Alpha Protocol Review: What An Action RPG Should Be

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From the first time I heard about the premise of Alpha Protocol I have to admit that I was excited to see if Obsidian could deliver on the promise that it seemed to hold. The idea of an action game with major RPG elements that could deliver an experience that had the approachability of a third person action adventure game while thoroughly satisfying the granular customization that RPG fans would demand seemed almost impossible. After finishing Alpha Protocol I am here to tell you it wasn’t impossible at all and Obsidian delivered something very special.

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In Alpha Protocol, you are Michael Thorton who is a new recruit to a secret organization that operates outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. You take on the task of finding out who is behind a tragic missile attack on an airliner. Two of the games strongest features are its excellent story and the dynamic stance system which allows the player to make the choices that will inevitably shape their fate.

The story in Alpha Protocol is one of the most well written I have ever seen in a video game. This was the first time in years that I have played a game and never was quite sure what the truth was up until the end. The story has a great pace, they give you tons of information and background information that you can choose to use or not but irregardless there will be consequences. In Alpha Protocol there are truly no bad choices, just outcomes of those decisions. Over the course of the game you will come in contact with lots of different characters and you won’t have long to decide whether you want to treat them like friend or foe so choose carefully. Based on who you decide to deal with and how, there are some characters you either just won’t meet in one playthrough or you will have very limited interaction with. Unlike some games where you make a choice and it just eliminates a story arc, in Alpha Protocol when you make a choice it may not only change your story arc but the entire dynamic of the game.

As you move from country to country,  your exploits will follow you and how you have treated characters in the past will make things harder or easier for you as you progress. The world of international espionage is a dangerous one and it will be up to you to decide which characters deserve your trust and which characters deserve a bullet to the back of their skull. Every time I made a decision, I wondered what chain of events I had set into action and would it be to my advantage or would it lead to my demise. The ability of a game to make you agonize over every major decision from not only a moral but a strategic perspective is an absolute treat. The game is a joy because unlike games like Heavy Rain where the decisions are tough from only an emotional perspective and affected only a few people, the decisions you make in Alpha Protocol will ultimately affect lots of people and you quickly learn that there is no wrong or right, black or white, but rather just tough decisions that MUST be made.

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Does He Live Or Die, That's Entirely Up To You

I think the game does a great job of letting you decide what kind of player you want to be and then giving you all the tools to execute that strategy. Through the use of the character customization screen and the weapons clearinghouse you can build the ultimate super soldier that always comes through the door blazing or you can become the ghost that people argue about whether you even actually exist or not, its up to you. The character customization options allow you to change Michael’s look from mission to mission if you like, I played around with what I thought would help Mike blend in from country to country. You remember when I said that every choice matters, that includes your wardrobe. In any mission you can choose to wear armor  or decide to forgo the  perks the armor provides and try to blend in. If you were tons of armor for a mission that only involves a discussion then the characters will comment on the fact that you seem a little over dressed. It doesn’t affect anything but it is a nice touch, the small things count.

When it comes to weaponry and gadgets, Alpha Protocol has you covered in a big way. The game allows you to become proficient with 4 different types of firearms(Pistol, shotgun, SMG, Assault Rifle) which doesn’t sound like a lot but with all the different models in each category and all the customization options per weapon, you won’t feel like you are missing anything. The gadgets in this game really bring out the strategy that RPG fans will appreciate. You can use several things including grenades, shock traps, and radio mimics which allow you to call in a fake “all clear” if you accidentally trigger an alarm, I always kept a lot of these available. The Weapons Clearinghouse is a place to make sure you check out before every mission, not just for weapons but also for valuable intel and mission support. Now I don’t know about you but like to be prepared and there is always lots of intel to be had, for the right price of course. I was an intel junkie in this game, I wanted as much operational awareness as possible and because of the relationships I had made during the game I was able to buy support for certain missions that would have been much tougher otherwise.

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This Will Be Painless, Nah Probably Not

While there was very little that I didn’t like about Alpha Protocol, it did have one major flaw. There are some sections of the game that are amazingly difficult, especially near the end. The fact that I am mentioning this means that it is severe enough to frustrate a lot of casual players into not finishing the game. The secret to a lot of the very frustrating sections is to simply not over think it. Whether its the crazy cocaine fueled battle with Brakyo or the obstacle course from hell against Darcy, some of the game’s battles are much more difficult than they had to be and when it gets to be like that it really takes away from the overall enjoyment. There were also issues where guys just didn’t die even when you shot them in the head but this wasn’t pervasive enough to make you want to stop playing, for the most part guys die like they should. For those of you out there stuck on certain parts or battles, feel free to post where you are in our forums and we will get you some help to get past it. I won’t post it hear because as you all know, we don’t do spoilers in our reviews.

With that said though, Alpha Protocol has proven that this new genre of the action RPG is not only viable but when done properly it can thrive and it makes me excited to see what other developers are going to do going forward in this space. To me it has everything you could ask for in a very, very good game and if it wasn’t for the crazy increase in difficulty in some of the major battles it would have been near perfect in my opinion. It doesn’t have the greatest graphics, but in a game like this there is just so much more that it doesn’t take away as much as you might think. As is, Alpha Protocol is a very good game that will definitely keep you occupied for 20+ hours if you explore all the game’s missions which I recommend doing. In what is going to be a pretty slow few months, Alpha Protocol is one of the best games available and I would definitely recommend it for both hardcore RPG fans and casual gamers who aren’t really into the normal type of RPGs. Alpha Protocol won’t be for everyone though, you have to understand that this isn’t Uncharted or Metal Gear and there are some rough edges but if you give it a real chance it will definitely grow on you.

Don’t be fooled by some of the reviews about this game that you have read, play it for yourself and then decide. What I can say though about console choice is that it appears to be much better on PS3 than 360 due to the actual design of the controller and how the control scheme of this game is setup. In the end, Alpha Protocol has captured my imagination and I can’t wait to play the next entry into this space and for that ZoKnowsGaming gives Alpha Protocol 8 out of 10.

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Lorenzo Winfrey

Editor-In-Chief at ZoKnowsGaming
I am the Co-Ceo of DLT Digital Media. We are a company that is focused on developing new and innovative web properties in addition to developing WordPress based web sites for others. But before I was all that, I was a gamer.