Copyright Adam Schlosser
Contact:
aschloss@gmail.com


Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser


Posted by Pip

AD48- Like A Deep Papercut

Sloth gets its vengeance! Long have people poked those that Sloth possesses but now is the time for Sloth to do the poking! Probably won't help stop Rhett leaking golem juice but down inside we all known that Sloth is hardcore spiteful and has been carrying a grudge for eons. Joy just gets her grudges out of the way. She at least gets fancy souvenirs out of her vengeance though. Rhett arm backscratchers will find their way to the merch store any day now! She knows how to rub it in too...
Isn't Anger so cute?


Long, Taking away your name and giving you a number out of 10 Review: Alpha Protocol- There are some concessions made for video games that are poor decisions and AP suffers from a biggie right off the bat. You're supposed to play some best of the best agent but you start the game out as being pretty useless and you can't hit the broad side of a barn. You can be standing RIGHT next to an enemy and somehow miss him. Scarily enough, the best strategy if you're in a one-on-one fight is to just run up to the enemy, take the bullets, and punch him into submission. Your fists are actually more useful than high-powered weaponry. I understand the need to nerf the character a little so he can get better as you level up, but he needs some remote core competence or else you're just going to look at the dip with disgust. Onto the meat of the game, the dialogue sequences. All the dialogue sequences are extreme close-ups with the characters standing rigidly and they get boring because it's two people talking AT each other rather than having a genuine conversation. The game is heavily focused on conversations but they don't start off very interesting so the game is a slog to begin with. I can sum up the first hour or two of the game for you: Terrorists are bad and secret government organizations are secret. The typos that pop up from time to time don't help get you into the mood either. The biggest problem though is that the dialogue option names are misleading. In one mission, something big goes down and you're talking to your handler. When given the choice, I went with the "Questioning" branch of the conversation, meaning “ask her a lot of questions to try to get more information”. What it turned out to be was "accuse her of betraying you, question her loyalty, and make your partner hate you". Kiiind of a big gap there that could have used some decent labels. Just to make it infuriating, the very next mission I went on also had a "Questioning" branch for the dialogue, only this time it meant "ask her a lot of questions to try to get more information". The game's like/dislike function is so completely random and isn't helped by the misleading conversation branch names that there isn't much point in trying to follow it. If you search for intel and read up on it, you can learn what people tend to react to, but since the branches are so poorly labeled, you can think you're going to act how they like, but instead you act like a total dick and get them mad at you. For being such an incredibly important part of the game, it's a shame they botched this so terribly. In-mission choices tend to be binary even when it doesn't make sense. In one mission, you're bugging a government installation, there are a slew of CIA agents, one pulled a gun on me and tried to kill me, I killed him instead, my handler yelled at me for killing a relatively innocent person, so for the rest of the game no matter how hard they were trying to kill me, I never killed a non-soldier. I used CQC or tranq darts to keep them away from me and only shot the clearly defined bad people (and even tranq'd them when in doubt). However, every single person through the rest of the game referred to me as a cold-blooded murderer that was willing to shoot any innocent civilian that got in his way and a few people hated me for that. Sooo... killing one CIA agent that tried to kill me first and spending mission after mission getting shot so I could knock cops out cold instead of killing them and I'm basically the worst thing since Hitler. Really, no matter what you do, your character is kind of an ass. You can be an angry ass, smarmy ass, or generic as but no matter you choose, nothing about the character is “secret agent capable of ingratiating himself to new people and infiltrating organizations”. The customization options are severely limited as well so you can't even physically craft this supposedly “different for every player!” character. The animations aren't so hot and I particularly recommend looking up his sneaking animation on Youtube. I don't... I don't even really get the angle they were going for. He isn't crouching much, he isn't sneaking, and he's barely more out of view than when he's standing up straight. The death animation is equally as funny with your character popping into the air or flying about with complete disregard for physics. And you'll be seeing it a lot. Gameplay is heavily based on trial and error. You don't have any radar so the game runs as: enter a room, take out an enemy while hiding at a corner, get killed by an enemy that appeared from offscreen behind you, restart, kill the second enemy THEN take out the enemy at the corner then get killed by a different enemy you couldn't see. Each run gets you a step closer until you act out the sequence the game wants you to and you advance to the next area and repeat. You also occasionally die without warning. In one case, I had almost full health while under fire, I got hit once, played for five more seconds and then my guy dropped dead. Either it was an extremely delayed reaction to getting shot once (which shouldn't have killed me given how high my health was) or some random unseeable, unknowable thing struck me down. There's really no point in buying upgrades for your weapon, so blow all your cash on armor and you'll eventually be able to shrug off almost all damage if you take it slow. The game is buggy as all heck on top of all this. Items in the environment disappear, textures vanish, vast tracks of land either change to a flat color or turn black, you can walk on air instead of going down staircases, and even better, walk through the ground instead of going up staircases. Kicking ass and taking names is all the more kicking and taking-ful when you're doing it as a torso gliding along the floor and your legs are stuck inside the building. The load times are frequent and drag a bit, but they can also happen suddenly in gameplay too. The screen just goes black and all sounds stop for five to ten seconds and there's no warning that it's loading. The first time it happened, I thought the game crashed and I was ready to reset the system when the game popped back into existence. For the many, many, oh so many problems AP has, there are some neat concepts buried in there. There genuinely are multiple routes through levels that go beyond the “take the left hallway or take the right hallway” mold. There are a lot of places to sneak, hide, and play a stealth game, there are opportunities to lay traps and take out enemies with gadgets, and then leaping out of the shadows and cracking skulls typically works well too. Your choices in the game really do matter as well. From minor things like characters making references to actions you made in previous levels, the order in which you complete objectives influencing other areas, characters that you spare/kill will affect the story or come back to bite you in the ass, and even the gear you have on you gets comments. Given the different ways the story can branch and the choices you can make, the game is a lot longer than I thought it would be. It's not just a “you have five big choices and the game splits from there” situation but the game uses your choices to write a complete story that really could change a dozen times if you felt like replaying it. AP does boast one of the best end of mission stats ever too: "Orphans Created". And it's not just a one-to-one relationship either. Killing 10 people won't raise the stat by 10 so that means some guards have kids and others don't. You feel like SUCH a dick when that one goes up. There's a good mix between action levels, sneaking-centric levels (that you can turn into action levels if you want), and "being a spy" levels like identifying targets, gathering intel through conversations, planting bugs, etc. If only the writing and conversations were more interesting... The last mission is really extra super bad. You're given a list of objectives, can only complete one, and then given no information which route leads to which mission. I wanted to save a certain character but since the game didn't label the routes, she died. If the game is all about choice, you have to actually give the player the ability to make a choice. I made my choice but when faced with a series of random hallways there was no way to act on it so I ended up doing something I didn't actually want to do and I was locked off from my real choice. Part of me wants to do a second playthrough to see the other side of the story and make different choices, but the rational part of me doesn't want to put up with all garbage all over again, so into the "Sell" pile it goes. So yeah, neat idea for a game, terrible execution.
Sins Committed: Buggy, Bad writing, Bad characters, Bad gameplay, Bad controls, Bad UI
Virtues Acted: Good story progression, Good use of choice and player influence on the story, It's always fun to see how close writers will get to real companies and people while trying to stay legally distinct enough to not get sued. Halbech is tooootally NOT Halliburton. No way, no how.