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Alpha Protocol (Xbox 360)

Being a spy sure sounds cool. All those fancy gadgets, hot women, action packed shoot outs and sneaking around... And that is what Alpha ProtocoI aims to deliver, along with real choices and consequences. But does it succeed? Read CapnCloudchaser's review to find out if this game will make a spy out of you.

There are many different types of role playing games these days. The lines have become so blurred, that I had to stop and think a few times and ask myself “Well, is this really an RPG?”. Many modern games fit under the banner of ‘action game with RPG elements’ and despite Alpha Protocol touting itself as the world’s first spy RPG, I had a hard time believing it. First and foremost, Alpha Protocol is an action game, but with an underlying level of statistics and choices.

The game is based around new agent, Michael Thornton, as he is forced to 'go rogue' as a James Bond-inspired spy, complete with a set of casual clothes and a whole bunch of NPC's to either threaten of charm. The story itself is pretty lightweight, although your interactions with NPC's can build up interesting friendships and even romance. However, it is the choices you can make within the game that make these interactions more interesting.

Whilst most games give an illusion of choice, the choices within Alpha Protocol actually created a different path within each game. Sometimes these changes would be as black and white as choosing to save a known innocent life over a group of unknown innocents, and sometimes they were more subtle, such as choosing to sneak through a certain mission and avoid killing American agents. Actually, it was after getting blasted by NPC’s later in the story for shooting an American agent in order to make an easy escape did I feel an immense amount of shame and guilt, causing me to realise just how clever the choices within the game actually were. In-game choices actually came with their own time limit, forcing you to make up your mind quickly and react as you would in a real-life situation, creating a lovely sense of pressure missing from other games.

Gameplay then, is split between missions focusing on the three main areas of Moscow, Rome and Taipei. The order you choose to complete missions has an effect on Intel, items and NPC interaction within the game, including the support you are able to gain within certain missions and at the end game. Whilst all missions have an end goal, the player can choose how they wish to approach them; by barging in guns blazing, sneaking around, breaking into computer systems, or a mixture as the situation calls for it. Combat is straight third-person shooting and is tied in towards character stats.

You’ll be forgiven for thinking that Alpha Protocol feels very similar to the original Mass Effect in terms of presentation, as the character levelling system is a straight translation. The player can level up their version of Thornton by assigning stats to skills such as stealth, weapons, sabotage, and so on. These also unlock abilities which makes the game much easier later on, such as invisibility, or ‘spy’s luck’ which gives you an extra chance should you fail at the hacking mini-games.

Alongside combat, the player must also hack computers, pick locks, and shut down security systems via some short mini-games. The mini-games themselves only start to get frustrating on the harder difficulty modes and can be bypassed for the most part with tech items.

Fact is, Alpha Protocol isn’t much of an RPG. Besides the levelling system, forced NPC conversation cut-scenes and random items you can acquire within missions, the only true freedom exists within missions. You can explore your own personal safe house for each city, but not actually do anything with them. You can respond to NPC conversations, but not initiate any yourself. Alpha Protocol isn’t much of an action game either. Combat can feel slow and dull, enemy A.I is laughably pathetic at times and offers no real challenge. Even on the hardest difficulty setting, the A.I remains the same, only their bullets cut a bit deeper. Many gamers have also complained of bugs and glitches, although the ones I came across didn’t seem to affect gameplay. Some missions are actually quite fun, but for the most part, the level design remains uninspired. The whole game itself can be completed fairly quickly in about ten hours.

But, it is the choices which enable the game to last longer. The core missions and story may remain the same, but the way you play, and the relationships with NPC’s change dramatically. The story itself may not be the most original on paper, but the characters are diverse and interesting enough to interact with multiple times. The length of the game actually encouraged me to complete the story again and again, unlocking new abilities and dialogue choices which, actually, were kind of fun.

On the whole, the choice of trying Alpha Protocol rests with you. If you’re after a real spy RPG, you will be disappointed, but if there is room for some lightweight action in your Saturday afternoon, it may be worth a try.

Verdict: 3/5

20th March, 2012 - 13:07 GMT Tru Article viewed 1136 times 0 Comments

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