Regrettably, most games which have depicted the espionage business have focused on visceral rudiments. Although players have been offered exhilarating car chases and gratifying gunplay, the more cerebral exploits of the spy trade are often overlooked. After years of skulking around as Sam Fisher or mimicking Heavys in Team Fortress 2, players deserve an opportunity to use their intellect to circumvent a global catastrophe, woo an insidious femme fetale or even hack into a fortified computer network. As decades of action games illustrated, any common goon can muscle his way through an impasse.
Recent release Alpha Protocol succeeds in its execution of the highbrow elements of cloak-and-dagger work, allowing players to make dialog and conflict choices that can have a significant effect on the trajectory of the storyline. Each conversation presents players with multiple responses- professional, suave, or aggressive relies which drastically affect how each character perceives you. Occasionally, you’ll be presented with different course of actions- should you pardon, arrest or execute a shifty arms dealer? Kill him and you may save hundreds of lives – yet consequently, a branch of missions which would have been developed from coerced intel, suddenly disappears from existence. While a number of titles have tried to employ a butterfly-effect model into their story logic, few have been successful as Alpha Protocol; at such the game demands multiple play-through to admire the breadth and complexity of its interconnected world.
With the intricacy of creating alternative realities, it’s clear that developer Obsedian Entertainment had to limit the scope of Alpha Protocol. Although players can tweak protaganist’s Michael Thorton’s appearance, the title doesn’t permit the creation of a unique avatar. As a consolation, players are given five background choices for the lead character (soldier, covert ops, tech specialist, freelancer, and rookie), each with a distinctive skillset that favors specific types of play.
Less pardonable is Alpha Protocol‘s action which presents a consistent stream of quirks. While these idiosyncrasies blemish the title’s aspirations of immersion, none are severe enough to ‘break’ the game. Through each mission, players may rely on gadgets, stealth, or a impatient trigger finger to surpass a myriad of minions. Although the high-tech appliances are gratifying, the devices are scarce enough to force Thorton to employ the other two methods of conflict management. While stealth may seem like the requisite approach for guiding an operative, the mechanic can be decidedly uneven- corpses in camera range may not trigger alarms, yet a tiny peek around a corner may alert a guard twenty yards away. Disappointingly, the game’s last option- ballistics, isn’t free of peculiarity either. Some players may balk at the game’s reliance of statistical number crunching to determine whether a bullet hits its target. Fortunately, solace can be found is the game’s critical shot, employed when the aiming reticule is held over an enemy. However, Alpha Protocol‘s weapon’s balancing cannot be overlooked- assault rifles are the weapon of choice, as even augmented pistols and SMGs offer very little accuracy or stopping power.
Even more irregular than the title’s combat selection is the game’s thickheaded AI. While foes can sporadically demonstrate super-human perception (such as when a unperturbed soldier tossed a grenade in my direction) quite often their combat training seems deficient, making them undemanding fodder. As such, players can expect a recurring display of Keystone Kop-styled bumbling, from antagonists running in circles when alarms are tripped to forgetting how to operate a ladder.
Peer beyond the occasional texture pop-in, and the lead character’s rudimentary hunch (employed whenever sneaking), Alpha Protocol will reward players with some well-drawn environments, the occasional graphical flourish, and even some well-rendered blood. Complementing the game’s visuals is BT’s evocative score and some solid voice acting, with each performer delivering a convincing performance.
If players can look past Alpha Protocol‘s imperfections, they’ll discover a gratifying journey filled with double-crosses, outrageous conspiracies, and an intriguing cast of characters. Look past these weaknesses, and you’ll uncover a title that begs for several playthroughs, as the game’s beauty isn’t found within its action or its visuals, but rather buried in its stunning intricacy.