Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PC

Action RPG from Obsidian, the makers of Neverwinter Nights 2 and Knights of the Old Republic 2.

Review Verdict Read Review
6Out of 10
Back to game info

Missions themselves are diverse, both in terms of their environment and objective. As well as standard kill-everybody-in-the-level kind of stuff (of which there's a fair bit) there are stealth levels, sniper missions and escort sections, among others. Three mini-games based on lock picking, computer hacking and code breaking are scattered throughout most levels too, and vary in their difficulty based on Thorton's proficiencies in sabotage. The first couple of times these are entertaining, but the game relies on them with such frequency that they quickly lose their appeal. The hacking mini-game, which involves matching up static strings of characters located in a grid of ever-changing letters and numbers, is a particular chore. It's like trying to find a nonsensical word in a dynamic wordsearch. And you have to do it every five God-damn minutes.

It's at this point in the review I'm going to ditch the calm tone I've managed to maintain up until now, because my time with Alpha Protocol was frustrating as hell. The shooting mechanics are particularly annoying, made worse by a finicky cover system that never seems to want to let go of you. Even at a reasonable distance, with the reticule hovering perfectly over an enemy's head, it takes five or six shots (often more) to down him. Initially I assumed this was because I hadn't assigned many points to my weapon proficiencies, but even after reallocating some points I had the same problems. In the end, I resorted to playing the game entirely with my fists. Where it took ages to kill anybody with my guns, I could take down an enemy in a matter of seconds with a few well placed punches. Alpha Protocol teaches us that hands are more lethal than guns. Who knew?

Then there are the technical issues; the plethora of graphical mishaps, animation blunders and odd design choices. The frame rate is of particular concern, which drops into oblivion during pivotal moments of a mission. Textures pop in left, right and centre and portals frequently appear in doors and walls, revealing a glimpse at the strange world outside of the developer's jurisdiction. AI is disturbingly last-gen too, especially for a game that relies so heavily on stealth. Enemies often won't notice you're stood right in front of them, and are completely oblivious to the likes of grenades. I honestly think Metal Gear Solid did a better job of artificial intelligence back on the PSone.

Little things annoyed me too, like the awkward position of the camera, which follows Thorton around too closely and at too high an angle. It's a strange criticism to make, but I was always concerned that I couldn't see his feet, which for some reason made me feel uncomfortable. Thorton's sneak animation is comical too, and appears as if he's wandering around trying to conceal an erection. Alpha Protocol generally lacks the polish of a game that's been in development as long as it has. A few people have used the phrase 'rough around the edges' to describe the game in previews, but I'd argue that this is an understatement.

It's a shame, because amid all these problems there are some inspired design choices, like the Perk system. Through meeting certain requirements in conversation or combat, Thorton's handlers might see fit to award him a perk. There's an extensive list of these perks, which range from stat bonuses to reductions on the black market. More often than not these fit in with the way you choose to play the game, and compliment Thorton's personality traits. Dossiers can also be collected on all of the characters in the game, which might help influence how you decide to treat them in conversation. The fact that you can do your own research on contacts and handlers outside of missions adds further conviction to the player's role as a spy.

On paper, Alpha Protocol sounds incredibly alluring, combining the best elements of the role-playing and action genres with a refreshing concept. In executing that concept, however, the game falls apart at the seams. Ignoring the dialogue system, Obsidian's latest plays like a substandard third-person shooter. Despite its myriad of shortcomings there's a moderate amount of fun to be had with Alpha Protocol. It's a game that's more enjoyable than it probably should be, a game that's better than the sum of its parts. There's a lot of potential hiding under the flawed shell, and although Obsidian has failed to coax it out this time around, I hope somebody does the concept justice in the future.

New stuff to check out

14 Comments

To add your comment, please login or register

User Comments

vinniffa's Avatar

vinniffa

For now I enjoyed the game too.. I don't know.. maybe I will change my mind.
Posted 22:30 on 22 May 2011
cousinwalter's Avatar

cousinwalter

I started play this yesterday and quite enjoyed it thus far
Posted 11:15 on 23 July 2010
mackvesta's Avatar

mackvesta

Argh, can't say I wasn't expecting this after looking at the trailers. Graphics don't make a game but it set an alarm bell ringing which I tried to ignore. Will still play it of course, I love Obsidian (well, Chris Avellone) and although their games don't ever seem to have the polish of Bioware, the story and role playing aspect has always felt more engaging, and the review doesn't seem to indicate they disappoint there. I'm happy to deal with a few gameplay frustrations, it won't be the first time after all...
Posted 06:12 on 08 June 2010
renegade's Avatar

renegade@ SexyJams

Why read it when you can judge the review on the numbers and the short pros and cons!
Posted 14:39 on 30 May 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

I'm not worried about the score.
I actually read the review, and it sounds extremely disappointing
Posted 19:30 on 28 May 2010
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

Damn. Guess I'll be sticking with a rental. Can't say I'm surprised; each time I've seen something on the game it put further doubt in my mind.
Posted 17:30 on 28 May 2010
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Play the actual game before you say "ohhh dear, i'll give it a miss" other sites have been giving this an 8.

You'll never know how good a game is unless you play it.
Posted 17:17 on 28 May 2010
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

It does suffer from cliches at times, but the whole researching enemies and snooping element is a really interesting idea. Like many things it *could/should* have been taken further - but then that might have been too much risk for Sega... I don't feel like I got a bad deal at that price - but then again, I was happy paying full price for the above-mentioned Spy Fiction. ;)

Plus, it is always nice to hear that 'Seeeeegaaaaa' upon starting. :p
Posted 17:06 on 28 May 2010
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ SexyJams

A bit dramatic? Regardless of the review, it does sound promising still. 30+ Endings is a bit ;) Why? I can't see myself putting hours & hours just to find out each individual ending. Maybe 2 or 3 endings would of rounded it off.

Is there no multiplayer thrown into this game?

Good read Jamin. I think I will most probably pick this up when it goes in the bargain bin.

@Clockpunk - £30 sounds a bit pricey for this game from reading the review. Even though Shopto do have great prices on some games and etc. I know I wouldn't consider buying it for £30 or I might if the review was different and so forth. Gotta admit. This review has saved me some money lol. Bargain bin all the way.
Posted 16:32 on 28 May 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

Heartbroken...
I was so looking forward to his :(
Posted 15:33 on 28 May 2010
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

I don't know - I'm really enjoying it thus far. The hacking, lockpicking and system cracking games are much more fun, tricker, and immersive than those found within ME2. Similarly the skills implementation with actual unlockable benefits at every level is a good choice.

The timed dialogue really does make you act on the spot - no dilly-dallying and keeping the pace fast.

The shooting, though. That reminds me of so many PS2-era games in its clumsiness in aiming and handling - especially Spy Fiction, if anyone here played that game? If that were sorted, along with more customization options and a few more... well... choices in every aspect, I think the game would be much better. Specialist weapons, a slightly more complex stealth system and more non-purely-game based options, such as being able to customise safe-houses and the like, would make it a really great game.

That said, I am thoroughly enjoying the game - it is fun, - and would be inclined to disagree that it is 'Disappointing'. I'd give it a 7, but agree very much in hoping any sequel would build on the really good bits mentioned above. Still, I think its well worth the £30 shopto charged me.
Posted 14:23 on 28 May 2010
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

yeah i was kinda looking forward to seeing what this got with neon giving some hype but i defo will miss this now great review jamin was there any difference between xbox and ps3?
Posted 14:16 on 28 May 2010
ayreon2084's Avatar

ayreon2084

What's the score, eh, GameSpot?
Alpha protocol score at Gamespot LOOOL :)

http://bit.ly/c3JcJR
Posted 14:11 on 28 May 2010
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

I was hoping this was gonna be good after hearing Neon talk about it on the podcast, but looks like I'll be giving it a miss.
Posted 14:06 on 28 May 2010

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Alpha Protocol
6
Out of 10
Alpha Protocol
  • Refreshing concept
  • Dialogue Stance System is enjoyable
  • Huge range of technical issues
  • Flawed combat
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 28/05/2010
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Sega
Genre: RPG
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 4,598 15
View Full Site