dimsey's Alpha Protocol (Xbox 360) review

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More than enough fun to make up for it's flaws.

 Pros

  • It's an RPG! With spies! That counts for something in my book.
  • Likable characters.
  • Handles dialogue in a way that forces you to think on your feet.

Cons

  • It's more RPG than shooter, which is a problem when it comes time to shoot something.
  • Technical issues. Doors not opening when they're supposed to, helicopters not blowing the heck up when they're supposed to and so on.
  • Not great AI has your foes often staring at walls or running around in circles.

Alpha Protocol puts you in the boots of Michael Thorton, newest member of... Well.. Alpha Protocol, a group that does covert operations for the US that they don't want linked back to them basically. Early on you're betrayed and forced to go rogue and have to find out the who's, whys and whens while trying to stop some company from trying to trigger a cold war which they would profit from.

You do this by sneaking around, shooting stuff and chatting folk up.

Talking to people is probably my favorite part of the game.
The characters are generally likable and if they aren't well you can take great pleasure in treating them like shit.

Unlike most games of this nature Alpha Protocol's dialogue happens in real time.
They won't wait for you to make up your mind. If you don't decide you'll go with whatever dialogue option happens to be highlighted at the time which mightn't necessarily be a good thing.
This helps conversations flow more naturally and is a pretty neat system which forces you to think on your feet at all times. Characters will live and die and events will be altered based on your choices, so it pays to pay attention.


Sneaking about is my second favorite aspect of AP.
Because the gun play of AP sucks so hard it pays to bypass that as much as possible.
So you sneak and if you're good you can knock dudes our or kill them without anyone else knowing you're there. There are gadgets to aid in sneaking but honestly I never felt the need to use anything more than the occasional EMP to disable a camera or turret.

In addition to shooting guys you of course have some martial arts skilled which while not as effective as sneaking up on a guy and stabbing them in the neck is still more consistently reliable than shooting guys.

And so on to shooting guys.

Going into the game you're given the impression that Michael has some form of firearms training but when you actually get in you find he couldn't hit the broadside of a barn without pumping a lot of skill points into your firearm of choice. I spread my points a bit thin near the beginning, thinking it wouldn't hurt so bad but then I hit a boss fight and desperately wished I pumped more points into pistols because I was doing bugger all with what little i had.

I don't know about the other weapons but with enough points in pistols you get an ability that freezes time and lets you target dudes to be shot after time has unfroze. If you've played Splinter Cell: Conviction you'll have experienced something similar.

Anyway this ability is easy mode, especially at higher levels in which it lets you target six times before you fire and if you can target the head that's pretty much instant death for random henchman but if you fire all six shots into a bosses skull that'll knock a huge chunk off their health bar if it doesn't outright kill them.

Without the use of that ability shooting dudes is a pain.
If you simply have your recticle over a guy and you fire chances are you won't hit him and if you do it won't be fore much damage. If you want a sure hit and better damage you have to hold it over him for a few seconds, waiting for it to turn red before you pull the trigger.
That's a critical hit and you'll be probably be doing that a lot.

I hate to make the comparison but after playing Mass Effect 2 - an RPG with a shooting mechanic that actually feels like shooting ought to - well AP's gun play is just sorely lacking in comparison.

And AP is lacking in a lot of ways but in my book the interesting plot and characters and the real-time dialogue system more than make up for the games flaws in my book though I can see why people would hate on it. If it just spent some more time in development I think this would've been a hit with the masses, but bugs and all it is a hit with me.

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