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Game Info:

Alpha Protocol

Publisher: SEGA

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Released: June 1, 2010

ESRB Rating: M for Mature: Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language


Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PS3


Genre: Action RPG

MRSP: $59.99

 

Obsidian Entertainment are wizards when it comes to creating sequels and spin-offs for other developers' with games like Fallout New Vegas, adding their own story and gameplay tweaks to an existing franchise.

So, when their brand new IP Alpha Protocol was announced, merging the interactive story telling and character customization of Mass Effect with the globe trotting spy thriller of a Bourne Identity yarn, I was excited. Unfortunately, it seems when the training wheels came off, Obsidian wobbled and scraped a few knees trying to get Alpha Protocol out the door.

You take control of Agent Michael Thorton, a globe-trotting spy, who joins the ranks of a shadowing organization investigating criminal corporations and double dealing terrorists with a licence to kill. It may be a familiar premise but it's the rousing story where Alpha Protocol really shines. Obsidian adopts a Mass Effect approach to dialogue options, allowing players to choose the tone of their response during conversation. The difference is you only have a small time frame to choose your response before the game randomly chooses for you. This not only adds tension during cutscenes but makes conversations flow more naturally. Voice acting for the most part is spot on, and the twisting spy plot keeps you guessing who's working for who until the very end. The game also does an admirable job of presenting moral choices, like choosing whether to execute your target or bring them in alive. Do you sell that new piece of information on the black market for extra cash, or send it to a reporter to bring to light? Every action plays out later in the game, giving you real reasons to consider every response.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Constantly changing story guided by the player's choices, solid voice work, customizable RPG elements.

Weak Points: Boring gameplay, bland environments, poor AI.

Moral Warnings: Blood and violence, coarse language and sexual content.

Unfortunately, Obsidian makes a fatal blunder when it comes to gameplay. Everything from the hit detection to the gunfire feels imprecise, making it hard to really immerse yourself in the world. Until you max your stats in a certain weapon discipline, you never really know where your bullets are going to end up. On the other hand, play mechanics like stealth and melee immediately leave you overpowered, making for some unbelievable invisible kill-chain scenarios or unlikely fist vs. shotgun victories. Often, enemies provide more comedic relief than a challenge and tend to forget about the deadly intruder when you turn a corner. This would be less of an issue, however, if you were actually having fun.

Boss encounters serve to break up the pace of mundane gameplay, but instead of intense firefights, they only reveal how boring and unfair the game can be. If you specialize in stealth, the boss' uncanny aim and regenerating shields can seem frustrating, until exploiting an overpowered skill like Chain Shot or waiting until they get stuck in a wall. Suddenly an impossible fight becomes ridiculously easy, neither of which are very satisfying.

On the RPG side, there is a ton of customization options for everything from choosing your class, to tweaking the type of weapon you use and even your appearance. While most missions encourage stealth, going in guns blazing works just fine. However, there is less depth here than most RPGs with limited weapon selection and a barebones character customization. Ultimately, I gave my agent a lumberjack beard just to make him stand out.

The graphics are another aspect to suffer through when trying to appreciate Alpha Protocol. While character models look good from a distance, bland locations, unnatural character animations (crouch walking looks ridiculous) and more than a few instances of enemies stuck in the environment tend to give the game a cheap, unfinished feel.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 50%
Gameplay: 8/20
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 7/10
Stability: 2/5
Controls/Interface: 3/5

Morality Score - 78%
Violence: 8/10
Language: 6/10
Sexual content: 6/10
Occult: 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 9/10

Other than the great voice acting, nothing else really stands out in the sound department. Despite travelling across the globe, all the bad guys speak English, and for the most part, the spy movie soundtrack is completely forgettable.

Other things to watch out for is the number of F-words enemies and bosses spout, both during cut-scenes and in-game. While some may consider that type of language realistic during a firefight, the way it's implemented comes off as inauthentic or simply tacked on for shock value.

For those playing a more suave/lady's man character (sorry girls, no female Thortons) there are a number of sexual innuendos both in the dialogue and explicit emails you receive in-game. There are a number of instances of sex during the game, ranging from panty shots, to a suggestive fade to black and even a heavily implied bondage sex scene.

And while you can shoot and kill hundreds of armed guards throughout a single play through, the game almost always gives you the option of achieving your goals using non-lethal means. There is an emphasis on cooperation over killing, especially with agents and organizations of all different nationalities. There is also a strong anti-American supremacy and anti-corporate greed theme running throughout. The choice is up to the player, who to ultimately side with, so other than the unavoidable coarse language and sexual innuendos, the player can control how appropriate or inappropriate the game becomes.

Depending on how much you enjoyed Alpha Protocol and overlooked some of its shortcomings, replay value is extremely high with the temptation to play different classes and see through alternate choices you miss the first time around. With multiple difficulties and endings, and even the option to make your own class, there is a lot of mileage in Alpha Protocol.

In conclusion, I really wanted to love this 3rd person action/RPG hybrid. And while I loved the story and the characters, ultimately, the bad outweighed the good. Poor controls, boring gameplay, coarse language and dubious sexual content nearly ruin the experience. But that\'s not to say Alpha Protocol is un-playable, for those willing to lower their standards and turn off their brain during combat, (especially the part that measures ridiculous stealth walking) there is a great modern RPG spy thriller underneath. Not the stylish Daniel Craig or classic Sean Connery spy thriller, but you know, the Timothy Dalton of secret agents.

 

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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