Alpha Protocol Review

Written by Joe Martin

May 27, 2010 | 08:30

Tags: #alpha-protocol #alpha-protocol-review #rpg #spy

Companies: #obsidian-entertainment #sega

Omega Syndrome

Alpha Protocol’s AI isn’t great, with guards sometimes refusing to notice you when you approach them from the side, yet able to hear you crawl up behind them. Sometimes they’ll use machine guns at point blank range, while others will abandon their cover to run up and punch you.

Setting off an alarm is what really highlights this though, with enemies going back to their normal behaviours when you turn off any triggered alarms, gunshots or no.

What really kills Alpha Protocol in our opinion though is the overall structure and the tiny, crowded, linear levels that it relies on. Much time is spent in your safehouse between missions, prepping for your next assignment by buying new weapons or discussing theories with your estranged bosses via video conference. If you want then you can customise your weapons and armour with upgrades or browse dossiers on important characters, though it’s far from essential until later stages.

When your preparations are complete then you can finally delve into your next job, choosing which order you want to tackle them in and even buying intel from the black market before hand if you want to check out maps and so on before hand.

Alpha Protocol Review Omega Syndrome
Subtle

Unfortunately, as soon as you get into the mission then it quickly becomes obvious that your preparations don’t actually matter all that much. The levels are all fairly linear, with routes boiling down to simple choices over short stretches – zipline to that roof or run over to the ladder. To us that doesn’t really constitute a wholly new path.

Sneaking past enemies is never easy enough to be a viable option for a game that uses a checkpoint system, it’s always just easier to be overtly aggressive and there’s rarely any consequence to doing so. You quickly fall into a habit of melee attacks and assault rifles – which is unfortunately the least satisfying but most efficient way to play without having to re-do some sections over and over.

Sitting down to play Alpha Protocol we wanted to feel like spies, but we ended up feeling like somewhat awkward soldiers simply because the RPG and stealth systems aren’t robust enough to support player choice. Alpha Protocol may be a RPG/shooter hybrid on paper, but in practice it just feels like a dodgy third person action game and the brevity of most levels means that you can easily spend more time getting ready for assignments than actually enjoying them.

Alpha Protocol Review Omega Syndrome
Murder on the dancefloor!

To be fair, there are still a few things that Alpha Protocol does really well and there are definitely some truly brilliant ideas presented within it, like the notion of collecting dossiers on allies by asking the right questions or following bonus objectives. The perks system too is worthy of praise, as it works alongside the dossier feature in the way it encourages you to interact with characters and consider your actions.

Alpha Protocol Review Omega SyndromeSadly though, those few ideas which do work well are buried by a multitude of issues which systematically tear down and destroy the huge potential that could have been afforded by Obsidian’s choice of setting and approach. The poor balancing, the rambling speeches, the linearity and the simple fact that the combat doesn’t feel pleasant? These are just the highlights

Alpha Protocol still works in the strictest sense and there’s still doses of fun to be metered out from individual kills, accomplishments and a few standout moments – but on the whole it doesn’t have the focus or quality you’d expect of a modern day RPG. We’re willing to overlook specific weaknesses based on the merits of the experience as a whole – to cite it again, we still love Deus Ex despite the terrible graphics and stiff combat, but Alpha Protocol frankly doesn’t have enough strengths to qualify.

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