Review: Alpha Protocol
This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.The number of video games I have ever felt like playing through more than once can be counted on the hands of a convicted homosexual in Iran (ie. someone with no hands). I just don’t have the patience or the motivation. So it is no small praise to say that I started a 2nd playthrough of Alpha Protocol pretty much as soon as I completed it.
Obsidian have taken Mass Effect, added a sprinkling of Borderlands, a dash of Heavy Rain, the inspiration of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, then made everything a bit more crappy than all of those and released Alpha Protocol: the world’
s first spy espionage RPG. So I’m told by the trailers.Alpha Protocol is a heavily story-driven 3rd person shooter. The graphics are sub-par, there are no
exciting set pieces to be found, the controls are clunky in places and the action is fairly sedate, spread out by lengthy sequences of dialogue and the reading of emails and intelligence dossiers. If you don’t fancy a good read when you’re playing video games, you can skip forward to Singularity at the end of June.What Alpha Protocol lacks in style, it makes up for in substance. The slogan of the game is that your weapon is choice, and the possibilities for changing the way the story develops over your initial 20 hour playthrough are bewildering to the point where you have to wonder how many hours of dialogue were actually recorded in total.
You are Michael Thorton, a volunteer recruit for the top secret US agency Alpha Protocol. The agency is closely tied with Halbech Corporation, a company who “creates events” around the world to get countries to take out military contracts from the US government. Halbech’s aim is to create a cold war that will reap them large contractual profits; Thorton’s fear is they will end up creating a real war. Your mission? Well, whatever you want actually. As the game progresses you’ll meet a number of key characters who come up again and again. After each line of dialogue you will have a couple of seconds to choose a style of response – suave, professional, threatening, sarcastic, contemptuous, whatever floats your boat – and these responses will affect your reputation with each character.
Reputation may cause your missions or objectives to change. It may change how characters associated with the one you were talking with perceive you in future stages of the game when they first meet you. It may change what equipment is available to you and the cost. It may change which characters you end up in a romantic entanglement with, or what characters say to each other about you. You also have a handler for each mision; if the handler likes you too much, they may make more emotionally-biased decisions which could be dangerous for you.