The premise intrigues at first: an RPG style video game that has an ambitious espionage style plot. Sounds like an interesting afternoon to me. But a video game cannot reach the top of the ratings and the bottom of our hearts on premise alone. What does Alpha Protocol leave out that keeps it from being a top notch game?
In Alpha Protocol, you play as Agent Michael Thorton, the newest of “Alpha Protocol,” a secret organization of spies. When a passenger train is taken down by terrorists, it becomes your job to figure out who is responsible, track them down, and bring them to the proper authorities. To accomplish this, you travel around the world to different places. You get to choose your path to a great degree, as there are multiple ways to complete your missions. As your decisions take you farther and farther away from the original path, you can find yourself in a completely different game experience from the first time you beat the game.
You can choose how Michael Thorton prefers to take down his foes by assigning him a class. There are three: tech, soldier, and stealth. Each of these has a number of special abilities that you unlock over time. You can also buy new weapons or upgrade skills like lock picking that can make things easier for you, depending on the way you’re playing the game. There are mini games associated with lock picking and cracking into computers and they become very difficult late in the game–making these upgrades imperative.
All of these abilities would be great if the fighting system were better. Michael moves around clumsily through areas, the third person shooting is difficult to control and frustrating, and the stealth is disappointing–more often than not the guards will see you long before you can sneak up on them. There are a lot of enemies in this game and that means that what should be relaxed shooting turns into frustrating gameplay. You actually find yourself glad when the fighting stops–bad sign!
The story is not bad, exactly, but the part that Michael plays in it feels wooden and awkward. Michael has no real personality of his own, but really just seems like a faceless shadow willing to stab someone in the back at any moment. I suppose this is to keep the options open to you for choosing what path he takes, but the result is an unlikable character that just makes you feel dirty to be representing.
The best thing about this game is the wide number of options that you have for your plot path. You can even try a little James Bond style play and seduce women to get what you want. Unfortunately, little perks like this do not cover up what feels like a half finished game. Reviews have widely varied from a 2 to a 7/10.