PS3 Review: Alpha Protocol

I wonder what Gamma Protocol would have been like…

In Alpha Protocol you assume the role of Michael Thorton, a highly skilled government operative trained to eliminate threats to national security. When hundreds of innocent people are killed when a commercial airliner is shot down over Eastern Europe, it’s down to Thornton to find those responsible and bring them to justice. To do so, he will utilise the very government directive that the enemy sought to use against him – Alpha Protocol. Take complete control of Thornton’s actions, personality and attitude and become the spy of your choosing in this conspiracy thriller set in the present day.

Alpha Protocol is an RPG that plays like a third-person shooter, but it’s no Mass Effect. The actual gameplay of Alpha Protocol just feels broken, dated and worst of all, boring. Weapons handle horribly, especially the pistol which can completely miss its target despite aiming. There’s just no soul to the gameplay, nothing to redeem it apart from the RPG elements and decent storyline.

There are a number of mini-games like hacking computers, picking locks and disabling alarms…but these are also incredibly frustrating thanks to awkward controls. You can customise Thornton to fit your own style such as having an emphasis on stealth or a certain weapon, as well as having some special abilities that help you in combat like labelling where each enemy is, going invisible for a period of time and so on.

During conversations, you choose Thornton’s response…be it aggressive, professional or suave. You also can blackmail some people by finding info about your targets in emails, as well as make decisions to keep them alive or to kill them. It’s a similar kind of system to Mass Effect, but it doesn’t have quite the same enjoyment. It does give you a reason to replay the game for different outcomes, but I seriously doubt many would do that…only the very, very devoted.

Facial animation is well done, but the rest of the game looks like it belongs on last generation consoles. It just doesn’t stand up to what other similar games are out there, the actual character animation is just plain goofy at times, the levels lack that visual spark…well; the entire game is missing any real spark. The AI is a joke, sneaking up behind them to perform takedowns is incredibly easy. Perhaps one redeeming thing to mention is the voice-acting. Each performance sounds believable and there is some good character development, music is also not that bad. It’s just a shame that the actual gameplay is just horrid, as the other features had potential…if only they were in another game.

The Verdict

Despite a decent story, good voice-acting and interesting character development, Alpha Protocol is one hell of a disappointment. The traditional RPG elements are there, but the game doesn’t like to admit it’s really a third-person shooter and because it can’t do that, the game ends up being a complete mess with weapons that are really inaccurate, dumb AI and an average cover system. I hope the team goes back to the drawing board and comes up with a more compelling game to play, since there are some really good ideas in here…they just failed to execute them well.