|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Obsidian Ent.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 1, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
However, the interesting way that Alpha Protocol handles conversation and information gathering is one of the coolest elements of the game, and one that will warrant multiple playthroughs. Unlike ME, any talking you do here is timed, and Mike can usually reply with something suave, impatient, or professional (though other options become available from time to time and in context). At the same time, the game keeps a running tally on every contact you have, as well as their opinion of you. What makes this seemingly innocuous relationship system unique, however, is that unlike in ME, where you NPCs usually just react to you acting like either a saint or a total bastard, the characters in Alpha Protocol have personality likes and dislikes, and will either favor you or not depending on your approach.
This is particularly evident with women, since some will respond to flirtation, while others think this approach makes Mike come off as crass or an idiot. Given that you only have a few seconds to choose your response to any given NPC, timing and approach can be crucial to successfully currying favor with certain parties, which can in turn have some lasting effects on how the game unfolds. Although it would probably rarely happen to a real field agent, chances are high you'll read a situation wrong and have to deal with the consequences. The system may be subtle, but the game is much more interesting for it.
Alpha Protocol isn't perfect. The enemy AI can be cringe-worthy and prone to bugs, and some of the spy abilities Mike can earn after leveling up enough are a bit silly (Shadow Operative, for example, renders you completely invisible, making some full-frontal attacks on enemies, that would otherwise be nearly impossible to get through undetected, an unrealistic breeze). Missions are stage-based, with no free-roaming, civilian NPC-populated areas to explore like in ME.
Character customization is bafflingly basic and bosses can be annoyingly cheap. On the other hand, the game is gorgeous, with top-notch production values and voice work. It's fun to develop relationships between Mike and the game's various other characters. The stealth gameplay is pretty good, if a little too easy sometimes. The game makes you feel like a real spy, complete with all the research-based legwork. In those respects, there are few games like it. Whether or not you like Alpha Protocol is probably going to depend on your proclivity for spy lore itself. But if you've ever wanted to be a secret agent, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
CCC Freelance Writer