Defending Your Game: Alpha Protocol

Posted by AdventFalls (72 posts) -

There's always that one game in your collection. The one that makes you feel guilty for liking it, despite critics or your peers telling you it's just not very good. Call it a guilty pleasure, call it 'the critics just don't understand it, man', call it what you want, you like a game that just never got noticed or people actively hate. 
 
This is one of those games. Alpha Protocol, one of Giant Bomb's runners-up for the 'Most Disappointing Game of 2010' (a category that went hands down to Fable III). People didn't seem sure what to make of the game, and Sega didn't seem pleased enough with how the game ended up that i t's effectively put the kibosh on any followups. It's a damn shame because there are amazing ideas in here that could have been interated on. 
 
The one sentence summary of Alpha Protocol is 'Mass Effect with spies'- a compelling sentence. Obsidian Entertainment is no stranger to following in Bioware's footsteps, having created the flawed but conceptually brilliant Knights of the Old Republic 2 after the beloved Bioware RPG. What propelled KOTOR 2 to the point of nearly surpassing its predecessor was developing upon ideas the original had laid down and defying the expectations people had laid upon anything with the name 'Star Wars'.
 
Alpha Protocol does so in much the same way in that this is the first game where you can actually feel like a spy. There have been good James Bond games, and no shortage of espionage- themed outings, but those games never quite encapsulated the 'entire' spy experience of guns, stealth, and charm. Alpha Protocol allowed the player to do any of those three and to make them viable options for your character. That was what made for such a compelling case for this game. But I have to address the game's flaws a bit before I can explain why this is actually a decent game and you can pay money for it without regrets.
 
Part of the reason Alpha Protocol never quite caught fire was the fact that it's an Obsidian game. Obsidian has gained a reputation for, let's be honest, created a conceptually compelling game and then dropping the ball when it comes to technical quality. In this game, there are bugs. The game isn't really optimized and textures can take a bit to pop in. I've seen loot disappear between loads. The AI can be dumbfoundedly stupid at times if you focused on stealth. This is a textbook case of an Obsidian game needing more time in the proverbial oven to properly mature into a AAA product. 
 
The other big problem of the game is player expectation. When any kind of shooting is involved, players have been conditioned to assume that shooter-style mechanics come first and any role-playing trappings come second. Alpha Protocol flips the equation; it's an RPG with shooter trappings. If you want your gun to actually hit something, you need to invest in it. If you want to sneak around and you're not in the tutorial or Saudi Arabia, you have to pay for it. You're not automatically an expert at aiming a gun because that's how the game is designed; you have to play to your strengths and pay to get those strengths.
 
With that said, Alpha Protocol allows for a viable point disperal for any kind of run as long as you invest in one of the guns or martial arts- there are boss fights where you can't stealth your way to victory. Running and gunning is still an option with the right points and strategy, and stealth is a-ok (and possibly the path to easy mode depending on the AI). What helps sell the game is that the game world reacts to how you play. Something you say early in the game can come back late-game, the guys you saved could help you, your actions in a mission can come back to bite you in the ass down the line. It's a credit to the writing staff that they accounted for so many possibilities and made you feel like Michael Thorton's methods mattered.  The endgame can go a million different ways because of all of the shenanigans that you pulled, and that's awesome.
 
Speaking of credit to the writing staff, the story is arguably as compelling as some of Mass Effect's finest moments. There's a sense of tension that seemed absent from the majority of the original Mass Effect, and the characters manage to make themselves memorable in a way half of Mass Effect's party members either didn't quite succeed in doing or needed to return in Mass Effect 2 to make a better impression. 
 
This game is a clear-cut case of 'almost but not quite', but it comes close enough and does enough that other games don't that I can stand by this game and defend it. At full-price it's a dicey proposition, but it's now roughly $20 on Steam and it's old enough to be bought on the cheap if you buy your games used. Go for it.

#1 Posted by AdventFalls (72 posts) -

There's always that one game in your collection. The one that makes you feel guilty for liking it, despite critics or your peers telling you it's just not very good. Call it a guilty pleasure, call it 'the critics just don't understand it, man', call it what you want, you like a game that just never got noticed or people actively hate. 
 
This is one of those games. Alpha Protocol, one of Giant Bomb's runners-up for the 'Most Disappointing Game of 2010' (a category that went hands down to Fable III). People didn't seem sure what to make of the game, and Sega didn't seem pleased enough with how the game ended up that i t's effectively put the kibosh on any followups. It's a damn shame because there are amazing ideas in here that could have been interated on. 
 
The one sentence summary of Alpha Protocol is 'Mass Effect with spies'- a compelling sentence. Obsidian Entertainment is no stranger to following in Bioware's footsteps, having created the flawed but conceptually brilliant Knights of the Old Republic 2 after the beloved Bioware RPG. What propelled KOTOR 2 to the point of nearly surpassing its predecessor was developing upon ideas the original had laid down and defying the expectations people had laid upon anything with the name 'Star Wars'.
 
Alpha Protocol does so in much the same way in that this is the first game where you can actually feel like a spy. There have been good James Bond games, and no shortage of espionage- themed outings, but those games never quite encapsulated the 'entire' spy experience of guns, stealth, and charm. Alpha Protocol allowed the player to do any of those three and to make them viable options for your character. That was what made for such a compelling case for this game. But I have to address the game's flaws a bit before I can explain why this is actually a decent game and you can pay money for it without regrets.
 
Part of the reason Alpha Protocol never quite caught fire was the fact that it's an Obsidian game. Obsidian has gained a reputation for, let's be honest, created a conceptually compelling game and then dropping the ball when it comes to technical quality. In this game, there are bugs. The game isn't really optimized and textures can take a bit to pop in. I've seen loot disappear between loads. The AI can be dumbfoundedly stupid at times if you focused on stealth. This is a textbook case of an Obsidian game needing more time in the proverbial oven to properly mature into a AAA product. 
 
The other big problem of the game is player expectation. When any kind of shooting is involved, players have been conditioned to assume that shooter-style mechanics come first and any role-playing trappings come second. Alpha Protocol flips the equation; it's an RPG with shooter trappings. If you want your gun to actually hit something, you need to invest in it. If you want to sneak around and you're not in the tutorial or Saudi Arabia, you have to pay for it. You're not automatically an expert at aiming a gun because that's how the game is designed; you have to play to your strengths and pay to get those strengths.
 
With that said, Alpha Protocol allows for a viable point disperal for any kind of run as long as you invest in one of the guns or martial arts- there are boss fights where you can't stealth your way to victory. Running and gunning is still an option with the right points and strategy, and stealth is a-ok (and possibly the path to easy mode depending on the AI). What helps sell the game is that the game world reacts to how you play. Something you say early in the game can come back late-game, the guys you saved could help you, your actions in a mission can come back to bite you in the ass down the line. It's a credit to the writing staff that they accounted for so many possibilities and made you feel like Michael Thorton's methods mattered.  The endgame can go a million different ways because of all of the shenanigans that you pulled, and that's awesome.
 
Speaking of credit to the writing staff, the story is arguably as compelling as some of Mass Effect's finest moments. There's a sense of tension that seemed absent from the majority of the original Mass Effect, and the characters manage to make themselves memorable in a way half of Mass Effect's party members either didn't quite succeed in doing or needed to return in Mass Effect 2 to make a better impression. 
 
This game is a clear-cut case of 'almost but not quite', but it comes close enough and does enough that other games don't that I can stand by this game and defend it. At full-price it's a dicey proposition, but it's now roughly $20 on Steam and it's old enough to be bought on the cheap if you buy your games used. Go for it.

#2 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

Yup.

#3 Posted by Bryce3333 (32 posts) -

Your completely right. Bought this on Steam for $2 a few weeks ago and love most of it. Now in the endgame I find the bosses to be extremely cheap and since I went for a mainly stealth route it is a bit hard but I have ab-so-fuckin-lutely love the story.

#4 Posted by CaptainCody (1505 posts) -

Cool blog, man.

#5 Posted by kingzetta (4307 posts) -

Alpha Protocol is an amazing game

#6 Posted by Ubersmake (754 posts) -

I wanted to love this game, but couldn't. The controls were simply too clumsy for me; I played it on the PC. The sensitivity was off. The sensitivity between the game and the menus was even more off. Movement was fine for me, but looking around with a mouse was a deal-breaker.

I do want to give the game another shot. Unfortunately, it's near the bottom of an ever-growing backlog of games I'd like to get around to.

For anyone who's played the game on the PC, how did you feel about the controls? I wouldn't mind giving it another chance if there was a way for me to alleviate the clumsy camera. I also do have the option of running through it with a 360 gamepad now. Is that the preferred control scheme?

#7 Posted by deathstriker666 (1337 posts) -

@Ubersmake:The PC version no doubt is a console port, but you don't really need to use a game pad. All I did was turn the sensitivity up. Doesn't really matter though, once you get the chain shot ability with the pistol and the shadow operative ability in stealth reaction time doesn't matter.

#8 Posted by mandude (2669 posts) -

I've wanted to play this game for ages. I usually like Obsidian games despite a lot of people suggesting that it should be the contrary.

#9 Posted by hwy_61 (922 posts) -

I bought this game for $5 at Best Buy the other day. Reading this makes me feel good about my purchase. Thanks duder!

#10 Posted by ssj4raditz (1125 posts) -

I just bought Alpha Protocol from Best Buy for dirt cheap a few days ago, so hopefully I can get around to seeing what all the good things I've heard are about.

#11 Posted by nail1080 (1975 posts) -

Oh this thread again.

Alpha Protocol is a great game, everyone knows that review scores are the biggest bullshit ever anyway

#12 Posted by FluxWaveZ (19308 posts) -

Alpha Protocol has convinced me that I should never again pay attention to review scores.

#13 Posted by johnny961 (53 posts) -

One of my favs i played last year.

#14 Posted by mandude (2669 posts) -

Ah, well, I'm off to buy it now.

#15 Posted by Masha2932 (1241 posts) -

I felt the same way about Lost Planet 2. The game was disappointing to me but it had some great elements that if were polished would have made the game much better.

Also I like the title, DEFEND YOUR GAME, you should do a series of blogs on the topic. Disappointing games that have redeeming qualities. Hope you don't mind me stealing the heading (I'll quote you of course) because I was thinking of blogging more in the new year.

#16 Edited by pyromagnestir (4248 posts) -

I bought this game for 2 bucks on steam, and while I see it does have issues, very obvious ones, it is by no means a bad game. It was quite good in fact. It is pretty much a janky Mass Effect with spies instead of space. I don't think Alpha Protocol really fits the description of a game you feel ashamed to enjoy, as the reason it was runner up Most Disappointing game is not because it was terrible, but because the flaws were so obvious and therefor fixable. I think this game would be a contender to make an Assassin's Creed II style leap in quality if there ever were a sequel. Ah well...

@Ubersmake: I was using a 360 controller and it worked fine, so you could try it out see if you like that better.

Online
#17 Posted by themangalist (1718 posts) -

The bad stealth I almost dug for its simplicity. But the ending/end-game is horrible. I would step up and defend it if i didn't see the ending.

#18 Posted by Getz (2989 posts) -

It's only a guilty pleasure if it's not redeemable. Alpha Protocol is a deeply flawed game but I feel no shame in liking it. Come to think of it, Deus Ex: HR owes a lot to the mistakes of Alpha Protocol. They have a lot in common, but Deus Ex just did it so much better.

#19 Posted by Lydian_Sel (2480 posts) -

@Getz said:

Come to think of it, Deus Ex: HR owes a lot to the mistakes of Alpha Protocol. They have a lot in common, but Deus Ex just did it so much better.

I've been thinking this myself, though I prefer the sense of accountability in Alpha Protocol even if it drives me insane from a gameplay perspective.

#20 Posted by Wrighteous86 (3745 posts) -

@nail1080 said:

Alpha Protocol is a great game, everyone knows that review scores are the biggest bullshit ever anyway

That must be why the game sold so well.

#21 Posted by Svenzon (713 posts) -

There sure is a lot to like in Alpha Protocol, mainly story-related bits. Gameplay-wise it's a bit of a mess. I don't mind the Deus Ex-style aiming, but boy the guns feel terrible to fire. Stealth is slightly broken, but doable. That's until you face the bosses. The Russian embassy and Brayko had me stuck for days and I only managed to complete them because the AI glitched out. I really want to replay all the story stuff and see all the Recruit/Veteran options.

#22 Posted by Tomzombie (396 posts) -

word to your mother. it be a tight game, mass effect with spys awsome.

#23 Posted by JCTango (1358 posts) -

Definitely an overlooked/under-appreciated game. I still have yet to finish it, but I will... eventually. My first play-through was stealthy.. Second one will probably be balls-out gun-blazing.

#24 Posted by KillyDarko (1888 posts) -

No need to defend Alpha Protocol around me :) I think it's one of the most underrated games of this generation!

#25 Posted by hbkdx12 (779 posts) -

The game is awesome. Picked up it pretty much cuz off another thread here on GB. 
 
The dialogue and the effects of your actions is nothing short of amazing. Very very impressive.  I wouldn't have thought a game with such deep impact of choice would even exist on consoles.
 
The gameplay is definitely the part that lacks a bit but to be honest, once you spec yourself out to what your playstyle suggests, any early game frustrations become far less noticeable IMO
 
There's a really great and enjoyable game here. Sucks that it won't get a deserving sequel and it sucks that a lot of reviewers ripped it to shreds.

#26 Posted by AdventFalls (72 posts) -
@Masha2932: I might end up using it myself later on. If you wanna quote me on the title, go on ahead. Now I have to find another game to defend XD
#27 Posted by Marz (5642 posts) -

great game, mostly met with disapproval from people expecting an action shooter.

#28 Posted by ThePencil (390 posts) -

Picked it up on release, still really enjoy it. The story by itself was enough to make me want a sequel, though admitedly I would have hoped they would polish it up a little more. (alas, it seems that we might never be getting said sequel)

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