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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: SEGA
Developed By: Obsidian Entertainment
Genre: Action RPG
Players: 1
Rated: M (Mature)
Release Date: June 1, 2010
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written by: Matthew Prunty

June 30, 2010 - Long gone are the days where a shooter didn't incorporate elements of some kind from another genre, whether it is role-playing, simulation or arcade. With Sega and Obsidianís latest venture into shooting genre; Alpha Protocol, they look to blend some third-person shooting action with various RPG elements into a engrossing experience befitting of today's demands from gamers. Do they succeed in their mission; I will leave that up to you to decide.

Once you fire up your copy of Alpha Protocol, you find the main character Michael Thorton waking up on a hospital bed drugged and unaware of where he is and why heís there. As the drugs slowly wear off, Michael devises a plan to escape the hospital which marks the official beginning of the storyline you will be able to mold with your actions. This is also where you Michael Thorton finds out that this is all just but a test by a secret organization known as Alpha Protocol. After these opening moments, you are given the opportunity to customize your (players) version of Michael Thorton, which comes off very lackluster. It seems instead of going the route of games like Mass Effect where you can customize the entire look of your main character; in Alpha Protocol you are not able to adjust the actual look of your main character beyond his hair, facial hair and a few accessories. While not being able to adjust the look of your character wonít damper the experience, it does keep the player from connecting with their character on some level.

If you seen any spy movies released within the past few years, you have a general idea of the action and situations you will be faced with as Michael Thorton in Alpha Protocol. Michael Thorton is an agent whoís forced to go rogue in order to get to the bottom of a sinister plot to shift the tide of global events for evil purposes. You will traverse the globe visiting locations like Moscow, Taipei, and Rome just to name a few. During all this travel, you will engage with individuals and factions that live on both sides of the law. Making deals, side deals, and turning your back on individuals is the name of the game in order for you to get the information you need, the access you need in order to reach your ultimate goal. If you are familiar with the Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Republic series, then what you have to do in order to get things done wonít be foreign to you.

The heart and soul of Alpha Protocol is the dialogue system, which bears similarities to that of Mass Effect. When conversating with individuals, at key points where your response to can change the outcome of the situation, you are greeted a choice to answer in a variety of fashions. You answer can come off being suave, aggressive or professional. When itís time to make these choices, dilly dallying is not an option as you have are given a set amount of time in order to actively respond to the question/statement. Answering wrong and put you in a world of trouble, while answering right can net you the information/contact that you need. I will admit the first time dabbling with the system; it took a bit to get use to, however I found it to be more organic than that of Mass Effect. The first time through I found myself very frustration with the system only because I wanted to play the game a certain way. Every time I decided to be aggressive; because the situation called for it, I found myself choosing the wrong course of action, which resulted in losing a valuable comrade or me meeting the maker. However, once you understand the people you are dealing with and the situations you are involved in, it will be a lot easier to gauge the situation for the best course of action.

A nice change of pace thatís present within Alpha Protocol is the leveling system Obsidian applied. Instead of simply finding bigger and bad-der weaponry to vanquish your enemies with, you are tasked with leveling up Mr. Thorton throughout the game in order for him to become the badass that you want him to be. The days of pulling off headshots easily are long gone as you now keep a watchful eye on your characterís stats before attempting to pull off certain feats. To pull off headshots with the greatest of ease, you are going to want to make sure you have a high enough level within the pistol category. At the end of the day, itís all about how you want to play through the game. If you want to take a Metal Gear Solid approach to the action, then you will want to make sure you level of the stealth aspect of your stats first.

While the leveling system is a nice touch to personalize the gameplay experience, itís not without its issues. One of the biggest gripes comes from the stealth stat. If you decide to level up the stealth stat, you will gain the ability to walk right by an A.I. enemy without them gunning you down, however if you forgo the stat, you will have enemies being able to spot you as if they could sense your presence. Just to be sure, I tested this out with several degrees of upgrading the stealth stat and I found that there really isnít any grey area, so itís either you level the stat up so they canít spot you, or they locate you without any problems and you now engaged in a gun fight just to stay alive. You can expect the same from other aspects of the level system including the shooting mechanic. Seeing how I play a lot of RPGS in my spare time, the structure of the leveling system doesnít bother me one bet, however for those who are all about shooters and donít dabble into RPGs, this can become very frustrating if not handled correctly.

Issues also rear their ugly head when dealing with the camera, the A.I. and gameplay mechanics surrounding Mr. Thorton. With the camera, I found it to be ineffective when working with the cover system. When I would come from behind cover, the camera usually is obstructed by an object or is utilizing an angle that puts me at a disadvantage against the enemy A.I. In regards to the A.I., most of my issues are because of the leveling system. If you opted not to fill the stealth bar to its max, itís pointless to sneak by enemies as they will always discover you and proceed to attack you. This is where if more time was spent on tweaking the leveling system, the gameplay would be more solid thus eliminating several issues currently plaguing the gameplay.

Visually, Alpha Protocol holds its own against other titles within the same category, however it wonít stand up against the likes of Mass Effect, Killzone 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2Ö just to name a few. If you look at this game from a RPG perspective, itís a good looking game as in-depth details isnít a top factor as it usually takes a back seat to the gameplay mechanics and special effects. From a shooter standpoint, itís clear that this title doesnít live up to expectations no matter which platform you purchase the title for. There seems to be a lack of detail and depth within the characters and environments. Character animations are not fluid at all, taking away from the realistic feel that Sega and Obsidian were shooting for in Alpha Protocol. In regards to the audio, itís pretty much a mixed bag. While Michael Thorton voice acting is spot on, the rest of the supporting cast has both their high and low points. Weapon sound effects are solid with some guns sounding very realistic to their real-life counterparts. The musical soundtrack fits the game, providing tracks that help you get into the mood for the action sequences that you are about to partake in.

Alpha Protocol is a 2010 release of Ubisoftís 2007 release of Haze. While the game didnít live up to the hype it was given, it does feature several next-generation elements that simply werenít executed perfectly. While Iím about to overlook faults within the game if I like what Iím playing, many will see these same faults as a reason to avoid the game altogether. With no support for multiplayer at all, you really have to be fan for games like Mass Effect, while also open to invest time into a game that wonít win any awards for visual presentation. Alpha Protocol is a title that just didnít have enough time and money put behind it for it to have all its ideas fleshed out fully. For those who have already purchased the game, I say stick with it to the end as it is worth the ride. For those who havenít picked up the game, I recommend a rental only if you are both into shooters and RPGs as you may not enjoy the experience.


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