Bargain @ £4
Whilst Alpha Protocol is distinctly unpolished, it feels like the result of a cruel budget and punishing development cycle. Despite this fact, the concept of the game is actually quite fun. Taking inspiration from classic spy characters, protagonist Mike Thornton can manipulate situations and people based upon their interactions. The main choices are inspired by Jason Bourne (professional), James Bond (suave) or Jack Bauer (aggressive). If a character likes Thornton, they may provide him with additional intel; similarly annoying someone may lead to information being divulged that would not otherwise. Building relationships and judging this balance is one of Alpha Protocols best features, and can lead to some wildly different outcomes and storyline branches. The dialogue system is arguably the best of its kind; Perks are awarded at a generous pace, and across the multiple playthroughs required for Platinum, I continued to discover new ones. For example, responding to 10 emails, or using a variety of dialogue responses during a conversation. In this regard, Alpha Protocol does a fine job of rewarding your actions, no matter how small. Amusingly, a selection of women can be seduced, with a trophy for bedding them all in one playthrough.
The storyline is another strong feature, involving shadowy organisations, double agents and global cover ups. The writing is of an unusually high standard for videogames, and the voice acting lends some real credibility to the characters. In true spy fashion, the adventure spans the globe, featuring visits to Rome, Moscow and Saudi Arabia. Level design is similar throughout, but a regular change of scenery helps to maintain interest. Unsurprisingly for a RPG, experience points (or AP) can be used to upgrade Thornton's skills and abilities. Gunplay is initially terrible in Alpha Protocol, so it's essential to level up the relevant weapon skills if stealth is not your preference. Idiotically, the cover system is also managed by the sprint button, which can lead to unintentionally awkward moments. Moral choices are nicely balanced. Should Mike kill the Middle Eastern Arms dealer to stabilise the region, or accept a large bribe to look the other way? Minigames are well designed, but are punishingly difficult on Hard, particularly hacking and lock picking. Boss battles however, are shoddily programmed and poorly implemented, completely at odds with the freeform approach used throughout the game.
For a budget price, Alpha Protocol is worth playing. Yes, the game is riddled with glitches, but they are never game breaking. An action approach is not recommended, as this really highlights the games shortcomings. But for a well written and involving title, 'The Espionage RPG' delivers.