Alpha Protocol Reviews

  • Ebon Hawk AUEbon Hawk AU168,385
    27 May 2010 28 May 2010
    82 6 13
    Alpha Protocol is the latest offering from Obsidian Entertainment (a development house that until now has only produced titles based on someone else's intellectual property). The game, correctly described as modern day espionage action role playing title, has been published by Sega and is now available in Xbox 360 and PC formats, offering single player experience with some pre-order DLC options.

    This review is designed to offer a more detailed look into the game, the technology behind it, its gameplay, mechanics and quirks while avoiding story related spoilers. For those of you who are impatient and not interested in reading a lengthy review (with some personal opinion included), I offer a brief one. Alpha Protocol is a hybrid of Mass Effect and Splinter Cell, though it lacks the polish of either of them.

    For those of you who are keen on finding out more... let us begin.


    The game places the player in the role of Mike Thorton (a young but talented agent on his way to becoming a super spy) recently transferred from CIA to Alpha Protocol (a clandestine organization whose purpose will become quite apparent very early into the story).

    The player is given an opportunity to customize Mike (although in limited manner). The pre-Alpha Protocol history presents a handful of well known concepts to enrich Mike’s personality (and offers unique conversation choices and some pre-set skill options, all lasting for the duration of the campaign), the physical appearance can be altered via in game interface (such as interaction with a mirrors or lockers) at will and at any time during the visit to a safe house, allowing Mike to grow beard, change haircut, insert contact lenses, get cool sun glasses and head wear or a sun tan... and further skill based specialization can be chosen after a successful completion of the very first operation (operation being a set of missions tied to a specific location). However the general physical appearance, gender, voice and major elements of the persona remain set by the title itself.

    ...and so begins the spy career of our hero, one that is filled with many conspiracies, dangers, twists, threats known and unknown, allies and enemies... just what would one expect from a decent spy action movie. The campaign itself is divided into a number of operations, each of them starting from a hub that consist of a safe house (a free roam house area where Mike can interact with various trophies, equip himself, shop at the black market, watch TV, read his e-mail and so forth) and associated missions that become available once a sufficient intel has been obtained and certain prerequisites meet. Each mission takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to complete (time being based on the approach taken, thoroughness of the search for additional objectives and items of interest and caution exercised) and is divided into a number of independent zones where Mike is confronted with a specific objective he has to overcome. Those in turn yield experience points upon successful completion. Once a sufficient amount of experience have been collected the character advances in levels and the player can improve his agent by assigning acquired action points towards skills, gaining both passive and active advantages in the selected areas of interests (be that a skill with a particular type of gun, stealth, close combat maneuvers and the like).

    During his career Mike can obtain (purchase or find during the mission) a considerable number of weapons, armors, gadget and customizations to assist him in resolving any given objectives in his very own way. The game generally favors one of three approaches: stealth (spy specialization), brute force (commando specialization) and use of gadgets (engineer specialization) though the environment and challenges offer sufficient amount of flexibility to apply a mixture of the above (within reason).

    The gun and gadget play are not the only things on Mike’s mind as the game world is filled with many interesting individuals and organizations with whom our hero can interact (this happens at any time during the game when a specific event takes place or via introduction and conversation only missions, e-mail, video up-links, phone conversations and so forth). While the general direction in which the story progresses is scripted the player is given an opportunity to control dialogs via time sensitive stance options where he can select an attitude (such as aggressive, professional, dismissing, flirty, joking and so forth) and sometimes inquire about specific story related element. Such interactions when combined with in-field decisions (on how to act on certain objectives) effect the direction in which both story and the relationship with NPCs (including possible romantic endeavors with four different women) and organizations evolve. All leading to the climactic showdown... where the very fate of free world will rest on your shoulders (really? no pressure...)


    In terms of the technology the game offers an adequate experience. The title is driven by Unreal 3 engine (seen in action in Rainbow 6 Vegas 1/2 and Mass Effect and infamous for its texture loading effect) and presents engaging and well designed (though not very original) interior environments and somewhat lacking (and limited) exterior areas (larger textures such as sky or cityscape could certainly use some improvement). Some things worth noting are as follows: on a positive side, the look and feel of armors and weapons can be quite impressive and the story important NPCs are well detailed; on a negative side some character animations (sneaking in particular) do not feel quite right (especially when compared to other, similar titles on the market).

    The gameplay itself (combat, stealth and cover system) are well implemented though feel a little awkward at times, it is as if Mike on the screen had different ideas about the next course of action than those that you have decided to give him. Still the control system is well designed (and the right button is always easy to find once the bullets start flying) so as long as you are willing to tolerate some small inconveniences the gameplay delivers the general promise set by the designer though the lack polish at certain times and locations becomes apparent...

    Artificial Intelligence (the Achilles' heel of many games) offers little challenge as the opponents are mostly set to patrol and observe specific areas, trigger alarms, call reinforcements and engage with deadly force (while occasionally seeking cover) if the intruder (that would be you) is spotted... the enemy performs those actions in competent matter, though truth be told if Mike is doing his job right (and is equipped well enough) a small patrol is no match for him (at least on normal level of difficulty).

    The music and sound effects are what one would expect to hear in a modern game of this type, nothing in here to be truly excited about. The sounds of combat and the environment are good enough to make the experience enjoyable and believable while the background music (a typical instrumental action soundtrack) changes with areas, urgency of the situation and associated events.


    In short, Alpha Protocol is an interesting and worthy piece of entertainment, though it offers little in terms of originality and only average execution. If you ever dreamed of being one of JBs (Jason Bourne, James Bond, Jack Bauer) and are willing to overlook some of the shortcomings this may indeed be a very enjoyable experiences for you. If you are looking for rock solid design and originality above all else... you may find yourself somewhat disappointed.


    On personal note, in my opinion, the following elements stand out and are worth mentioning:

    Positive:
    - Unique interaction system with NPCs
    - Shades of gray story filled with both interesting and difficult choices
    - Original approach to hacking, lock picking and electronic overwrites
    - Vast perk system offering character awards for completion of certain tasks
    - Complex mission objectives effecting future operations

    Negative:
    - Checkpoint based save system
    - General lack of polish
    - Limited free roam
    - Unappealing look and feel of GUI and menus

    Verdict:
    4.0
    Showing most recent comments. View all comments.
    BravadoMcGeeNow that the price is in the teens, definitely worth a shot. Thanks for the comprehensive review!
    Posted by BravadoMcGee on 30 Apr 11 at 19:10
    LizardKingv666Nice Review! I love this game and I think i will work on 100% as soon as I can.
    Posted by LizardKingv666 on 14 Jun 11 at 10:33
    OldChili360Thanks for this. Until now, I was convinced that I was the only one who liked this game. So nice I played it twice.
    Posted by OldChili360 on 11 Aug 11 at 09:30
  • MarkySharkyMarkySharky274,437
    12 Jul 2011
    18 3 0
    Top, top game but a little rough around the edges. A definite unpolished gem for me. It's Hitman meets Splinter Cell with a dash of MGS and a hint Mass Effect. If you like any of those games then I would suggest giving this a go.

    It starts very slowly but once you get past the initial missions it really picks up in terms of gameplay and story. The equipment selection is brilliant and there's lots to choose from and as you start levelling up the perks and abilities really come into their own and let you decide what kind of agent you want to be. You can go all out guns blazing if you fancy it or be extremely stealthy. You can use gadgets and technology or you can combine everything and mix it up. There's some interesting characters to meet along the way and some tough decisions to make.

    Loved it.

    The downsides are the enemy AI and controls. The controls are a little clunky at times but not enough to hinder my progress at anytime. The enemy AI is strange. Some enemies are very sneaky and clever and then infrequently they'll make it very easy for you and have their heads slightly poking out and not move so you can just take them out very easily. However, the toughness of the enemies does increase as the game goes on so it's never a big problem and you really have to up your tactics, equipment and skills accordingly to ensure you keep up with them.

    I seem to remember several reviews saying the game had lots of bugs. I didn't find this at all. I had 2 isolated incidents of enemies getting stuck in scenery. One where instead of a guy coming up a ladder and through a hatch in the roof he came through the roof slightly adjacent to the hatch. The other time was a when an enemy was stuck in a wall and I couldn't kill him nor could he kill me. However when I hid for a while and deactivated an alarm his state of alertness changed and the problem resolved itself. Maybe I was lucky with bugs or maybe the reviewers had buggy pre-release code?

    Anyway, there's a good 15-20 hours to be got out of this and I'd recommend it.

    8/10
    4.0
  • ryanlegend95ryanlegend95191,292
    12 Aug 2012 12 Aug 2012
    9 5 5
    Well this is an unusual game for obsidian to make.

    Obsidian haven't made many games but they are well known for creating Fallout New Vegas which was a masterpiece. Alpha Protocol however isn't quite the game the year that they were hoping for.

    Don't get me wrong. Alpha Protocol is good but it's extremely flawed with plenty of bugs and clunky gameplay. But that has always been a problem for Obsidian.

    Obsidian has always been more technology first and polish second. But this is ridiculous.

    External image


    Cool but flawed.

    Alpha Protocol is probably one of the most unpolished games that I have ever played. But the game does surprise you in many ways e.g. interfering with the entire story with whatever action you do. Sounds cool right?

    Now it's time for me to take action and interfere my own review.

    Graphics:
    Graphics is possibly the worst thing about the game simply because it looks bland with many and I do mean many visual bugs. The textures look horrible and the graphics themselves just looks old and boring. But it doesn't stop there. The bugs I mentioned. Well I'm going to tell you some right now. 1) Frequent pop-ins ( Literally whenever you move to a new room). 2) Glitchy animations. 3) Frame rate drops. 4) Dozens of screen tearing and 5) clipping. If you think that's all of the VISUALglitches then you are wrong. In fact I can name another 10 visual glitches but I won't bore you with those.

    External image


    This is an example of a glitch called clipping. As you can see the player's (you) arm is passing through the enemy's body and face

    On the upside the character models look decent (especially Scarlet who's one sexy red head) with some nice facial animations but some of them are quite ugly.

    I give the graphics score a 4.5/10.

    Sound:
    The sound is pretty solid. The voice acting is mostly good (especially when Nolan North comes in and steals the show) but sometimes horrible. The sound scoring is pretty catchy and dramatic. And the sound effects are decent but perhaps it can be a little underwhelming.

    I give the sound score a 7/10.

    Gameplay:
    Sadly the gameplay is just as glitchy as the visuals which really brings down the score. I'll name some for you. 1) Glitchy cover system. 2) Stupid AI.
    3) Glitchy reloading. 4) Minor collision detection issues and 5) Some control issues e.g. sometimes being unresponsive.

    The gameplay's issues doesn't stop there unfortunately. Combat is quite clunky but it can be improved by leveling up which brings me to the positive side of the gameplay.

    The leveling up system is pretty good because it actually make a big difference on how you play the game. There are also plenty of customizations that you can make. You can change the way how your character looks and you can improve your armor and guns which is really helpful. The level design is really creative and can be huge at some levels. You will be able to zip line across the map and play minigames to either hack computers or lockpick doors. This also means that there's a lot of tasks to do in the level and they are optional.

    Possibly the best thing in the game is when your actually talking to your team mates or enemies which will shape the story because you can make friends with certain people and build a loving relationship which can alter the ending.

    External image


    Scarlet. You are one sexy red head and I'd love to marry you.

    I give the gameplay score a 7/10. Just needs to be more polished.

    Storyline:
    The storyline is the best thing about the game because you can shape it and have many different endings. The story is actually well written with plenty of detail about military and government stuff so you can say the story is quite thorough. Unfortunately some of the characters are quite boring which makes you less interested in the whole plot which really derails the score.

    External image


    This guy is just boring. I'm out of here.

    I give the storyline score an 8/10

    Summary
    Good
    -Well written storyline.
    -Shaping the story.
    -Customizing your character and weapons.

    Bad
    -Glitchy visuals and gameplay.
    -Uninteresting characters (except Scarlet. God that rack).
    -Clunky combat.

    Overall I think this game could've been so much more if it was polished. But because it isn't I'm going to give this game an overall score of 7/10. Sad.
    3.0
  • ThinkMcFly88ThinkMcFly88192,428
    03 Jun 2010
    3 7 5
    When I first heard of this game I had incredibly high hopes. A Hitman type game where you get Mass Effert type dialogue choices and RPG system?

    Unfortunately the end result was far from the hype. Instead of a Hitman type level set up where you can either slink yourway through by ruse and shadow or shoot up the level, you get a pretty linear level setup with enemies that have last generation AI. Sure you can sneak your way through by timing guards routes and sticking to the edge of the map. You feel pretty good getting all the XP for not being detected and leveling up your stealth skills. At least until you reach a mission boss.

    For someone like me who loves playing games like this with stealth, the boss battles are a frustrating nightmare. You are forced into a firefight with bosses in which your stealth abilities are useless. And since you haven't been upgrading your shotgun or assault rifle skills it becomes akin to cutting down a redwood with a pocket knife.

    This could be forgiven if the the story and dialogue where as groundbreaking as we were led to believe. "Choice is your weapon" is what the game tells you. Unfortunately the choices usually amount to letting someone live or die resulting in little more than some more items in the store or a few less enemies in later missions.

    The story itself is just a mishmash of cliches from every spy movie you've ever seen. Sent on a mission only to be burned by your former allies, a weapons company creating a global conspiracy to make a profit, stop me if you've heard it before.

    On top of it all, a horrible targeting system, glitchy graphics (try walking through an open space while using stealth only to have a fence appear out of thin air and not have anywhere to go when my abilities wore off), horrendous AI, poor sound, last generation graphics, and the list goes on.

    If "choice is your weapon" your best weapon is not playing this game.