by: Nick Puleo
While James Bond might be the stereotypical spy, Jason Bourne redefined the style of spy movie and character. Alpha Protocol lets you be either kind of spy, and anything in between, all in an action RPG that will feel strangely familiar for those of you that played the first Mass Effect.
To become your own spy you have a few choices in not only your actions within the game, but your disposition in conversations. Every conversation with characters in the game gives you indirect choices for answers, so instead of choosing some text of how to respond, you choose the manner in which. Options likes suave, professional, aggressive and doubtful change how you interact with other characters, and you'll earn and lose respect amongst characters which can open up new missions, intel, and other options throughout the campaign. There are even choices in which to spare the life of a character which may prove beneficial later on in the campaign.
Overall there's a lot to like in Alpha Protocol for fans of the spy genre, you can buy intel between missions that can make your operation easier. For instance one mission I paid an informant to leave me a sniper rifle on a ledge overlooking a train yard. The money you earn from missions can also be used to upgrade to new weapons, or buy replacement parts to change and modify your weapon and armor stats. The missions themselves usually involve tracking down a target, retrieving some information, or in some cases interrogating or meeting an informant. Along the way as you learn information you may unlock new missions, but you don't have to complete every mission in the campaign to complete each of the four campaigns.
So all of that sounds well and good, but the problem comes from the actual execution in gameplay. At the start of the game your character has very few skills and because of it it's incredibly difficult to land shots even with the cursor firmly located on a enemy. This is because the underlying statistics system governs when the enemies (and yourself) take damage. This methodology just feels stale, especially after playing a title like Mass Effect 2 that went a bit more of the action route. There's also an issue with pacing within the game, there are a ton of small mini games for just about any action - hacking a computer, bypassing a keypad, disabling an alarm, picking a lock - and none of these are very entertaining. In fact, most are just annoying.
In the end Alpha Protocol is a game that gets better as you play it, but it's still doesn't live up to its potential. Fans of the spy genre will enjoy what the game has to offer if they can get past the pacing issues, everyone else might just be too turned off at the beginning to want to continue to the more rewarding second half of the game.