A good start for future spy RPGs
What Alpha Protocol is is a great stepping stone that future developers can look to for creating an espionage RPG. You've got what any secret government agent should have: stealth, hand-to-hand combat, gadgets, guns, and probably the most overlooked aspect in any Bond or Bourne film is the relationships you have with others and the choices you make.
The game stars agent Michael Thorton, a recruit to the government agency Alpha Protocol. You go through your firearms, gizmos and stealth trainings there and are soon sent off on your first mission, which is where the real game begins. At the end of that mission, it leaves you with a critical decision point that will set off a chain of events depending on what choice you made, and can have repercussions either immediately or way down the road in the game.
The dialog system in the game is one of the more unique ways to having a semi-realistic conversation with an NPC. It borrows the radial menu from Mass Effect, but tweaks it in a way that makes me wish BioWare would use for Mass Effect 3. Above it is a little timer line that makes you think about what to say to the person in a spur of the moment, leaving you hoping the choice you made was the one you wanted it to pan out. The only thing I didn't like about the dialog choices was when you would reply to emails from your cohorts: every option just made Thorton sound like an outright douche.
Emails aside, Obsidian did great with choice and relationships. Now how about gunplay? Umm.....
It's bad. It's not stinking-pile-of-flaming-poo bad, more like a lower quality version of Fallout 3 without VATS bad. It only really worked once you put all of your points into a weapon set, in my case, was the pistol. After putting some points in, you get an ability that has you hold the reticle over a baddie, wait for a few seconds for a second inner reticle to hone in on a target, and then it allows for a critical shot, which basically means it the target every time. It works for picking off dudes while in stealth, but near the end of the game where it throws guys left and right, you don't have much time to aim at them and just end up wasting a lot of bullets, even with your skills in the weapon maxed out.
Can't say much about the gadgets you get. I was hoping to use them a whole lot more than I did. I love using the gadgets in Splinter Cell, but in Alpha Protocol it didn't really click. You can use gadgets to unlock doors or safes and hack computers or alarms quicker, but it wasn't in your best interest to use them as you didn't gain experience using them (you gain experience by playing the mini-games associated with them, so hacking is a match game and unlocking is a pin game similar to Oblivion). The only items I used were medpacks and grenades, and even then I used them sparingly.
There is a cover system in the game, which works for the most part, but when you try to use it on a corner, it goes a little wonky. The other thing that bothered me about it was that there were only certain places were you could change walls in a stealthy manner. Most of the time, it rolls you out of cover and leaves you standing up, which cancels the stealth approach you had on an enemy and triggers their alarm.
So the game has its issues, but overall, it does what it does really well. The story was interesting and engaging, the choices you made and their outcomes were appealing, and it was fun for me the whole way through. I wasn't a fan of the ending that I had, which leaves room for a second playthrough to see how else it could turn out, but still, if you're curious about the game, I'd say check it out.