, in my opinion, their are two reasons for this. 1.) The game is riddled with little bugs and glitches, although nothing that is ever more than just a mild annoyance, and 2.) The fact that first few hours of Alpha Protocol are, in my opinion, some of the most frustrating and all around appalling hours I've spent playing a game in the last few years.
So with that, onwards to the review!
Alpha Protocol will see you playing as Michael Thornton, an agent for the off the radar government agency; yes you guessed it, Alpha Protocol. I can't particularly go into any more detail about Michael due to the fact that the player is very much free to craft him into whomever they want him to be through the way they play the game and their choices using the games dialogue wheel throughout any conversation. The wheel usually consists of three main styles for Michael to speak in, namely Professional, Suave and Aggressive, although from time to time you will have special options at the bottom of the wheel.
The dialogue in Alpha Protocol is the game's biggest strength easily. Not only is it all very well delivered but the choices you make during it can really craft your entire game. Some examples of this would be that, with the right choices, the player can make all their biggest enemies into allies, or likewise make their allies turn on them and sell them out to gangs and other organisations.
Essentially every single character Michael speaks to in the game will have an opinion score of him, ranging from hated right up to friendship, and for all of these characters it is possible to reach either end of that scale. Add this to the fact that most of your missions will result in Thornton having to make further huge decisions such as, to try my best to avoid spoilers, whether to save a friend or stop a terrorist bombing amongst many others and I'm you can imagine the scale and depth of content found in Alpha Protocol, the game really open to a wealth of possibilities to the extent that the game could be hugely enjoyable for at least another run or two depending on personal preference, although even then I would expect it to take anything up to 5 plays through for you to truly see everything the game has to offer, an impressive feat.
As I quickly touched on in the introduction the story is fairly good throughout no matter which way you choose to play the game. Each mission has its own separate storyline to it which are for the most part very interesting, the missions in Taipei and Rome were particularly interesting and even on my first play through of the game is was already contemplating playing again to tackle the missions in other ways.
It's very hard to rate Alpha Protocol in terms of game-play due to the fact that it can range from pure brilliance to absolute tedium. In particular the first few hours of the game are pretty much a train wreck, you're character's abilities are low to the point where Michael can't shoot a bullet even if you aim it for about 30 minutes, he finds himself getting spotted for fun and the entire game just seems all around a shoddy, unpolished mess (To the point where after my first couple of hours I was projecting a score around 3/10 for the game). Despite this painful start though I would urge any gamer to power through it because the game really does become something pretty special and after a few more hours the horror of the beginning of the game will be forgotten to you.
To touch back on to the third persons shooter mechanics of the game once you grind Michael through the early tedium of the game and start to put some ability points into some skill paths (paths include: stealth, pistols, assault rifles, sabotage and many more) the game really picks up due to the fact that now your government super spy can *gasp* actually shoot people without missing (or perhaps actually walk from point A to B without being seen depending on your skill choices). Although I should note that the shooting side of the game never does go beyond merely average, so if you were coming into this game expecting a fun, action packed shooter then prepare for disappointment. Despite this though the RPG side of things do pick up by giving you some fun and useful abilities to use and, as I said above, by delivering an engrossing storyline with deep characters.
Alpha Protocol should last you around 10-12 hours for your initial play through if not a little longer, and then any additional plays through would perhaps take maybe 6-8 hours. Add that to the fact that the game has a huge amount of re-playability and it comes out being a game that could find itself in your disk drive for a long, long time.
Bolted on Graphics/Sound summary
Graphically the game is serviceable but nothing even close to the cutting edge we see from the typical blockbuster releases. Considering that this is a far lower budget title than your Call of Duty's and Final Fantasy's though the game does an admirable job in the graphics department, particularly in terms of the characters which all come out looking pretty good, if a little bit rigid at times (which, to be fair, would only be noticed on a game as dialogue heavy as this). The environments all look fairly generic and plain though sadly which does bring the game down at times, and the games common random bugs and glitches don't help it either (enemy-in-wall
syndrome is a particularly common issue).
In terms of audio the game shines for its quality voice over's. Whether the character in question is Thornton himself or one in a much smaller role the voices are all solid and the characters for the most part feel like they act realistically to whichever dialogue stances you choose with Thornton. The games BGM does its job as background music but nothing more, and the same goes for the sounds made from guns, movement and the like.
So whether or not you should play Alpha Protocol depends on whether or not you would be willing to grind through the rather terrible first few hours of the game and also whether you're a gamer interested at all in a solid story and interesting dialogue. If you answered no to either of those then perhaps Alpha Protocol isn't for you. It would be a shame to miss out on the game though, since after you shake off those first few hours of dust, you'll be sure to find a real diamond in the rough here.
Final Score 7.7/10 (Rounded to an 8 for GameFAQ's)
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/22/11
Game Release: Alpha Protocol (EU, 05/28/10)
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