Alpha Protocol promises to be a ‘Espionage RPG’ and deliver a spy adventure like no other. Does it deliver?
I have decided to start this review off with the story because I think this is essential in any RPG game. If you are expecting a grand plot, well move on. The plot pits you in the shoes of Michael Thorton, who has to go rogue after he is betrayed. In the rest of the game you have to speak to agents and uncover plots to get closer to “Alpha Protocol”, the origination that betrayed Michael .
I think this is the issue with the game is that I don’t care about the characters. Whoever wrote the characters did a pretty bad job at making them feel slightly human. I mean, some of the characters have some positives in them, but most just feel blank and shallow. I have a feeling that this is due to the developers wanting to put as little dialogue in the game as possible to get the user playing, instead of talking. Mistake, the user should be able to choose if he wants to ‘continue’ and build relationships with characters or not.
Something that I liked about Mass Effect was that you could talk to characters when you wanted to, not just before a mission when it was vital. This is the issue here, Alpha Protocol does not let you talk to characters when you want, only before a mission or during it. Most of the game you are alone, sometimes you will have a character around, but if you try to engage them in conversation they give you one line, like “Turn on the TV.” Perfect.
The game is running on Unreal 3. Some very few parts of the game look good, most if it does not. I’m not saying it is the ugliest game in the world, just does not impressive, especially for how ‘small’ the areas are that you are in. Some of the textures on character faces look low resolution. In the end, the game doesn’t look terrible, but is not going to turn many heads, if you seen the trailers you would agree.
Some of the issues that Mass Effect had with the Unreal 3 engine come back to haunt us in this game. This includes pop in, even though it is there, it is not as bad as Mass Effect and loading in the middle of a level. Again, not as frequent and as bad as Mass Effect. I don’t find this to really break the game, since the frame rate wasn’t that bad most of the time. The only time the game dropped frames noticeably was when a enemy threw a grenade, sometimes it would chop up for a few seconds. Not good, but not bad.
The game really does deliver when it comes to actions you perform. In the game, you can actually make all your enemies like you. This will not mean that you don’t have missions, they will send you on missions to prove yourself to them. But it’s pretty cool knowing that you can technically change the outcome of the story that much. The game will have choices, like save a building full of people or a girl you know. Since the girl you met in the game was written to be a robot, it is not as hard as it sounds.
When the game was announced, they said you would be able to ‘freely’ go to other locations. I figured it would be menu based, but would let you have a small over world in each region. False. In the game you get a ‘safe house’ where you get a computer to answer emails/buying weapons from the black market, TV to check the news, closet for switching weapons, and a bathroom to change your characters look. Then when you go to the front door to leave the apartment, you get to choose a mission, then you are transported to your mission. A bit underwhelmed, I like to explore over worlds in my RPGs.
Here is a funny thing about the customizing your character pieces, there are less options than a Phantasy Star Online game, yes, a ten year old game. Also you can’t make your character black, only really tan. I guess this means that black people are not meant to be agents. So much for this feature.
The controls in the game are what you would expect from it. It has a cover system that is not that great, running and sneaking. The issue with the cover system is that you can only peak out and aim if you are on the corner of the object. If this was not enough, they also made the ‘stick to the wall’ button the same as the run button. So if you are getting destroyed by a machine gun, you turn around to run away, chances are you might stick to the wall and die. Great job. Another annoying thing about the cover system is that sometimes even if you are on the corner and aiming at the bad guy, it will think you are not. It’s rare, but very annoying.
The game also features hacking; lock picking and that sort of stuff. Obviously they have a mini game sort of thing for them, just like Bioshock. The lock picking one has to be the most annoying. You use the L2 to move the pin up and down and then when you level it where you needs to be, press R2. The issue is that the L2/R2 buttons are shit for this on the Playstation 3 pad. But not just that, sometimes I would hit it right on the mark and still got it wrong, apparently you have to hit it ever so slightly below it. Awesome. The hacking devices has you hitting pins on a circuit board that has to travel to a number. You have to hit them in numerical order. Not hard, till you get 12 to hit in like 20 seconds. As for computer hacking, you get to sets of numbers/letters, which you control with the left/right analogue (both can be moved at once ) and you have to find the same phrase in a big pile of numbers and letters that keep on moving. So basically you have to find the non moving numbers/letters that match yours and set it. Not as hard as I’m making it seem and works out easier than the last two.
The great thing about the game is the leveling. You will be able to have a wide variety of things to be good in, including shotguns, pistols, stealth, assault rifles, martial arts, and etc. Leveling up skills really makes a huge difference. Like, I hated the assault rifle aiming at the start of the game, when it was leveled up, it kicked major ass. The only issue I ran into was that I decided to be a tank, war machine man with an awesome assault rifle. Well, some missions are about ‘not hurting anyone’ and I had to go in and switch all my equipment to ‘stealth’. Don’t get me wrong, I could have just ran in there and shot them all in the face, but I didn’t want to do that because it would make one of the characters in the game mad (every time you kill an innocent she likes you less).
Like I said before, the game features armor, which helps you depending on the task. The armor that protects more, also makes the most noise, the armors that makes the least amount of noise are the ones that protect less. So you will have to see what the mission is, obviously if you are doing an assault mission, you do not want to go in and have stealth gear on.
Making people like you gives you perks, especially if they are your handler (guiding you through the mission), so that stuff works in your favor in the end of the day. You also get perks for getting a certain amounts of kills a certain way, this could range from slowing down time with a pistol to take a few shots to making yourself invisible for a short time. Either way, its efficient enough to get you out of a sticky situation.
When I look at Alpha Protocol, I see a game with great potential. It is just too bad that the game feels unpolished, especially after the game was delayed for over a year. The writing for the characters really needs a face left if they plan on continuing the franchise and they need to expand the story out of the cliché spy plot.
Even with the technical issues, there is some enjoyment to be found in the title, namely some of the missions you tackle down and the choice of playing as stealth or assault. The game had me replaying it just to see how my actions changed the game and they really do change the way missions play out. So that is interesting.
– Leveling up system
– Some of the levels
– Classic SEGA start up and SEGA Saturn
– Controls are wonky at times.
-Character not that customizable.
– Characters feel robotic
– Script feels like it was written by George Lucas at times