Obsidian has made some good games and been part of some very large franchises. Albeit some releases were sequels that didn’t live up to their hype. That, however, had more to do with the lofty expectations of huge franchises like Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights than anything. The Alpha Protocol game similarly has a lot of hype behind it, but falls short of matching it at times. Most of the discussion about the game, and rightfully so, has to do with the clunky mechanics and the mixed-bag implementation of RPG elements in a seemingly shooter-heavy environment. The Mass Effect series this is not.
Alpha Protocols’ characters are lead by the player. You are Michael Thornton an agency specialist, or in the case of my initial play-through, a raw recruit transferred directly from the CIA. Beginning as a recruit adds more difficulty, but gives you more room to gain experience and customize your character. There is a certain level of enhancement to the immersion when you can control the character more directly and not have to use presets. That being said, using a preset may be in best interests for playing Alpha Protocol. The voice acting is solid, really solid in-fact. The story is well-done as well, although a bit “by-the-numbers” for your secret government agency tale. The voice-acting and written environments propel the narrative. Character models are decent, while textures are mostly passable, but pop in and out. Animations are also very inconsistent.
Again, Alpha Protocols’ gameplay elements are where the game really starts to get sketchy. This is due to their actual implementation combined with expectations for a game that boasts stealth as a keyword on it’s home page. Having an enemy directly lined up in your pistol sites does not for a perfect head-shot make, which can be very frustrating. In fact, most of my experience with the pistol at the low levels was maddening. My initial character load-out built on stealth, hand-to-hand combat and pistols. With no armor, a silencer equipped and my government agent kung-fu strong and ready roll I expected super-stealthy action. As mentioned, the beginning levels of the pistol are poor. From reading the upgrade layouts, the stealth I expected will probably only be effective at much higher levels as well. You will get into a fire-fight sooner rather than later, and that will be when you realize you should have put more into your automatic weapons stats. Make sure you upgrade your Alpha Protocol weapons thoroughly.
On one hand my gripes feel out of place. Like I am some sort of me-first reality-generation instant-gratification whiner who expects my “recruit-level” agent to be James Bond right out of the box. I should have the patience for the RPG elements to kick in. On the other hand, when I am already trained by the CIA and seem to be able to fly through the beginning training sessions (be sure to complete each one for your first Alpha Protocol PS3 trophy or Xbox 360/Live achievement), I feel like I should be able to stealthily snipe a guy from 10 feet with my silenced pistol. The bottom line for most gamers will be, does the narrative and presentation of said narrative through the voice-acting make up for the uneven gameplay experience? I am going to continue my play-through for awhile to see if I can get past these initial concerns. I would suggest a rental through a service like Gamefly, as I have done, for your Alpha Protocol experience.
Alpha Protocol is available for Xbox 360 and PS3 for $59.99 and Windows for $49.99 and can be found at all major on-line and store retailers.
Alpha Protocol, SEGA 2010
Alpha Protocol Image, Wikipedia 2010
Obsidian Entertainment, 2010