Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Games You Probably Played: Alpha Protocol by Matthew W.A

 Games You Probably Haven't Tried Yet: Alpha Protocol By Matthew W-A.
Have you ever wanted to be James Bond? “Of course not!” I say, as I get into my missile-equipped doom mobile and drive off to my volcano fortress, where my lieutenant is busy feeding a uncooperative minion to my genetically modified pet sharks as an example of why you do not assume that the last MI6 agent is dead just because you shot him and he fell off the top of a waterfall. If, on the other hand, you are the type of person who enjoys ruining my fun, Alpha Protocol is the perfect game for you. 

You play as Mike Thorton, a new recruit for the government agency Alpha Protocol, which of course “does not exist.” His first mission is to track down a stolen shipment of experimental missiles made by a company called Halbech that does not sound at all like Halliburton. After a few missions tracking down the missiles, you finally find them only to be back stabbed by Halbech and forced to go rogue, seeking revenge upon the people who betrayed you.

The game is driven by the choices you make, and you can choose to play Mike in several different varieties of James Bond. You can be the serious and professional Daniel Craig Bond, the Suave Pierce Brosnan Bond, or the angry “I want to set the world on fire” Bond that Daniel Craig's Bond becomes after his girlfriend drowns. Depending on how you treat different characters, they will respond in different ways. For example, Steven Heck (who might just be one of the best video game characters ever) will always react positively to sarcasm, crude jokes, and proposed solutions that require violence and explosive in large quantities, while Mina Tang (one of your handlers) is fine with jokes, but wants you to act like a professional while in the field. How you build your reputation with various different people nets you benefits (even if they hate you, you still get a bonus, just a different bonus), and going into the endgame things can play out very differently depending on the choices you make.

Now for the actual gameplay. The gameplay is fun, but not actually that polished. It would best be described as a combination of Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid 4, while being a lot easier then both of those games. You do have a lot of options though. You can try to avoid being seen, you can hack computer systems and place mines everywhere, or you can just get some heavy body armor and an assault rifle and go nuts. All work equally well, though it can damage your reputation and attract undue attention if you use excessive amounts of force and forget what the word “covert” means.

Also of note are the bugs. The game got panned by a lot of critics (Destructoid gave it a  2/10) and part of that was because at launch the game was buggier then a cheap hotel in South America. It did get a reasonable number of patches after release, with the PC version getting the most support. Because of that, I suggest playing this game on PC as opposed to Xbox 360 or PS3 because it is simply much more stable, but if you intend to play it on consoles, go with the PS3 version. The 360 port was by far the most buggy, and got less support then the other two versions thanks to Microsoft's quirky patching rules. That said, while some bugs are annoying, none actually make the game impossible to finish.

Now we get to the part where I would normally post a video of some gameplay. Unfortunately, no matter how low I set the resolution and other graphical settings I could not get a playable framerate while recording on my laptop because the game just does not play well with Fraps. So that's it. The game is cheap, fun, and engaging. I sat down to revisit it before writing this, and ended up loosing four hours of my life just like that. The game really sucks you in, and is worth your time.

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