Sometimes, critics suprise me. While most of the time they help me choose products with reliable reviews, sometimes they disappoint me. This is the case with Alpha Protocol, a game that was praised for its RPG elements, but criticized for its weak shooting and sneaking mechanics. After buying it, I completely disagree. Alpha Protocol is one of the most underrated games of all time.
The story is an ambitious one. It features an astoundingly dynamic plot that changes depending on the choices that you make. While other games have tried to do this, no game has done it as good as Alpha Protocol. These choices are timed, meaning you don't have an unlimited amount of time to think about what to do. You have to think fast. The spy theme would have been interesting alone, but these timed choices making makes it all the more awesome.
For instance, early in the game, I went on a mission to intercept a weapons dealer suspected of selling weapons in the middle-east. I sneaked through the camp, and caught him. This is where the choice making began. I engaged in conversation with the man. I maintained a professional approach to the conversation. Then, as I was confronted with the next timed choice, there was an "Execute" option. I ended up sparing him.
This brought up the question - what would have happened if I had killed him? Would he have a private army come to me to avenge his death? How would my superiors react? What would the consequences be?
It's moments like these that make Alpha Protocol special. The intracies demand multiple playthroughs of the game, and I always wanted to play more to see how the game would play out if I chose a different approach.
Beyond the fantastic story, the gameplay is strictly RPG. Don't expect an Uncharted-like adventure that focuses on shooting. This is a game that sticks closely to the RPG rules. That being said, the game is fantastic when it comes to basic gameplay. There are three elements of gameplay - shooting, stealth, and minigames. Each one is handled well, and are polished enough that it can compete with other shooters in the genre.
Shooting probably got the most criticizing from the critics. They claimed that when you have your aiming reticule right upon the enemy's head, that doesn't mean that you will hit him. They also stated that pistols were completely inaccurate. This is where the critics messed up. I played through the game as a stealth agent, specializing in pistols. I upgraded my pistol stats at every oppertunity. I experienced no problems in my accuracy after I upgraded that tree enough.
This re-introduces the fact that this game is an RPG. Don't expect to excel in pistols if you haven't applied a single upgrade to that tree. You must choose the weapons that you have upgraded your skills for.
Anyways - back to shooting mechanics. The game features a standard third-person cover-shooting mechanics, similar to Uncharted or Gears of War. You can peer out of cover to shoot bad guys with a variety of weapons. The cover system is easy to use, and I have no issues with it. Overall, the shooting is pretty solid overall. As long as you can keep in mind that it is an RPG, you can easily enjoy the shooting.
Same goes for stealth - your skills and upgrades in stealth will determine if you can excel in it. The skills that you unlock as you progress in stealth are more than worth the investment, and lead to you becoming the ultimate stealth warrior. My only complaint is that stealth can feel a bit basic at times. Don't expect anything too advanced, like shadows and camo. Alpha Protocol is basically about hiding behind a box, waiting for the guy to come around near you, then kill him. Stealth definitely gets more deep as you progress, but I still feel it could be a bit more deep.
As for minigames, they are incredibly easy to pick up, and I encountered no problems. There are three minigames - lockpicking, computer hacking, and alarm bypassing. Lockpicking is easy - you apply force to the pin using L2, and set the pin using R2. Computer hacking is the hardest - you must find specific combinations of letters and numbers in a data stream. May be hard to new players, but it gets easier the more you do it. Finally, alarm bypassing is also easy. It is the most fun of the minigames, and easy for new players to pick up.
Overall, Alpha Protocol's RPG influenced gameplay is fantastic. Upgrading your skills is addictive, and the shooting and stealth are respectable, and a blast to play through.
As for the graphics, Alpha Prtotocol is also great. Character models look fantastic, and the cutscenes look incredible. Environments look awesome, with detailed textures. However, the animations can range from good to slightly exaggerated. The best example of this is the running animation, which looks unintentionally stupid. Also, there is a lot of texture pop-in, especially when looking through menus. It takes about a second for the texture to pop-up seemingly EVERY TIME you want to view a different item. However, these flaws do little to detract from the beauty of the game. Alpha Protocol still looks great, even if it won't be going up against Uncharted anytime soon.
Audio is also fantastic, with some incredible voice acting and script. The great voice acting makes the characters in the story feel more than just cardboard cutouts. The sound effects for the guns aren't anything special, but the music is fantastic, and adds to the super-spy theme - you'll feel like you're in a James Bond film.
The lasting appeal of the game is phenomonal. The game is incredibly lengthy (up to 15 hours), and the decision making adds incredible value to an already deep game. I'm constantly wanting to go back and see how a different approach to the game affects the game. There is no online play, but a game as good and deep as this one doesn't need it.
Here is the review summary. It is rated on an out of ten scale.
Everything about the story reminds me of a spy film. The decision making means that each playthrough has potential to be completely different.
While the animations can be exaggerated and the pop-in is abundant, the cutscenes look fantastic and the character models look great.
The game features an incredibly musical score, and the voice action is believable, and undeniably delivers.
While the strictly RPG gameplay may turn off hardcore shooter fans, it will definitely appeal to the RPG fans. Polished shooting, awesome stealth, cool minigames, and an in-depth leveling mechanic - what's not to love?
Lasting Appeal: 9.5
While the game won't last forever, it definitely has some fantastic replay value. The impressive decision making ensures that you'll be playing Alpha Protocol for some time.
Overall Score: 9.5 out of 10