Review: Alpha Protocol
When you hear the word “delay” what do you immediately think of? As a gamer, the word is just as bad as any other four-letter word out there. Whenever it’s said in conjunction with a particular title you’re looking forward to it’s enough to make anyone cringe. After Alpha Protocol’s second delay I still held out hope, and now I’m left wondering why I even bothered.
Of course there’s always to exceptions to the rule.
One exception that immediately comes to mind can be with pretty much anything released by Blizzard. Their titles experience delay after delay, yet as much as they don’t want to, the fans just take it because they know that when that game eventually does ship it comes topped off with sprinkles of quality all over it.
Then there’s the other side of delays, you know, the kind that no developer or publisher wants to be a part of. Does the game Haze ring a bell? After suffering delay after delay and even being dubbed the “Halo-Killer” by Ubisoft, well… you know how that went. It’s been a few years and we’ve crossed that bridge. Well, I know that was a huge build up, but I needed to use Haze as an example because that’s what immediately came to mind after getting through the Obsidian-developed and Sega-published, 3rd person-Action RPG Alpha Protocol.
The first time I had eyes on with AP was earlier this year during a Media Event that was hosted in New York City showcasing many titles in Sega’s spring and summer line-up. That’s also when I had the chance to learn a bit about the story and how it plays. For those of you unfamiliar with AP, here’s a quick breakdown.
In AP, you play as agent Michael Thorton. You work for an agency known as… you guessed it, Alpha Protocol. As a member of AP you’re part of an organization that doesn’t have to be bothered with silly laws. This allows you to run covert operations undercover, do what you have to do, and the US government isn’t held accountable. The game opens up with a bang, when a commercial airliner is shot down with the use of a hand held surface to air missile. This leads to the usual find the guy who did it and save the day, in other words, a very original idea we have never seen before (end sarcasm).
Thorton is an action movie, do-it-all, kind of guy. As a matter of fact, when talking to the game’s producer back in March, we were told that the best way to describe him would be by using the three B’s; Baur, Bond, and Bourne. Right there you know you’re dealing with one bad ass mother-effer. However, he’s the only reason I got through the game and even his own banter can wear out its welcome.
I wonder what it was like to be a fly on the wall in the conference room where this title came about, and I say this because it suffers from a serious identity crisis and it seems as though the game’s creators never really knew in which direction they would take it.
Although it considers itself an RPG, it has more traits of a sloppy stealth action shooter. I say this because usually RPG’s reward you for having accomplished something. I’ve yet to play a game where I level up because of an indirect conversation, or even opening doors, until this game came along. It seems like the game is one giant XP giveaway where just walking in the right direction will grant you experience points.
At certain points, even where it was requested that I used stealth, I could go in guns blazing and just run in random directions until the XP indicator popped up and I knew I did something right.
There were two key elements that did help AP show some signs of life, I just find it funny that they both weren’t original ideas to AP, however they were enhancements to what was already out there. The first is the character customization screen. If you’re a fan of the Mass Effect series you will see some rather interesting similarities. Ah, screw it; the truth is that it’s pretty much identical to what you’ll find in ME; which is something that fans of that series will definitely enjoy. Another similarity you will find in AP, just like ME, is the branching conversations.
The key with the branching conversations found in AP however, is that they can determine how your story plays out. You can use your choice of words (and actions) to dictate the way the other characters in the world treat you.
Here are two quick (spoiler-less) scenarios, as a better example of how these decisions work.
Let’s say you confront an arms dealer who is holding out in a secret location. You can approach him with diplomatic intent, where you’re ready to talk things out in hopes that he or she will cooperate and maybe even turn in some valuable Intel on who their suppliers are, or maybe even supply you.
You go in there like Rambo, but really violent, like Rambo from Rambo 3. You kick in the door where the arms dealer is and you decide to play a game of William Tell, except there’s no apple. Boom! You shoot the dealer. So now, not only do you not have the intel or the ally, the next person in line knows that you shoot first and ask questions later, and because of that there will be no welcoming party and probably little to no chance of diplomacy when you show up.
It was because of the inclusion of this incredibly deep and dynamic dialogue-based story that I was so pumped for this title but it simply wasn’t enough to save it.
The first initial upset came within minutes of turning the game on. There’s one scene at the very beginning where you enter a control room filled with giant monitors. One of the characters comes on to the screens and it looks so bad visually that it’s almost laughable. Thorton’s character model looks great but everything else from textures to lighting is very underwhelming and uninspired to say the least. The visuals in AP look like something that belongs in the beginning of the current generation of consoles. Then again, with so many delays, maybe it was supposed to be out much earlier. I’m really not a graphics snob, but visuals this bad, this late into the generation are unacceptable.
All in all, AP did show small signs of life and plenty of good intention and ideas. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any follow through to go with any of the positive things that are in there. In closing, if you’re a fan of the WRPG genre and are tired of fighting with swords and shields, you may want to give this game a (really) quick look; a rent at the absolute most. If you’re an action or stealth fan, stay far away from this one. I find it pretty ironic that as this review is published, yesterday on July 6th 2010 Sega announced that there would not be an Alpha Protocol 2. However, if you read this review I guess you already knew that.
- Game: Alpha Protocol
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Release Date: Available Now
- MSRP: $59.99
- Developer: Obsidian
- Publisher: Sega
- Available on: PS3, Xbox 360
- Review copy info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for purposes of this review.