Ah, Alpha Protocol, you silly bastard. For the longest time, this game either didn’t run, or ran in the same way a cow tumbles down the side of a rocky mountain. This doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore, so it’s time to take a crack at a game I’ve had quite a bit of fun with.
Developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Sega, Alpha Protocol was released in the US on June 1, 2010. It landed on Playstation 3, XBox 360, and Windows. It’s an action-RPG with some stealth thrown in. Think of a cross between, well, any RPG and Metal Gear Solid. Yep, there you go.
So, does it stand well with the genres it’s taken parts from? Let’s find out!
Wake Up, Alice
Alpha Protocol follows the story of Michael Thorton who happens to be the newest agent for the titular agency. He wakes up in a medical room after being drugged and moved to Alpha Protocol’s hidden location. From there, after doing a number on the guards, his sights are set on places ranging from Saudi Arabia to Rome to Moscow as Mike is tasked with hunting down and eliminating the leader of the terrorist group known as Al-Samad. But that’s just the beginning, as it is with any good espionage story.
Plenty of twists and turns will keep you guessing at who’s pulling the strings, whose strings are getting pulled, and if any strings are being pulled whatsoever.
It’s good, crazy, fun story telling.
Before you can start your adventure with Mike, you get a few options to check out to help decide what kind of skill set he’ll have.
Will he be a Field Agent? Capable of being a sneaky, sneaky little bastard that engages enemies on his terms, talking his way out of a bad situation if he has to?
Maybe a skilled combat veteran? Maybe Mike came from a more hectic combat background and doesn’t have any issue being loud to solve his problems.
There are a few other choices you can go with, like the archetype that focuses on gadgets or one where he’s more akin to what most people might consider an actual mercenary, going for blind and big bucks.
The game also offers a really neat option for people that want a more open starting set. Recruit offers you the ability to start with 0 ability points, meaning you’ve got no skills and have no points to work with, unlike the other options.
While the starting builds are fairly varied, I do feel like everyone winds up dumping enough points into the stealth category to unlock permanent Awareness. It provides you a visual of where enemies are looking (which isn’t too easy to read at first, honestly), their alarm level, and roughly how far away they are.
Slap that on just about any class and you either have things to avoid, things to quietly take down, or targets so bright you’d better rock some Ray Bans.
Handling Your Agent
Firstly, Mike controls fairly well overall. The movement and combat controls are responsive, but there are a few issues here and there. Climbing ladders can be a pain in the ass when Mikey can’t decide what the hell to do with them, like they’re the second coming of Christ. On occasion, the cover mechanic can get you caught and raise alarms, but I haven’t had this happen too often, personally. It does feel like it could’ve been smoothed out just a tiny bit more for a bit more of a fluid feel, because as it stands, it almost feels like Mike has a magnet in the back of his vest and he’s just slammed into the cover.
Some of the menus, however, are a different story. The gadget and weapon menus felt clunky most of the time, and don’t seem to have been thought out exceedingly well. I mean, they aren’t horrible, they’re actually pretty standard cross menus, but something more akin to what MGS does, would’ve been leagues better than what they wound up with. That might be more of a minor nitpick, though.
Outside of combat and menus, you’ll have to make quick, very quick, decisions during conversations, and work some mini-games to advance and gain intel and extra cash. The conversation bit is pretty straight forward, hit the corresponding button to the reply type you want to give, and Mike does it. The conversations themselves are very important as they can lead to dossier info, leads on your mission, and some extra fun stuff.
The mini-games are a good bit of fun, too. Picking locks, hacking computers, bypassing electronic door locks, and disabling alarms are what you’ll need to watch out for.
Lock picking isn’t too bad if you’re using a control, you apply just enough pressure to get the line where you need it to be and hold it steady while you hit the other trigger.
Hacking is definitely the one I like the least as it kind of disorients me, as I think it does for some people. You’re presented with a massive columned square with almost every single box changing whatever is in it rapidly. Your task is to find the two lines that don’t change at all in this shit storm of numberical-alphabet soup, and plop your lines of code in there. It’s not too bad, but like I said, for me, it’s a bit disorienting. Bypassing electronic locks shares this mini-game.
Disabling alarms is pretty straight forward. You’re shown three boxes, each with some pathways that lead to a number, and all you have to do is go from one to whatever. This one is probably my favorite of the bunch.
…or you could just say “fuck it” and put a point into Sabotage and carry an assload of EMP grenades to knock out most of the locks.
Watch Your Tongue, Boy
Like I just mentioned above, conversations are a pretty big part of the game. From unlocking more info for your dossiers and missions to getting extra bonuses from your handler back at AP, it all hinges on how you talk to people.
Your reputation with individuals will rise and fall depending on the tone you present to them. Thankfully, you have dossiers on most, if not all, of them, so you can study up before-hand and know how to handle them instead of them handling you.
End Of Alpha Protocol Dossier
So, is Alpha Protocol the best espionage/stealth game around? No, no it isn’t, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Well, at least it is, provided you can get it to run. I hadn’t tried running it on Windows 8.1 and still haven’t, but it seems to run fine on Windows 10. The only issue I’ve had, and I’ve had it with a few games, is the sound cutting out. That might just be my speakers, though because, honestly, they’re old and kind of shit.
As it stands, it’s sitting on Steam for $14.99USD. I expected it to be $10.00USD at most before I checked, but would I say it’s still worth the $15? Yep, but considering the issues a lot of people have had with it, maybe wait for a sale, and if it doesn’t run, there’s always the option to do a refund on Steam. If you have one of the consoles it’s on, buy it for that from Gamestop or Amazon. You’ll probably be able to find it for $5 or less, that’s what I did before the days of Steam refunds when it wouldn’t run for shit on PC.
In the end, Alpha Protocol offers up a lot of fun and some great options for people who really want to do some role-playing. It does have some issues with somewhat awkward menu controls and the occasional jank during ladders, but I don’t feel like it’s enough of an issue to detract from the overall enjoyment of the game. It certainly wasn’t for me.
Ok, Agents, go out there and kick some ass!
That’s all for now.
You folks have fun, take care, and I’ll see you next time.