Alpha Protocol review
I recently picked up Alpha Protocol during the Steam holiday sale for 7.5 euros and I thought I'd write about it. I'm surprised how bad this game was received, maybe this will convince more people to check it out. Or maybe not. Whatever the case, I'd like to get this out of my system and perhaps some of you find it at least a bit informative.
The game is an action RPG hybrid in the vein of the Mass Effect series. You play as Michael Thorton- a new recruit at Alpha Protocol (an agency so secret even the US government doesn't know about it, so if someone fucks up they can deny the whole thing ever existed). Without giving too many spoilers, the story is basically a classic tale of conspiracy and espionage crafted pretty nicely. The characters, the many twists and turns, and most importantly the choices you can make, are certainly the strongest part of this game. This is a rare case of an action RPG where the choices are actually meaningful, and effect almost every part of the story. You don't just make a few key decisions that then alter you're ending- who you ally with, the dialogue options you select might bring up additional features in further missions. Speaking of which, the dialogue in Alpha Protocol is quite smart. Instead of picking an actual line of dialogue, you are given a few stances to choose from, and there's a time limit. I thought this made the game more immersive. As a spy you wouldn't have hours to think through all of your options, it adds adrenaline to the experience. Smart responses might reward you with higher reputation with both friends and adversaries (every character has there own reputation value- the higher it gets, the more options you can unlock). In between missions you can also buy extra dossier information (dossiers are also a big part of the game, as you'll unlock more info about every character during missions or through the store) and then use it in conversation.
But all of this greatness comes with a price. Alpha Protocol is, in general, a bit clunky. The biggest problem I had with it was the actual gunplay, although it was better than I anticipated. Some people have even compared it to RPG dice rolling, and while that's an exaggeration, it's certainly not as smooth and responsive as I'd like it to be. Especially in the beginning of the game when you're skills aren't as high. Eventually you should be able to aim more accurately (the reticule zooms in faster the more skill you have in using a given type of weapon) and kill guys much quicker. You also unlock powers with every few skill points put into a skill (the leveling up is very similar to the first Mass Effect), but I didn't find them to be very meaningful (especially since most of them are on long cooldowns). There's also a few minigames you'll have to master to get all of the thingies in the game. It takes a bit getting used to the hacking minigames, just like with any other such game.
The structure of the game is simple and sweet. You play through completely linear levels, most of which consist of a mix of action and dialogue. Interestingly, there are some missions (quite a few actually) that are only conversations, and based on how you do in these, you'll get a given number of data for your next assignments. Alpha Protocol is a bit short, though, as it took me about 10-13 hours to get through it. It's the ideal RPG for replay value, though, as you certainly won't see everything after your first playthrough. I'll probably replay it a few times in the future, just because I can get through it so fast, and see some of the stuff I missed.
In the end, were the terrible reviews representative of the game actual quality? I don't believe so. And for all of you who've read this wall of terrible grammatical mistakes- did I enjoy this game more than Mass Effect 2? Yes, I did. Mostly because the story is such a huge part of this game, and everything you do has an impact on your playthrough.