Ever played a game that proclaims to have deep meaningful choices? Where the ending will be decided by all of your character’s actions throughout the course of the game? And then you get disappointed, most of the time. Whether it’s a generic or half-baked good/evil ending, or a simple re-skin of the same ending, albeit with a few different colors (coughmasseffectcough)?
Well, feast your eyes, it’s time for a review of a blast from the past, Alpha Protocol. Set in Modern Times, players take control of one Mike Thornton, secret agent extraordinaire. Mike has been recruited by a super hush hush government organization known as Alpha Protocol, performing espionage of all sorts under the radar. Mike is brought in because of his qualifications, and after a brief training session to asses your skills, and meet your handlers, he is then shipped off to Saudi Arabia, to catch a terrorist who has stolen some major hardware in the form of powerful missiles, made by a company known as Halbech.
Consequences? In my video game?
Now, about that whole, “your actions will have consequences” thing. Aside from being a third person stealth/shoot em up kind of game, AP introduces something kind of new with its dialogue system. Instead of using a list, or wheel of choices, giving players “good and evil” choices, AP has instead opted for attitudes. Based of the famous 3 B’s (Jason Bourne, James Bond, and Jack Bauer), players choose stances, or attitudes for their responses. Aggressive, Casual, and Professional. But wait, you are on a timer! This is because AP wants to keep conversations flowing, without awkward interrupts, pauses, or those weird moments where everyone just sort of stands there and says nothing.
These conversation choices will flavor Mike, as well as anyone he comes in contact with. People can like his attitude, or dislike it, but there are no wrong choices here. Getting someone to like you is all well and good, they might give you more tips, favors, money, the works. But maybe you want someone to dislike. Or even out right hate you. Doing so could trip them off, cause them to act rashly, and make them ignore everything they should be focusing on, just so they can get you.
This comes into play in so many ways. Someone who likes you might leave you a surprise in a mission in the future (which can be played in any order you so choose). They might have vital intel, give you a discount on goods and services, heck, they might even fight by your side. The best example of this is a paranoid agent known as Stephen Heck. Get him to like you enough and, spoiler alert folks, he won’t turn you in to some bad people.
That’s cool and all, but how does it play?
Well, I’ll be honest with you. When this game was released it was extremely buggy, and some of the animations, especially the sneaking one, were god awful. But the core game-play of punchy sneaky shooty are there, and they feel good. Whether its popping someone in the back of the head with a tranq dart at 300 ft, quietly removing guards, or delivering a beat down to some Russian thugs, it’s all there, and you have special abilities to assist you, as well as loads of toys. What’s a spy without toys?
This game has some major RPG elements, allowing you to gain experience and earn levels, which in turn give you Ability Points to further your skills in various weapons, stealth, toughness, martial arts ability, and a plethora of other things. Get skilled enough with a pistol and you can slow down time to fire off a series of well places shots instantly. Work on your skill at sabotage, and you’ll be able to hack computers and other devices remotely, instead of having to put yourself out into the open. And last but not least, have enough skill in something, and you just might be able to use that skill mid conversation, opening up opportunities you didn’t have before.
All in all, it’s a fun game with a lot of replay value. Playing it different ways, being a nice guy, being all around crazy psycho, you can pretty much take things how you want to. There’s even some ladies to romance (or not romance), including a very aggressive German woman with a big gun who doesn’t like a wishy washy boy scout. Easily one of my top #10 games in the past few years, if not all time, Alpha Protocol is just one of those games that you can play again and again.