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Alpha Protocol


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#1 Virgil Vox

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 11:04 PM

When I first heard about Alpha Protocol, I was excited. An espionage RPG along the lines of Mass Effect? Hell yeah! Then it came out, and reviews were bad. It sounded horrible. Well, I eventually found it marked down and decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. This was a fun game and I can definitely see myself playing it again.

You play Michael Thorton, newly recruited into Alpha Protocol, a secret U.S. agency that operates outside normal parameters and gives its agents a lot of freeway. A plane is shot down by terrorists, and you are sent into Saudi Arabia to find the terrorists responsible. Once there, you uncover research that reveals a much larger plot, and you become a rogue agent. Now you must figure out what's going on and do it while being hunted down by the people you used to work for.

The story is great. There's a large cast of characters and agencies, and it ties together well. The conversation system is similar to Mass Effect. Instead of entire dialogue choices, you generally have three options(with different ones becoming available depending on the situation). Unlike in Mass Effect, however, you have a time limit. You have to make your choice quickly. This keeps the conversation flowing smoothly and also gives your choices that much more weight. Every person you interact with has an opinion on you. Depending on how you deal with them, that can be positive or negative. You can make someone completely hate you or totally trust you. Depending on your relationships with people, you could get good perks and help, or they could swear a vendetta against you.  And yes, like in many spy movies, you do have several women you can romance. The way to knowing how to talk to someone is by reading their dossier. Every character and organization has a dossier that tells you about them. You can unlock more information in the dossiers by finding it during missions or by getting people to talk about themselves or others. The dossiers really are your best friends.

A lot of games say that every choice has a consequence, but Alpha Protocol really means it. It goes beyond good or evil choices. Sure, you can choose to execute an enemy or spare them, but doing one or the other won't make you a saint or a sinner. Killing someone might cut off access to help later on in the game, or crucial information, or sparing them might come back to bite you in the butt if they come after you. There will also be times in the game where you will have to choose between two options. Do you rescue a friend, or get the data? Save many people, or a few? Heck, there was one character I collected a dossier on that I never encountered during the game because of how I played and what missions I did in what order. I had help on some missions because of the previous missions I did. There really are a lot of different choices to make. There are no bad decisions, per se. You might lose some critical information, but you adapt and move on. And sometimes, no matter what you choose, you are going to get a less then desirable outcome.

When you level up, you can spend skill points on different attributes. I mainly focused on assault rifles, health, and hand to hand. But you can go more of a stealth way, or maybe you really want a powerful shotgun, or you want to be a better hacker. There's lots of different skills to level up. You also get abilities, like the ability to slow down time while engaging in hand to hand combat, or being able to see the location of your enemies and the way they're facing.

The combat is where this game got ripped apart in most reviews, but I didn't have a huge problem with it. Yes, if you line up a perfect head shot and pull the trigger, don't be surprised if all it does is take off a little health instead of killing them instantly. The shooting is unpredictable. A shot to the head might only wound one person while it kills or severely hurts another. So I can see how that's frustrating, but it never caused me to die. I thought the combat worked fine and there were some great set pieces throughout the game. What I also liked is that some missions don't involve combat at all. You might have a conversation with someone, but it holds just as much weight as the missions where you take down the bad guys.

The graphics are okay. The environments tend to be a little bland considering where many of the missions take place, but not horribly so. The missions are fairly linear. There might be a different way to approach the same destination, but it doesn't really add a lot of variety. The characters look good, however, and are distinct. The regular thugs, not so much.

All in all, I enjoyed this game a lot. Great story, lots of choices, interesting characters, and decent action create a good overall game. Yes, the shooting mechanics aren't that great, and the graphics aren't stunning, but I think the rest of the game more than makes up for those flaws.
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#2 enTranced

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:23 AM

I am currently deciding if I want to return this game. I like the choices I like the RPG ness of it. But the combat is indeed almost fatal to the game.

But even worse then that is the godawful hacking system. I just flat out hate it. You can get some perks that help with the pain but it never ever stops being annoying and hammering out the fun with a sledgehammer.

As a actionRPG game I think you are better off playing Fallout 3 for the 100th time. ;)

I really think this game is going to become a used game I missed the first time around, the only thing making me second guess is the possibility of a game saving patch so I am holding off for now....

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#3 Pixiedust

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 09:42 AM

I didn't find the combat a problem, but then I'm not very good at shooting games. :p I loved the way the game could go differently based on every decision, it definitely went further with that than other games I have played. Unfortunately I wasn't great at reading the dossiers so a couple of people ended up really detesting me. Oh well...
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#4 QuiGon John

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 10:28 AM

Huh.  I was interested in playing Alpha Protocol, but then I read the bad reviews.  But your post has made me reconsider.

One thing about being a pretty bad video game player (which I am-- people LAUGH when I tell them which games I find difficult) is that I don't have to especially care about the combat system.  Whether it's great or mediocre, I'm going to die.  Lots.  This is actually fairly freeing, since I'm used to it and now only really need a good story to enjoy a game.  So it sounds like this one might be right up my alley.

Hmm, and Best Buy is having a deal this week where you can get it for half price if you buy Madden.  Very tempting...

#5 enTranced

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 11:55 AM

View PostJohn Burke, on 10 August 2010 - 10:28 AM, said:

Huh.  I was interested in playing Alpha Protocol, but then I read the bad reviews.  But your post has made me reconsider.

One thing about being a pretty bad video game player (which I am-- people LAUGH when I tell them which games I find difficult) is that I don't have to especially care about the combat system.  Whether it's great or mediocre, I'm going to die.  Lots.  This is actually fairly freeing, since I'm used to it and now only really need a good story to enjoy a game.  So it sounds like this one might be right up my alley.

Hmm, and Best Buy is having a deal this week where you can get it for half price if you buy Madden.  Very tempting...

A better question to add is how good are you at mini-games?

The hacking system I talk about above is a constant flicking wall of text and you have to pull down blocks of text and match them with the flickering puzzle board (think the Matrix scenes) and you have a time limit to do it. And hacking is something that you have to do to be successful in the game.

There is a Pick Lock minigame as well, however they use a old system from a old favorite of mine so I get that one, but it can be tricky as well.

There is even a timer on the dialogue that I detest as well.

It's sad how much better Fallout 3 did all of these things and did them so much better. Alpha Protocol could have been just as good with a fun spy element instead of the blasted wasteland but instead they made every bad choice possible.

Imagine AP with a VATS system?

Imagine the romance options if AP had allowed you to play a female character?

Imagine if hacking was fun or at least unobtrusive?

Imgagine being able to think about your dialogue choices?

*sigh*

Anyway, we shall see. I am a little worried about the new Fallout game since Obsidian (the developers of AP) is doing that one. I hope Bethesda was able to watch them like a hawk. I would hate to see AP messing up Fallout. :barf:

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#6 NeuralClone

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 01:08 PM

Ignore the bad reviews, John. The game isn't nearly as bad as they make it sound. It isn't a masterpiece but it I'd probably give it an 8 out of 10.

I stopped fully trusting "professional" game reviews years ago as it's very clear that many of the reviewers are paid for their opinions by the companies making the games or they're given special copies that aren't infested with DRM. Look at Starcraft 2, for example. The game is basically the same game, it forces you to use the new crappy Battle.net to play single-player (something other games were seriously bashed for doing), it has horribly cliched cutscenes, it costs $60, and it's only 1/3 of the complete game. And yet, it's getting rave reviews simply because Blizzard made it. I'm sure it's a polished game, but other games would be ripped a new one for being so similar to their previous incarnation and for doing some of the things Starcraft 2 has done.

My point? Take a look at user reviews over "professional" reviews. I find they're generally more representative of what the game is actually like and you get many different opinions from people that have paid their own money for the games and haven't just been given special versions of the games for free.

Obsidian is a very capable company. They've made some great games, enTranced. In fact, they made Neverwinter Nights 2, which blows away the original game in just about every way. They made Knights of the Old Republic II as well. And the problems in that game are more due to LucasArts deciding to rush the game out, forcing Obsidian to cut over an entire act of material. Many of their games are forced to be released before they're done. If they have problems, they usually fix them up quite nicely within a patch or two. So don't worry about New Vegas just yet. Not every game a company releases is a gem. Even Bethesda has made some questionable choices.

Edited by NeuralClone, 10 August 2010 - 01:49 PM.

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#7 enTranced

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 01:46 PM

^ Oh I can see the quality in AP it certainly is the game it wants to be but I just really dislike some of the choices they made. The point of a game, to me anyway, is that it should above all things be fun. And lots of it is the exact opposite of fun. :(

Compared to Fallout 3, a game I am now going into for the third time with all the DLC included, well I don't make it through games I LIKE three times! That is the difference between AP and Fallout 3.

enTranced - who thinks he will be comparing Fallout 3 to new RPG's for years....
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#8 Virgil Vox

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 02:45 PM

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I didn't find the combat a problem, but then I'm not very good at shooting games.

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One thing about being a pretty bad video game player (which I am-- people LAUGH when I tell them which games I find difficult) is that I don't have to especially care about the combat system. Whether it's great or mediocre, I'm going to die. Lots. This is actually fairly freeing, since I'm used to it and now only really need a good story to enjoy a game. So it sounds like this one might be right up my alley.

I'm pretty much the same. I love video games, but I'm not that great at them. I usually play on easy when I first play a game. That said, I really didn't find the combat all that horrible. Nowhere near as bad as the reviews have stated, anyways. I thought it was fun to run and gun, then move in close for some hand to hand.

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There is even a timer on the dialogue that I detest as well.

I actually liked that feature. Gave the conversations more immediacy. While I liked being able to take as long as I wanted in Mass Effect or similar games, this feature was nice. You had to be quick on your toes. Though I will agree about the mini-games. They were annoying, and they popped up all too frequently. I did get used to them and better at them as the game progressed, so they didn't bug me too much.

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Ignore the bad reviews, John. The game isn't nearly as bad as they make it sound. It isn't a masterpiece but it I'd probably give it an 8 out of 10.

Same here. It was a fun game that I can see myself playing again just to see all the different things that can happen depending on my choices.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
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-- Harry S. Truman

#9 Talkie Toaster

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:32 PM

I quite liked Alpha Protocol. It was a typical Obsidan game, promising the world and ultimately being crippled by their own ambition. The graphics were a bit dated and the game play really could have done with some polish. There were also (quite a) few story threads that were unresolved and could have done with being tidied up. However, in my opinion the fairly average gameplay is more than made up by the one of the most reactive branching story that I've ever seen put into a game and for that reason alone the game is worth trying, especially now that you can pick it up cheap.

View PostenTranced, on 10 August 2010 - 11:55 AM, said:

The hacking system I talk about above is a constant flicking wall of text and you have to pull down blocks of text and match them with the flickering puzzle board (think the Matrix scenes) and you have a time limit to do it. And hacking is something that you have to do to be successful in the game.

There is a Pick Lock minigame as well, however they use a old system from a old favorite of mine so I get that one, but it can be tricky as well.

This tendency for games to put minigames in has been a steadily growing frustration for me. At least AP's were somewhat original. I know a lot of people have reported problems with the hacking minigame, but I didn't find it difficult.

Quote

There is even a timer on the dialogue that I detest as well.

It's sad how much better Fallout 3 did all of these things and did them so much better. Alpha Protocol could have been just as good with a fun spy element instead of the blasted wasteland but instead they made every bad choice possible.

Imagine AP with a VATS system?

Imagine the romance options if AP had allowed you to play a female character?

Imagine if hacking was fun or at least unobtrusive?

Imgagine being able to think about your dialogue choices?

*sigh*

Anyway, we shall see. I am a little worried about the new Fallout game since Obsidian (the developers of AP) is doing that one. I hope Bethesda was able to watch them like a hawk. I would hate to see AP messing up Fallout. :barf:

enTranced

I liked the timed dialogue choices, it made conversations flow more naturaly and gave more weight to your decisions. I don't agree at all that Fallout 3 was superior in every way. I don't remember there being any romances for Fallout 3. Personally I only play male characters given the choice and only romance women; I can appreciate it being annoying (if I had to play a female character and had to romance men) but on the grand scheme of things its not a big deal. It's not helped by the fact that most romances in games absolutely suck anyway.

The main point I want to make tho, is that the story and dialogue for AP were vastly superior. You're choices actually mattered. I've played Fallout 3 and the ending sucked. There was like four choices that actually mattered. Whether you had good karma or bad karma; and whether you sacrificed yourself at the end or whether you sent the girl in to die in the end. That was it!

Edited by Talkie Toaster, 13 August 2010 - 07:14 PM.

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#10 NeuralClone

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 09:23 PM

To be fair to Obsidian, many of the problems they've faced have more to do with rushed development forced by their publishers and less to do with their abilities as developers.
"My sexuality's not the most interesting thing about me."
— Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black, "Governed By Sound Reason and True Religion"


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