Just before Christmas I bought a lot of discounted games. Alpha Protocol, a game created by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Sega, was among them. I always loved spy games and an RPG spy game seemed like a good thing to play.
In Alpha Protocol, the player fills the shoes of a pre-defined character, Michael Thorton. You can still pick a few background parameters that mostly affect your starting gear and skills, and when you are in your safe house you can customize your character a little bit more. But in the end, the only character you have the option to play is Michael Thorton.
The game is structured into areas (or cities) with sub-missions. You can access these through the safe house you get when you reach a specific city. Besides the tutorial, the first missions, and the ending, there is no order to complete the other areas; but what you do in one place can have repercussions in another. You can turn possible friends into foes or change the story as you advance in it. You also need to be careful of what you say, making people like you or hate you has consequences, like missing out on some intel that could be helpful in a mission. Overall, there is nothing special about the maps or missions layout, beside the gathering of “dossiers” and the characters you can encounter. The game is a lot more about the characters than the gameplay.
Alpha Protocol is a mix of shooter and RPG. I think it feels a lot like the original Deus Ex in terms of gameplay, where you get better at handling your weapon with the more points you put into it. My favorite play-style was the hand-to-hand sneaky guy. I usually used the non-lethal takedown, because I didn’t like my orphan counter to go up (the game has a stats page with this information). So I spent most of the game crouched, waiting to ambush enemies and using martial arts to take them down. My Michael will have severe back problems in the future.
Unfortunately, Alpha Protocol isn”˜t perfect. There is some “bad stuff” in it. The first thing that come to mind is the first “boss” you encounter. I play sneaky characters, but I get forced to take down a tank with a rocket launcher. Tedious, and it also destroys the sense of control you have over your character. There are also a few bugs or strange design decisions: reloading a save might remove all enemies from the map as if you finished it (the game uses a save point system), you can’t back track in some missions (areas get closed off), and a few animations glitches here and there.
I do know that AP got a critical reception on the market, but, personally, I enjoyed the game a lot. I could live with the small glitches I encountered, the story made up for them. Unfortunately, the game didn’t sell very well, so the chances are slim that we will see a sequel.