Returning To Alpha Protocol, The Spy Adventure That Survived

Returning To Alpha Protocol, The Spy Adventure That Survived

Time and again they’ve told me “Dude, you should play Alpha Protocol!” And time and again I’ve ignored them. Until now. For some reason, this past weekend I decided to really play the game.

There’s a bit of a lull going on right now, with The Last of Us out of the way and, aside from the odd Nintendo release, the decks clear until bigger games start dropping in August. I also remembered reading some cool stuff about the game in Jason’s profile of Obsidian, the development studio that made the game. Seems like a good time to give Alpha Protocol a chance.

And so I started playing it. I customised my dude, giving him “The Castro” beard that I’d heard so much about, (“The Castro Situation” Idle Thumbs) and got playing.

I remembered that I’d actually started this game once before, though I’d never made it past the first Saudi Arabia mission. What a depressing, boxed-in mess of corridors and brown on brown on brown! This game doesn’t put its best foot forward, does it? But I soldiered on, figuring out how to sneak around the daft artificial intelligence. And after a couple hours, I started having a considerable amount of fun.

Side observation: When reviewing The Last of Us, Tom Bissell remarked about guards who trained at “the Stare-at-a-Wall Guard Training Academy”. Those guys have got nothing on the guards in Alpha Protocol. This dude never moved:

I mean, think about it: He’s a guard. And he’s going to stare into the corner of the room, without moving? OK!

I was happy to see that completely by coincidence, two game critics whose work I enjoy, Brad Galloway and Sparky Clarkson, happen to be writing a letter series looking back at the game. They’re both replaying the game, and have posted the first letters today. They’ll have more as they go.

I’m still early enough that I don’t have a lot of opinions, but at the time being, this seems like the kind of game that I wish so much would be the game it could have been (with proper budget and development time) that I’m willing to forgive a lot of crustiness. I mean… if this game starred Cate Archer and played like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I’d probably die.

I’ll likely have more to say about the game as I play more, but for now, I turn it over to you: Anyone out there a fan of Alpha Protocol? Have you played it lately? What do you think of this game, and what have I got in store for me?


  • Alpha Protocol, despite it’s many flaws, had one of the best espionage stories in any game I’ve ever played. If you’re in to a good narrative, the game is totally worth playing for that alone IMO.

    • Pretty much this.

      Obsidian make great stories, but their games are buggy as all get out.

      Genuinly loved this game, but there were moments when you can see how much more it could have been.
      Also, the way the conversation and influence system is purely genius.

      • completely agreed. although i picked this up on steam for something like 5 dollars, i was still disappointed because as good as the influence system was (like having your handler hate you and try to get you killed), it was painful to play through the game because the stealth and gunplay were so badly handled (not saying that weapons are necessary, just saying that due to the open ended nature of the character building in alpha protocol, i expected it to be far more polished)

  • I picked this up last week, played the first missions.

    Didn’t grab me straight away, but I will come back to it.

  • Played it and finished it.

    Great idea but horribly, awfully, terribly executed. Bad AI, full of bugs and glitches and looked like a mid-tier PS2 game.

  • I really like this game, there;’s plenty broken about it but I can forgive it because it was so much fun.

    It’s pretty much Mass Effect set today with spies.

    I really need to do a replay because my save was lost right near the end D:

  • Also, Brad Gallaway is one of the best writers out there. Really enjoy hi reviews. He can hate on a game I love and I still walk away feeling satysfied after a good, balanced write-up 😀

  • I was a big fan 😀 of course it was rusty around the edges but the gameplay was entertaining and the dialogue was EXCELLENT. If they put a bit more money into it, it would have become amazing. I really hope they continue this game with a better made sequel 🙂

  • Sorry, but Obsidian Tuxedo.

    It’s what I call that mission which implies you’ll be doing the typical spy business of being at a party thrown at a mansion, mingling with guests while being the usual spy sent to collect data / reconnaissance / whatever.

    It was so obvious it was cut from the game. the Tuxedo was there, the party was there, and you were just forced to watch stuff from behind a sniper scope.

    It could have been the defining moment of a spy game. instead, it felt unfinished and rushed, much like the rest of the game. It was just blatant at that point.

  • Side observation: When reviewing The Last of Us, Tom Bissell remarked about guards who trained at “the Stare-at-a-Wall Guard Training Academy”.

    I was under the impression that they were “Hunters”/”Scavengers” without much training (like the game explained) that were, well… scavenging. The only “guards staring at walls” I saw were rummaging through drawers, looking for anything that would help, much like I was in the midst of battle/escape.

    What happens when a remark is just plain wrong?

    • When you work your way through the collapsed streets in the Downtown chapter, there are at least three guards who when sent out to find you, never actually bother to look into the collapsed sections they stand above. Two have a quick conversation and then just stare at each other from opposite sides of the collapsed section, and the other one only looks down at a single spot every 15 seconds or so. They might not be staring at walls, but they seem to consciously avoid paying any attention to the only viable escape route.

  • I finished this game three times in under two weeks. Short game but high replayability.

    Despite its game breaking bugs it had some great new concepts other RPGs could borrow like the limited time to respond to decisions like a real conversation. The story too changes depending on the order in which you play the missions and thus people who would recognise you in one playthrough wouldn’t know you in another playthrough… Plus the game was designed to be played either, Jack Bauer style (stealth), Jason Bourne style (CQC) or James Bond (shooter).

    • I liked the way in which plans for an entire stage could change based on earlier decisions. I remember a stage in Rome where depending on (the morally dubious) decisions you made in Saudi Arabia, you could be facing two sets of hostile forces as you make your way through, or have one force as an ally engage the other one, more than halving the number of hostiles you had to face.

  • It’s an average game at best, but I had a hell of a lot of fun playing it. Rather than carrying on about it (and I could), I’ll just say that if you see it on sale somewhere, pick it up.

  • Yeah I played this game and finished and then played it again and finished it by doing different responses…

    While yeah it had its flaws and bugs…it’s actually a refreshing game to play and the storyline keeps you engaged for a bit…the only thing I found that you could never really do a mission in stealthy way, I always ended up getting into a shootout

  • One of my favourite games of the past 5 years. I remember playing through a few hours of Mass Effect 2, being seriously disappointed with the attempt to make it more adult by adding more skin and boobs and swearing – as well as sticking with the usual blue/red morality – and giving up. A couple of months later, I started Alpha Protocol, and discovered a game that defined adult as addressing – simplistically, to be sure – geo-political stability and the ethics of armament sales (and sex, of course). No blue/red morality – it was all shades of gray:

    Do you let a known terrorist go because they weren’t guilty of the particular act you were sent to assassinate them for, and in fact had been setup by the people who sent you to assassinate said terrorist because they had been using him to to test (and basically advertise) cutting-edge weapons systems on civilians and wanted to cover it up? Do you sacrifice an innocent girl (who you may or may not be in a relationship with) and a better shot at catching a renegade ex-agent and arms dealer to save 100 civilians from a terrorist attack?

    It lacked polish (but that’s Obsidian – their reach always exceeds their grasp, so you accept some roughness), but it also wasn’t a dumbed-down, sexed-up Gears of War clone with some largely pointless RPG-elements tacked on.

    A tip – as opposed to the choices of the letter writers, I’d suggest that if you want to get your “laughs” in early, tackle Tapei first. It’s a heck of a ride…

  • I picked this game up for $5 and I gots to say its the best $5 I spent on..mind u I am familiar with how this game was massacred when it came out..
    I guess the enjoyment I got with this game has got to do with the price..I mean games are so expensive when it comes out that we cant help but be harsh and somehow justify a $80+ game to a point we are being too critical about it and we forget to have fun imo..but if we spent something tiny as a loose change we drop our inhibitions thats when we see how fun s game is despite its past negative reviews..thats when we justify with our spending of our “loose change” of how much bargain it is and we then start looking for its fun and positive factors imo
    games are becoming expensive especially now the next gen is coming maybe publishers should look at this model and price their games on whats their worth I think

  • If Sega had given them the time to finish the game, this could well have been an awesome game. Same story as with KOTOR2 though, sadly. Obsidian has never been good with deadlines, they try to do too much for the producers to be comfortable with, miss deadlines as a result, and end up being forced to put out an incomplete product that leaves everyone wishing they had just been given that extra time to make it a product worthy of the potential. If they had been given the chance here, we could well have been up to the third iteration in the series by now. Sadly, however, we are just left wondering what might have been…

    • Probably explains their success with Project Eternity. Being transparent about the process and bypassing the publishers, they’re in a position to get the customers to tell them directly if they want an incomplete game on time, or a complete game a little later, and the customer can make an informed decision, because they’ve been able to follow the development process all the way along.

  • Oh…. Man I’m a huge Alpha Protocol fan played the hell out of it tried every option! It’s the best it has its flaws but deep down it is an amazing game! Very in depth with a complex story, were every choice makes a difference. I just wish we could get a second with a good budget and team to make it perfect

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