Hiding in the shadows, fighting for mysterious government agencies and working with shady characters to bring about the downfall of a corrupt regime. Spy stories set my world alight – I always wanted to be James Bond. Alpha Protocol aims to deliver all the spy goodness we crave for while being a damn fine game, but does it deliver?
The scripting is strong – very strong and its immediately noticeable from the razor sharp, intelligent dialogue. You are given three emotional dialogue styles of reply – Suave, Professional and Aggressive. For those budding Bond fans, the ‘suave’ option would surely always come first …. well if it wasn’t for the fact that many of the retorts make you sound like you really need to get laid. The dialogue alone is very along the lines of Mass Effect, in that every conversation can effect the outcome of the game.
If you kill people then you will never get to see certain aspects of the game unfold, which obviously lends itself well to a high replay factor.
You take control of Agent Michael Thornton, not a fine purveyor of chocolates but in fact a rather interesting mixture of Jack Bauer and James Bond. The plot is sinister, complicated and intriguing and Thornton travels the world chatting up women and killing whoever get in his way, with little regard for his actions. If that is the way you want to play it.
You are faced against Russian Mafia and many other crime organisations and Alpha Protocol slowly unravels a twisted and fascinating look into the mind of the world as a skilled spy. What I liked about the game however was the fact that it never took itself all that seriously and there are many tongue in cheek moments that work as comedy relief, but never in a way which insults the audience. Take all the favourite parts of the best spy movies and merge them into a game and you get Alpha Protocol.
The game works as a cross between a shooter and RPG and it handles itself admirably well for the most part. You can power up your abilities and weapons, but it takes some time to become proficient with everything at your disposal. Even though you take control of a skilled spy, many of his attributes and tools are clearly from the ‘n00b’ camp. This means initially its tough, and I was swearing like a trooper for the first hour while I had my ass handed to me on a regular basis.
Upgrading your stats comes thick and fast and its not long before you have a Sean Connery character at your disposal. The weaponry on offer is both diverse and well constructed, which I feel will appeal to many gamers – the developers have spent a lot of time thinking about how to make this game work long term.
The combat is intuitive and well handled and you are given the choice to take many of the levels from a true Sam Fisher stealth approach if you want. If this irritates then a Rambo, ‘shoot now and think later’ approach is also possible. I replayed this game twice, taking into account both approaches and it played out very differently. Bonus points awarded for this.
Sadly much of the enjoyment is ruined by the shocking Artifical Intelligence – many times I saw guys stuck in walls, stuck in doors and even a few aiming at you and clearly forgeting how to pull a trigger. If I was quicker with my recording, I could have showed you a video of three of them running in a circle, some weird display of ring a ring a rosies. Well before I mowed them all down with an SMG. To be fair the AI isn’t completely broken, but it frequently caused “WTF” moments.
Enemies are generally also rather bland which is a shame as the combat system has been clearly well constructed. The boss fights are the highlight for me especially the battle against the Russian crime boss who uses his disco based mirror floor to blind you during the battle. Its cheesy, but fun.
The scripting is fantastic and it holds a high standard from start to finish – which incidentally is around 12-14 hours depending on your pace. Not a long game then by any means, but it is packed with a lot of memorable moments.
Sadly, the game is not open world but very linear in nature and you never feel like you could run off Far Cry 2 style to explore the surroundings – you are forced into areas the game designates and if you want to move off track, its tough luck. Thankfully, while the environments are linear, your choice of life giving, or taking moments are firmly in your own hands. Sometimes even your enemies can end up becoming friends which is a nice concept very few games seem to offer.
Graphically, the engine runs well on both Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 with little frame rate issue to mention, although I found the PS3 version seemed to stutter the odd time when I was moving between locations. Nothing major but noticeable nontheless.
Alpha Protocol is far from a perfect game, but if you enjoy spy movies and the Mass Effect ‘style’ of interacting with other NPC’s then it will certainly be worth a look. Sadly for me, the dire A.I. and rather bland enemy characters marred the experience. I would recommend it, but only for those of you who like a rich story and sharp dialogue. Most of the enemies are really dumb.