Alpha Protocol Review

Obsidian Entertainment are known for making in-depth RPGs with memorable characters, however they are also renown for half-finished and buggy games as well. Take a look at Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2, both prime examples of how Obsidian Entertainment makes a game. So does Alpha Protocol follow in the steps of its predecessors or have Obsidian Entertainment finally got their act together?

Sound (4/5)
The game audio andof good quality in Alpha Protocol but it's nothing terribly special.

The game also doesn't get full marks with audio since the sound tends to skip sometimes, especially during some cutscenes.

Tutorial Part 1 Video

Music (4/5)
Music is good and appropriate for a spy game, however there aren't really any tunes that stand out here and quite frankly I was expecting a bit more from the great Alexander Brandon of Deus Ex fame, but then again I don't know if he had much hands-on input into the music or not.

Graphics (3/5)
These are probably the best graphics in an Obsidian Entertainment RPG to-date, and a lot of the faces of major character are drawn well and look realistic. However the game isn't as good as contemporary RPGs like Mass Effect 2 and even then the game struggles considering the modest graphics. Many a time I've experienced stuttering cutscenes. Making changes to the .ini file fixes some of the issues (something to do with loading levels/textures on the fly instead of waiting for a loading screen) but it still wasn't that smooth at parts.

There are also several clipping issues in the game and while this isn't a biggie, it doesn't exactly help its case either.

Tutorial Part 2 Video

Plot (4/5)
As to be expected from an Obsidian Entertainment game, their attention to detail shines in the plot. The game has lots of characters with in-depth backgrounds and you get to travel to different locations around the world such as Saudi Arabia, Moscow, Rome and Taipei. The game also has layer upon layer of conspiracy theories to uncover and while this is one of its strong suits, it's ironically one of its annoying points since sometimes you can get very confused as to who is the enemy and who isn't and how does this character you just met fit in with it all?

The easiest way to describe the gameplay in Alpha Protocol is that it's a spy version of Mass Effect. Basically it's an action RPG with a stealth system (albeit a poorly implemented one). During the action parts of the game (i.e. the parts when you're not talking with other characters or setting up a mission at a safehouse) you'll be attempting to either sneak around and silently take opponents out, or go in guns blazing. The game has a variety of ways you can take down or evade your opponents and as you level up you get different skills to help you on the way. This would be great if the stealth system worked properly but it doesn't. Sometimes, it may seem that you're safely concealed, but you're actually not, resulting in an alarm being raised and all hell breaking loose - and if you've set yourself up to be stealthy (e.g. not wearing armour, bringing silenced non-lethal weapons, etc.) this means you're not going to last long. Other times the game is way too forgiving and you'll be able to knock out an enemy right in front of his mate and he's none the wiser! Worst of all, when I played as a gung-ho, guns blazing sort of character, I actually got commended on my stealthy tactics (since usually the enemies never survived long enough to raise the alarm)! Look, I suppose it's good that Obsidian Entertainment even tried to implement a stealth system like Deus Ex, but the older game is still superior in this department.

Alpha Protocol wouldn't be an Obsidian Entertainment game if it didn't have bugs and even though there are fewer gameplay bugs than previous games there are still times when you'll get frustrated at what has transpired. For example, one mission I decided to go through the front door and be friendly with the guards so I wouldn't need to fight them later. However when I walked through an unlocked door outside to explore, somehow it triggered the guards to become hostile with me for no apparent reason. Obviously entering that particular area was a trigger for it but Obsidian Entertainment didn't take into account characters entering the area from the inside, resulting in the random and frustrating situation. The game also inaccurately recalls events with mission recaps. For example, one mission I managed to use non-lethal methods on almost everyone in the mission except the last guy while I was rushing out the door. In the debriefing I was condemned for the "bloodbath" that I caused by killing all the innoncent CIA agents at the base I was at - since when did I kill everyone and since when are CIA agents innocent? The mind boggles.

Conversation is performed similar to Mass Effect in that you have a conversation wheel in order to make choices. Unlike Mass Effect you have a time limit on making a choice and the choices aren't simple phrases, they're usually conversational styles to use so you don't usually know what your character will say until he says it. While on paper this sounds like a good idea since it rewards the gamers who like to roleplay and do things on the fly (I being one of them), the time it takes you to ponder what each conversation choice will actually result in means you often run out of time (thanks to the aforementioned time limit) and making a choice you didn't really want to make. There are generally three conversational styles you can adopt which are Aggressive, Suave and Professional. The developers of the game state that the styles correspond to the "Three JBs", i.e. Aggressive characters are like Jack Bauer from 24, suave characters are like James Bond and professional characters talk and act like Jason Bourne. It's a nice touch and further adds to the replayability.

In between this action you get to visit safehouses, where you can purchase new gadgets, weapons and intel, check up on e-mails, equip your character with gear, and watch TV amongst other things. The safehouses act like mini-Normandys from Mass Effect if you catch my drift, acting as a reprieve between the action you get in the missions, and the system works well.

Gadget Tutorial Video

Replayability (4/5)
One of the best aspects of Alpha Protocol is how replayable the game is. It's been admitted by the developers that the game itself is quite short but the number of forks in the road in this game is quite immense when compared to other games. For example, at one point in the game I decided to spare the life of a criminal instead of kill him (as I did in a previous playthrough). Sparing his life revealed that the man I was working for wasn't exactly a good-guy. Not only that but a new mission was unlocked. Also, the way you treat characters is very important and benefits can be had not only from people liking you but them hating you as well (if they're burning with rage, they can make mistakes).

The whole game thrives on choice (hence the game's slogan of "Your Weapon is Choice") although with all the choice you get in the game, the game's ending will usually pan out the same, albeit with different people as your allies. Also you can't play as a female character in the game although admittedly with the number of dialogue and choices you get in Alpha Protocol, this would've made it a gargantuan task!

This is the most polished Obsidian Entertainment game yet, but really that's not saying much is it? Besides the aforementioned graphics performance issues, the game tends to crash everytime you quit the game and Obsidian Entertainment were sloppy in implementing their options menu (i.e. it doesn't work and you have to manually change settings in the .ini file). There's also been no patch released yet to fix known bugs which some people are getting impatient about.

Weapons Orientation Video

Overall - 71%
The least buggiest Obsidian Entertainment RPG yet, which really isn't saying much... still the plot and replayability alone helps save this game from being merely average.