2010 Reviews

Alpha Protocol

  • Review Date: 2014-04
  • Release Date: 2010-05
  • Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
  • Rating: 7.5

Alpha Protocol was released to pretty disappointing reviews, average 73% on PC and 64% on consoles. Despite this, it received quite a cult following. How did this happen? Because the game takes a while to get into, like many RPG's. It gets off to a fairly poor start where the cons seem to out-weigh the pros. The combat is the big weakness, but the story progression is very entertaining and in the end it becomes quite an enjoyable espionage spy game. It wasn't till about halfway through where I got to the point that I couldn't put it down.

Like I said, at first I wasn't impressed. You start out in a bland looking base (Alpha Protocol) and don't really know what the hell is going on or why you're even fighting. After too much talking it moves to some pretty average looking Saudi Arabian levels. Honestly, this isn't the best representation of middle east I've seen in a game, there's plenty that look better. Also during this time you'll realise the weapons are utterly hopeless and the game is filled with terrible minigames. So I have to wonder how many people quit during this first quarter of the game.

But it gets better. The following campaigns move to Moscow, Rome and Taipei. Although not huge graphical improvements, all better looking. Alpha Protocol isn't the best looking game out there. Despite being on UE3, they didn't really push the boundaries of the engine like other developers have. The levels are fairly small, linear and lacking any set-pieces. It is adequate, it's just that there's better looking games available.

Also you'll slowly start to realise that while Obsidian tried to make available a large variety of ways to play the game (stealth or action), your weapons are extremely limiting. This is a strict RPG, meaning if you don't apply upgrades to your weapons then you'll take forever to take an enemy down. You've also got to really focus on a couple of different weapons, not spread it evenly. For me I focused on the assault rifle and melee combat. Meaning most shots were slowly targetted headshots. VERY slowly because you have to wait for the targetting system to lockon for the best accuracy. You can put upgrades into the handgun and turn that into a headshot killing machine with bullet-time. The machine-gun was just worthless, spraying bullets in every which way, and I can't imagine the shotgun being useful in this game. You can also put upgrades into stealth and play much of the game in the shadows, though I imagine that won't be easy. I was forever setting off alarms. So for me, it was really a one-weapon kind of game, with melee up close because sometimes ammo can get low. This doesn't give much variety in combat does it? That's Alpha Protocol's main weakness, the combat.

But there's another recent RPG that also has pretty weak combat, and that was released to massive acclaim: Mass Effect. But Mass Effect has a great story and characters which make up for it. In a way, AP is the same. The story is really why you'd want to play it. Despite the slow start the story eventually picks up and becomes quite an interesting and complex story involving an American company attempting to start a cold war by selling weapons and planning terrorist attacks around the world. There are a lot of interesting characters you'll get to know throughout the game, with good voice-acting and even good dialogue all throughout. What Alpha Protocol also does very successfully is it makes your choices really count. Do you align with someone or kill them? Because later in the game they'll reappear so your decisions will dictate how the game plays out, much more so than most RPG's.

Apart from weak combat, there are other areas Alpha Protocol needed improvement. One are the god-awful minigames, particularly the computer hacking which is almost to the point of being broken on PC. You just can't play it properly with a mouse, and for those that are dyslexic  you might as well skip this game.

Also purchasing new equipment was very lacklustre. One exciting part of RPG's is unlocking or finding new gear, but in AP you can spend 1/3 of the game saving up for a new gun that really doesn't offer anything new over what you have. It's just, different.

You also get skills/powers you can use, much like Mass Effect. But those that I unlocked were pretty damn useless.

I feel like this game borrowed a lot from Mass Effect, the RPG system exactly the game, just a different GUI. Similar combat, although the weapons have much worse accuracy. Only here you replace futuristic sci-fi setting for modern day spy thriller.

It's certainly not on the same level as Mass Effect, but I do thing Alpha Protocol is a slightly under-rated game. It definitely deserved the sequel it never got.

Alpha Protocol