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--- Quote from: Handshakes on November 18, 2011, 04:08:13 PM ---Alpha Protocol

What do you get when you cross Mass Effect with Deus Ex (the first one, not the orange pop edition that just came out a month or so ago)? Alpha Protocol, that's what!

The good:
The conversation system is much more complex than in the Mass Effect games. For one thing, conversations don't pause for ten minutes while you pick out a response. You have a very natural response time (one to two seconds) with which to pick out what you want to say. Better yet, what you say actually matters. In ME (Mass Effect), all of the conversational choices basically come down to this: You get a generic goody goody response and a generic snarky prick response, but either way you go the conversation always ends up in the exact same place. The only times that conversation choices matter in ME is when you get a "renegade", "paragon", or sexy-time response to pick. In AP (Alpha Protocol), however, every single choice matters. Every character you talk to has their own sets of likes and dislikes, so as a super spy you have to custom tailor what you say to them to manipulate them into getting what you want. This can either mean telling them what they want to hear so that they'll like you more and be more receptive to you, or it can mean actively pushing their buttons so that you can throw them off their guard and trip them up. Eventually you'll even get a reputation, either as a professional or a snarky prick, and people who you go on to meet will come into the meeting with preconceived notions of your douchebaggery/level-headedness. Plus, unlike ME, if you pick the snarky prick response during a time of crisis, characters will actually have a "what the hell is wrong with you" reaction, which is actually pretty natural, so I like that.

Another cool thing about AP is how nearly every thing you do has an effect on the way the game plays out. I already mentioned how the conversation system can change the game, but even how you perform during missions has an effect as well. For instance, if you are doing a mission against a rival spy company and you pull off the mission without getting seen, then the rival spy company won't treat you like a bastard the next time they see you (because they have no idea you were doing a mission against them). Overall, you are encouraged to play this spy game like a spy - as in you should rarely get seen - but you are allowed to play it however you want, including like a maniac with a machine gun in each hand - just don't expect to get many friends in the game by doing things that way.

One of the great things about this game is that sometimes things don't go your way. Whether you don't have enough time to think about a conversation choice and pick the wrong one, or you trip an alarm during a mission that was otherwise going stealthy and well, you will screw up... And that's okay. I like that, unlike games like Mass Effect where you have all the time in the world to pick what you want to do exactly how you want to do it, this game takes it out of your hands a little bit. Things don't always turn out the way you want them to: This is what roleplaying is all about!

The story is subtle-ish in that it is about manipulative corporations and government bureaucracies instead of saving the world from imminent doom. The characters are pretty great, including your choice of sexy ladies to infiltrate. Every character has an agenda, and only by interacting with them, and buying info on them from the black market and reading about them, can you figure out exactly what angle they are playing at.

And did I mention the sexy ladies? You get your standard, shy and bookish asian chick (I say standard because all of these RPGs has that nerd girl to bang: The elf girl from Dragon Age 2, Tali Zorah from Mass Effect, etc...). A German cougar chick who is rambo mixed with Dr. Strangelove (and if the asian chick likes you enough she gets super jealous during one of the missions, and it hilarious how she keeps bringing up cougar-lady's age). A reporter with outrageously big tatas, and a doe-eyed secretary who accidentally gets caught in the conspiracy. Finally, a mute Europunk orphan girl (who you may or may not get to bang - I'm not sure about this one because she is more sad than sexy by a mile).

The bad:
You know how in Mass Effect 2 once the shooting part of the game started it was pretty standard stop-n-pop shooter stuff? I'm not saying it was bad, I just mean that it was inoffensive in that it was kind of easy and fun for what it was. Well, Alpha Protocol's in-mission gameplay is not always inoffensive.

The difference is that in Mass Effect you are always good at shooting your gun. What I mean is that even at level 1 you can shoot things in the face from across the room. In fact, all leveling up gives you in Mass Effect is cool new powers to use against the baddies to help you out even more. Alpha Protocol is not like that.

See, in Alpha Protocol every vital skill you have is something that has to be leveled up. So you start with level 0 in pistols, which basically means that you can't shoot somebody in the face even when you are standing two feet from them. Worse still, your stealth skill is also level 0, which makes you about as subtle as a clown with squeaky shoes. Unless you are freaking perfect, for the first couple hours of the game you WILL NOT be successful during your stealth missions, and shooting your way out will be a ridiculous affair. I don't necessarily hate this; Deus Ex used a very similar leveling system, and that game was brilliant.

Moreover, the game just doesn't do stealth very well. Splinter Cell, this aint. The stealth always feels kind of clunky, and because of the leveling system if your stealth is on the low side it can sometimes feel like the enemies are freaking psychic. This can lead to some BS instances of getting caught. Rather than be a perfectionist and reload, however, just keep playing through. Fracking up a mission can alter the game's story in cool ways anyway, so it can be rewarding in its own way to fudge up here and there.

Now for the truly bad part of the gameplay: The unlocking minigames! Remember in Mass Effect how you had to match up lines of code, or match up circuits to unlock some doors? Kinda boring, but they worked, yeah. In Alpha Protocol, however, the controls for the (PC version, anyway) minigames are HORRENDOUS. It is hair-pullingly frustrating to stealth your way through an entire mission, only to fudge up on a minigame and trip an alarm, not because you couldn't find the matching code, but because the controls are so clunky that you couldn't select the right piece of code. These minigames are awful, and they are, I'm sad to say, plentiful during the game. Yuck.

Overall, I give Alpha Protocol a...


It feels like a REAL rpg for a change, which is refreshing enough that I can forgive a certain clunkyness and lack of polish in some of the game elements.

Is it a classic? No, I don't think anybody will be playing this in 20 years for its historical contribution to gaming. But it IS absolutely worth a purchase and playthrough.

*The version of Alpha Protocol that I played was the PC version through the OnLive playpack. The Xbox 360 version might have issues that I don't know about, or it might be significantly better (I'm willing to bet that the controls for the minigames are a hell of a lot tighter on the Xbox 360). I think my total playtime clocked in at right around 15 hours.

--- End quote ---

[Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton Returns to Alpha Protocol]

Not much for rating systems, but lately have been hooked on Sunset Overdrive (old by current standards - don't remember if it was a launch title). Despite some of its repetitiveness, its silly, goofy and surprisingly M-rated content more than make up for it. Couple that with one of the most under-rated and entertaining bosses (I get where some may consider annoying) in current-gen gaming [Fizzie] and it's made for good gaming times, IMO.


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