29th May 2010 - Well, its finally here. Its been a long wait, and after countless delays from the original ‘confirmed’ release date of September 2009, we finally have our hands on the first Modern Day Espionage Role Playing Game. The general pretence of the game sounds absolutely great, and with such a dynamic slew of promised features, one could only imagine what a great game this could be for RPG and Action fans everywhere. But now that’s its here, is Alpha Protocol worth the tedious wait we gave it?
Your Weapon is Choice
This was Alpha Protocols sub-heading and was displayed in a lot of the games trailer, TV Spots and even on the game case. It implies that you have yourself many choices and options available to you throughout the game, and to the games credit it didn’t lie. However, that’s about all you have in this game. Ill explain myself a little further down, but hear me out now; Alpha Protocol manages to hit the nail right on the head absolutely perfectly for all the RPG elements we were promised and could have possibly wanted: detailed character, weapon and gadget customisation; tons of innovative dialogue options and chains; a hefty amount of character skill development; and to finish it off - you have the choice to play absolutely any way you want to. Will you sneak it out and complete your objectives under the cover of the shadows? Or will you equip yourself some souped-up weaponry and blast you opposition away? Its all up to you how you try to play, but try is all you’ll manage to do when it comes to actual gameplay.
What I mean by this is that in Alpha Protocol, while the ’RPG’ part of the game is all good and will please fans of that sort of thing, but when you get to any sort of action, the game takes a turn for the worse and will have you furious with rage! Rage, anger, and everything else that’s essentially not good when you’re playing a video game.
After a decent tutorial that doesn’t quite show any of the games flaws, you will be sent off to work the field. You start in a ‘Safehouse’, and from here you can upgrade your weapons (very much so, given the ability to change models, scopes, magazine and odd accessories), your clothing (in the form of body armour and such, all with their own amount of individual possible add-ons) and even purchase additional Intel and weapons for the missions ahead. Intel is a great idea, and you can even pay to have the enemies supplies cut off and for their elite guard to be called else where so you only have the scrap to mop up. After you’ve prepared yourself you can chose which missions you want to complete first, all leading up to a final showdown for this particular area, and finally country. Like I said, you have a load of awesome RPG-style choices to make that really change how the game is played.
But its this playing which brings all down. Way down. For example, if you want to try your hand at stealth, good luck; most of the enemies will know where you are without even seeing you. They will aim at doors before you open them, they will sprint toward your cover, and they will alert all their buddies before you have chance to respond. This happens in practically every level, and once the inevitable happens and the enemies and alerted to your presence, its time for action. But this action gameplay is also as broken as James Cann’s characters ankles in Misery. As you run from cover to cover, trying to pick of the enemies, you will no doubt be infuriated with not only how bad the controls feel and how unresponsive the shooting is, but the general shooting mechanics of you and the AI. Where you seem to not be able to hit a cows udder at milking range till you have a hell of a lot of skill points, the enemies, on the other hand will be able to knock your hat off at a hundred yards from the start.
Mix this action with the bad stealth and ultra-intelligent enemies (unrealistically so, I might add) and there isn’t a thing to like about playing Alpha Protocol. Perhaps if you could play the game entirely without playing through a mission it may be a bit better. But since that’s not going to happen, Obsidian have hit the ball out of the park when it gets from Preparing for a mission to trying to execute the mission itself. But not in a good way- this was the only ball they had.
I could forgive some of the games flaws if they were only dodgy while looking good; but in a similar bid to how I was severely disappointed with this games gameplay - I am again found with my head down and tail between my legs. Alpha Protocol fails to uphold any kind of honour by at least looking the part, as it features some very smooth yet horrendously animated character models, very bad lip synching (to be fair, its better than some other games, but still looks like a dubbed Japanese cartoon), and while it actually has decent textures, the entire look of the game is more like something we could have found at the end of life on the original Xbox.
Things get a little more easy going here and I don’t feel like I have to go to confession after talking about it; the sound quality of Alpha Protocol is top tier. Its got a great array of unique and completely suiting gun shots and explosions and the soundtrack is quite fitted to the appropriate settings, with a good amount of context sensitive key changes and cinematic touches that make it feel just right during the more dramatic parts of the missions and story.
But all good things must come to an end, so its unfortunate I couldn’t keep saying such good things this game, when in fact I have to now go back to the real world and spit the truth about it. All the above mentioned things are trivial in a game such as this, and while they may be decent compared to the rest of it, not everything in this department. Like the important things for example; the actual voice work and script. In a game that rests a lot of its choice (which is more than a lot of what the game is all about) in dialogue, it hasn’t done a good job of making it easy for the ears.
Some of the games characters stand out as decent voice actors, but that’s short lived when your egotistic character just decides he wants to give his opinion. And since your given a lot of choice as to what to say and how to say it, your character will doubtlessly be talking a lot. But during conversations, you will notice he is constantly changing his voice and tone and it really sounds like someone trying to make a joke out of a serious conversation. He will make bad jokes and very lame one liners throughout, and while you can try to be suave and pick up on one (or all) of the few female characters in the game, it gets even cornier, as you could probably imagine. The entire games script is as corny and childish as every MA rated game shouldn’t be, even the lines from the terrorists and enemies of state you get to converse with.
None. That’s all I can say about this. Alpha Protocol has absolutely no value in a time of the Red Dead’s, Alan Wake’s, Split/Second’s and Dragon Age’s of the gaming world. Whatever your interest in this game, there is surely something more intriguing and far more enjoyable that you haven’t played yet. Why not try some Arcade titles instead? You can get a few of them for the full-price tag of this one. Or just use the money to Pre-Order a more anticipated title (Halo: Reach, Fallout: New Vegas for examples)?
Let me put it straight; Alpha Protocol isn’t entirely terrible. But the parts of it that are good, and in some cases great, aren’t worth playing the game for. The RPG mechanics are amazing in this game and the amount of different paths/choice/dialogue is simply astonishing, but once you actually try to play the game proper; play the action, attempt the stealth, try the many, many hacking/lock picking types of mini-games, the game loses all credibility and you will feel useless as a Spy in the game and a Gamer in real life.
“Your Weapon is Choice”. That may be true, but in Alpha Protocol that’s your only weapon. For a game based around the choices and action of a world-class Spy, it doesn’t exactly give you much enjoyment for any type of action or stealth. The game is citied as the first ever Modern Day Espionage RPG, and while it hits hard with some great Role Playing mechanics and a lot of choice, Alpha Protocol fails to please in every other aspect. A perfect example of how delays can really mess with a game and the fans expectations. Perhaps if it was released back when it was supposed to be, it wouldn’t have been so terrible, but since that didn’t happen, do yourself a favour and stay right away from this steaming pile of bad gaming.
AAG SCORE: 4/10
+ Some amazing RPG mechanics - customisation, choice, dialogue
+ Good amount of decent environmental and weaponry sounds
- Some of the worst stealth and action gameplay of the current generation
- Bad acting and a very cheesy script make the drama and cinematics worthless
- Very bad animation for the duration of the game
- Shoots down all expectations of glory
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott
Buy this game now for $77.50 AUD from GAMELANE