The plot makes my head explode at the end but otherwise this is really goodby Fortinbras 11/27/2010, 5:57pm PST
Holy shit I wish I had ignored the magazine reviews for this game. But this summer I was really pinched for cash so I wound up being reluctant to take a chance on games like this.
It kind of suffers from Bloodlines syndrome. The game is beautifully immersive but then all of a sudden some fucking guy in a watchtower hears you running around when you're INSIDE A BUILDING and suddenly an alert goes off, or you try to turn the camera and the game stutters and lags and the camera jumps to a random angle because the coding is absolute shit. Also there's no good goddamn reason to use any other gun except the assault rifle and the pistol, and even then the pistol's only good for the Chain Shot skill which when maxed out allows you to dump 5 shots at once on a boss ala Red Dead Redemption. Boss fights can be fucking bullshit if you've put all your points in Martial Arts, and you'll get your ass kicked by a 55 year old man who can wipe out your entire endurance 175-point (armor?) bar in 2 punches. Or you get sliced to death by a coked-up Russian mob boss wielding razorblades while Turn Up The Radio plays in the background. So if you don't have a weapon skill maxed out, look forward to a lot of punch-punch-punch run away run away run away punch-punch-punch gameplay on them. Still, kicking people's asses in a spy game has never looked so satisfying, not even in the Metal Gear Solid series. With Martial Arts and Stealth, you're pretty much Sam Fisher if he could just beat the living shit out of people when discovered.
The intel section is what I think I most enjoyed about the game. Calling a contact you made in Taiwan and asking him to deliver a truckload of rat poison-laced cocaine to a Russian Mobster's hideout for an edge in a boss fight is just one of many things you can do if you take the time to not kill certain people in this game. Which is also a drawback, because up until the very end it feels like the game practically begs you not to kill people, even assholes who deserve it like Osama-Not-Laden. I mean you CAN, but you wouldn't do that because you're a cool guy, right?! Not killing people never seems to come back and bite you in the ass. Of the people I had a choice to execute or let live I never said once "Man I wish I'd let him live/killed him".
Still, the amount of work and time invested into this game's dialogue is way more than Mass Effect 2 (they should be taking notes), with a huge number of permutations depending upon your choices. One of the bosses isn't even killable unless you've done a particular set of choices over the course of the Rome section of the game. However the first few characters feel very phoned in, aside from your requisite there-from-the-beginning love interest. You never even SEE the director of your intelligence organization after the intro level. He just disappears. GONE. Never explained why he doesn't appear in the finale. Apparently he appears if you choose the "evil" corporate buttmonkey sellout path but it still is ridiculous that unless you choose that route you don't see him considering how all the other threads in the game are wrapped up so neatly. In addition the like/dislike system seems like it doesn't make sense when applied to some characters, especially these intro characters you never see again and who always want to kill you later no matter what you do. Why have me score a +2 like score with the douchebag also-ran agent if it always ends with me blowing his fucking brains out? Why do I have a like/dislike score with the main bad guy? He still plans to kill me.
Also it features the best use of the band Autograph ever.
I don't know what else to say about this game. It just all clicks in spite of the rough polish. The minigame events are all non-irritating, the characters are great to watch and listen to, none of the concepts are broken, and I stayed up 18 hours playing it to completion the day I purchased it. I wish Alpha Protocol hadn't gotten panned. It didn't deserve a 6.0 from Gamespot, or a 2/5 from those faggots at X-Play, and whatever the fuck else gave it a bad rating. Is it an unpolished Obsidian game? Yes. You go into that expecting that some things are going to be terribly unbalanced because concept gets way ahead of execution with these people. Is it worth 50$? I'm not willing to commit to that. But it's certainly worth a discounted 25-35$, and at 7$ on Gamersgate it was a steal. With no sequel plans, this game is probably going to be something we talk about the same way Anachronox was talked about 9 years ago. A game that deserves a sequel but will never get it because of all the negative press it got associated with.