|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Obsidian Ent.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 1, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
April 6, 2010 - In a lot of ways, Alpha Protocol is what games were made to be. If you asked some of the earliest video game designers what they would do if they could make any game they wanted (without technology restrictions, obviously), you'd probably get a game that sounds an awful lot like Alpha Protocol.
You're a super-spy who travels around the world, caught up in a vast conspiracy, and you can choose exactly what he says to everyone he encounters. Don't trust the far-too-attractive-to-be-flirting-with-me femme who just met you five minutes ago? You don't have to sit idly by and trust her like James Bond so often does. It's a nerdy dream come true, and if our sneak peak of the game at PAX East is any indication it should be just as good as we imagined when it releases this summer.
It's true that Alpha Protocol bears a large resemblance to Mass Effect, but who ever said that was a bad thing? That would be like complaining to your waiter that your spinach tastes like lobster. Just pipe down and enjoy it.
The conversation system is the first similarity that people will notice, but there are some differences. First of all, there seem to be wide-ranging consequences for the choices you make. In one scene we were shown how the same scene can produce drastically different results. In this particular scene, one branch ended with the lights going dim and our male and female leads going into the bedroom for some quiet time, and the other ended with the female character inducing blunt force trauma on our hero.
The other dissimilarity is that you don't pick the words that your character speaks. You merely pick an emotion and the character responds with that emotional angle. It's very self-explanatory: anger, happy, and tender all produce logical results. The other difference is that there is a time limit on responses. In games like Mass Effect, you've got all the time in the world to mull over your decision and dream up the potential consequences and rewards. In Alpha Protocol the developers want you to constantly be on edge and to think on your feet like you would if it was actually you in these situations.
However, there is a lot to differentiate Alpha Protocol from the pack. For starters, the combat system is far more varied than Mass Effect 2 could ever hope to be. In any given mission the strategy you take is your own choice. If you want to build a stealth character that can sneak through the level and snipe his enemies one by one, there is certainly enough customization to make that happen. And, if you want to march through the level blasting fools into the next world in a macho display of power, you are also afforded that opportunity.
This seems to be Alpha Protocol's main strength. You have many different categories that you can customize your character in as you level up, but there are also other aspects that provide differentiation as well.
You can customize your load-out similarly to a Rainbow Six-style game. It doesn't stop at just letting you pick your grenades and armor color, though. You're also given the option to choose your armor thickness, ammo type, gun accessories, and many other categories. It's not just meaningless customization, either. The character that was played in our sneak peek had acquired silent rounds for his assault rifle, making the stealthy approach much more viable.
The problem with most action games with "choice" is that the choice only affects which cutscenes you see; with few exceptions, the gameplay remains practically identical. With Alpha Protocol's new take it looks like you'll be able to have a larger impact on the path of your gameplay not only in terms of the levels you end up in, but also in terms of having a very real impact on how those levels are played.
After four long years of development, Obsidian is finally ready to release Alpha Protocol. The team is adamant that the game was ready for release last fall when it was originally scheduled to hit store shelves, but that SEGA decided it follow the exodus of 2009 games into 2010 (hoping to avoid competing with Modern Warfare 2). Now it's releasing in June with practically no discernible triple-A competition. With a little bit of luck and some favorable review scores, this expensive venture from SEGA could pay off in the end.
CCC Freelance Writer