Alpha Protocol Review: The Last Failed Hope

Every now and again a game comes along that brings fresh ideas and innovative concepts that makes people stand up and take notice and have genuine belief that what will follow will be the next best thing. However, when these great features are ruined by amateur errors in game design it brings a tear to the eye when you think of what could have been. Alpha Protocol is a game which falls exactly into that category but what is even more sad in this case is it is littered with gameplay letdowns including horrid game design, and moreover a level progression system that leaves a sour taste.

The story follows the exploits of a black ops undercover agent known as Michael Thorton as he goes on the hunt for the terrorist, Shaheed, in Saudi Arabia and how he gets embroiled in tracking down missiles and weapons dealers in Rome, Moscow and Taipei. As you progress, Michael realises the problem might be a little closer to home and gives the player the option of how to end it. The story is actually one of the stronger parts to the game even though it is quite generic and is really quite enjoyable for the most part.

Alpha Protocol might come with gameplay, but most of it falls in the negatives. As for the positives, there are some. The upgrade system while slightly confusing at first, quickly becomes easy to navigate and allows in-depth customization of weapons and armour and a wide variety of upgrades for stats and weapons aswell. The problem with this stems in its simplicity and reality that not all the stats are even needed.  If someone is maxed out, it rarely makes a difference to the enemy difficulty, as if the enemy stats themselves are increasingly linearly. The ability to choose which path to take in conversations is really well done and allows for tactics to decide which response to give to reap the best rewards as both negative and positive responses are useful for different characters, but the problem is with the awful timed-selection that barely gives any time to read longer dialogues or to really think about a choice. The vast dialogue used throughout is definitely a highlight as not only the script informative and worth listening to but the actors do a stellar job in translating the words to make the player feel like they are in this situation.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the actual playing of the game there is not many positives that can be said for it: the graphics are below par for what we expect as this stage of this generation of consoles, the weapon targeting may aswell just be ripped out and started again as it is so wayward and annoying that it is barely usable, the enemy A.I. is atrocious and it is appalling that we are still seeing this type of mess that Metal Gear Solid had better in 1999 and those are just the key points. If we look further into the problems of the game, repetition is a massive factor for mission objectives as the majority end up being about hacking a camera, or a door or a safe or protecting some sort of object and although they are fun the first few times they lose their appeal rapidly.  Going through missions stealthily is also pointless as most of the guards wont even see you coming until you are on top of them anyway so you may aswell just go gung-ho right from the start. Missions are usually confined to small areas which does not allow much scope for different approaches either as there is a relatively linear path to follow. The problems go on and on but elaboration might start to sound nit-picky which would not get across the vast upheaval this game needs.

It is really disappointing to see some fantastic ideas go to waste and hopefully these will make a return in a much more polished end product. If the developers at Obsidian really want to make another Alpha Protocol game, I would suggest keeping the few excellent ideas they had and scrap the rest and start again because no one should have to play a game as basic as this at this stage in gaming history.

Hey, my name is Stuart Blair and I live in Paisley in Scotland.

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