Why You Need to Play: Alpha Protocol


Credit: SEGA/ Obsidian Entertainment/ Steam Store
 Why You Need to Play: Alpha Protocol
Watch out for the gelato man.


Alpha Protocol is a Mass Effect-esque "Espionage RPG". Developed by Obsidian and directed by Chris Parker, Alpha Protocol is a technical MESS of a game. That should come as no surprise; I did say that it was by Obsidian, didn't I? You take the role of "Michael Thorton", the single smuggest man on the planet, who is tasked with unraveling a corporate plot to ignite World War 3. 
Michael Thorton is a super-spy, with shades of Bond, Bourne and Bauer coloring him. You have the choice of which, though. AP splits its gameplay between missions that you can accomplish through any means (be it a silent infiltration, hack-fuelled break-in or guns-blazing assault) and dialogue, in which you can decide how Michael responds to situations, with each response provoking different responses in the colorful cast of characters you encounter.
Credit: SEGA/ Obsidian Entertainment/ Steam Store
Credit: SEGA/ Obsidian Entertainment/ Steam Store

What was wrong with it? A lot. Not the most encouraging start, eh? Being an Obsidian game, and a rushed one at that, Alpha Protocol has a menagerie of different glitches, bugs, and crashes. At least once or twice I have received witty, complimentary emails off of characters I quite recently shot in the face. It is a terribly put together game, full of wonky animations, dodgy AI and some flat-out moronic design choices. However, if you can bear with it, you're in for a ride...
Credit: SEGA/ Obsidian Entertainment/ Steam Store
Why should you play it? Despite that ominous list of problems, Alpha Protocol is one of my favourite action RPGs in existence. Why? That is because of the sheer amount of care put into crafting the world around your character. The story is a riveting tale of conspiracy and intrigue that can end in just about any way you could feasibly see yourself escaping from it; and it is populated by a wonderful cast of quirky, interesting and very human characters that all bounce off of your various interpretations of Michael Thorton with tremendous ease.
What makes AP truly unique in its genre is that your choices actually matter. Every member of AP's cast will appreciate or dislike different approaches, and how comfortable a character is with you can drastically change how the story plays out. Even if you don't notice it at first. Many games tout features like these, but Alpha Protocol revels in it and shames every other "choose your own story" game.

Through shoddy gameplay, ugly graphics and self-terminating guard AI you will be a part of one of the most interestingly branching stories of recent years. If you can make it to the end, I guarantee you'll be replaying it again within a few days, playing differently and approaching situations with more or less care than before, just to see how things play out. Watch out for the gelato man.
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