Alpha Protocol super review

  • Seeing how different choices play out is cool
  • Combat gets fun once you've leveled up
  • Acting/writing are good despite raw presentation
  • Hacking and lockpicking are a pain
  • Outrageously cheap boss fights
  • Feels unfinished, with infuriating bugs

In fact, once you get to a certain point in the game, having taken a stealth approach actually becomes a liability, as it leaves you totally unprepared for the rushing onslaughts of bosses against whom stealth has limited uses, at best. And some of those bosses are ridiculously cheap, with a strange knack for rushing your hiding spot and dealing out massive close-quarters damage before abruptly teleporting someplace safe.

Above: Other times they just ride around in armored vehicles surrounded by conveniently placed rocket launchers 

However, as infuriating as that is, it’s not the worst part of the action. No, the worst parts are the minigames.

F**king minigames, man

Littered throughout Alpha’s missions are computers you need to hack, safes you need to crack and alarms you need to turn off. While you can instantly defeat any of these with an EMP grenade or a “radio mimic” (in the case of alarms), those things cost money. So the rest of the time, you’ll have to rely on your own skills.

First, there’s the minigame you’ll have to undertake while shutting off alarms (and some locks), which looks like this:

 This is actually the most painless of the three, as all you need to do to win is train your eye to rapidly match the numbers to their origin points on the circuit board, and then switch them on in order. Things get more complicated when you try to hack computers, in which case you’ll be confronted with this cascade of numbers and letters:

While this seems impossible at first, all you really need to do is glance around for the two horizontal strings of data that aren’t moving, and then quickly move the corresponding backlit lines of code at the top of the screen into place over them. Once you know what to look for, it’s easy.

Picking locks, though… holy shit.

Above: UGH 

To be fair, how horrible lockpicking is will relate directly to which platform you choose to play Alpha on. If you’re playing on a PC, you’ll simply move and click the tumblers into place with the mouse, which is super-easy and almost fun. On consoles, however, you’ll have to nudge each tumbler into the exact spot where it’ll stay in place with the left trigger, and then click it into place with the right. Fail to get this exactly right, and you may break your pick and possibly set off an alarm.

On the PS3 (which we primarily reviewed the game on), this was incredibly, literally excruciating, because the controller’s triggers simply aren’t well suited for the kind of precision the minigame requires. The 360’s more comfortable triggers make the minigame mostly inoffensive, but it’s still a far cry from fun. In a game with ambitions this lofty, it’s upsetting that one of its biggest frustrations comes from a throwaway minigame.

Is it better than…?

Mass Effect 2? No. While the two games share a similar structure – they’re mission-based, with visits to “hub” areas in between – ME2 is a lot bigger (and a lot prettier), with more interesting conversations and characters. and more to do between missions than check emails and shop online. The action’s better, the story’s better – hell, everything’s better. We almost feel bad comparing them at all.

Splinter Cell: Conviction? Yes and no. Splinter Cell certainly looks a lot better than Alpha, and its action, while similar to Alpha’s, is more immediately varied and interesting. But ultimately it moves on a linear track; as much fun as its interrogations are, they only have one outcome, and you can’t ever turn those enemies to your side. It might not be anywhere near as slick, but Alpha Protocol has it all over Conviction in the interactive-story department.

Metal Gear Solid 4? No. Like Conviction, MGS4 crushes Alpha’s looks and gameplay. But Alpha does have one advantage, in that it manages to tell a tighter, more believable and more potentially interesting story in a fraction of the time that MGS4 does, and does so while giving you control over its cutscenes. So if you like your spy thrillers to be more about political assassinations and war profiteering than nanomachines and world-controlling computers, that’s a minor win for Alpha.

Just for you, Metacritic!

While its story, characters and conversations are interesting and fun to play around with, Alpha’s third-person shooting – which makes up the bulk of the game – is not. It’s a far cry from terrible, but we’d been led to expect much more.

June 1, 2010

More Info

Release date: Jun 01 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (US)
May 28 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Sega
Developed by: Obsidian
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
PEGI Rating:


  • danny-stuivenberg - May 9, 2012 9:45 p.m.

    I didn't have many problems with lockpicking, it was hacking computers that was truly a pain, IMO. Anyway, I liked this game. There are a lot of bugs present, visually and gameplay-wise, but that didn't take all the fun away for me. I do wish there would be more ways to customize the appearance of your character though.
  • Daneurysm - June 14, 2010 7:21 p.m.

    Yeah, this game wasn't that great, but it's good to see obsidian do their own ip/original game (their first yet?). Anyway I have faith that their new Fallout will be great as long as their given the time to complete it, which, from the looks of things they are. It's the difference between KotOR2 being a huge disappointment and NWN2 greatly surpassing the original
  • Spybreak8 - June 3, 2010 5:34 a.m.

    It always looked like they were trying to be Mass Effect wayyy too much. It's like the poser who just doesn't understand what they're posing. Too bad, I want a player choice fueled spy RPG.
  • near01 - June 3, 2010 2:01 a.m.

    I salute to you, Tygerclaws, sir.
  • Maasai - June 2, 2010 10:15 p.m.

    Damn, I wanted this game to be good...
  • sft10 - June 2, 2010 8:54 p.m.

    damn thought this game was gonna be a solid 9 because of all the hype and then this happens :(
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - June 2, 2010 7:07 p.m.

    @crumbdunky: It actually isn't a 60-hour game. It's more like a 15-to-20-hour game. I probably should have mentioned that explicitly in the review.
  • RebornKusabi - June 2, 2010 4:16 p.m.

    I just went through Mass Effect 2 and while I hated it, at first, I ultimately ended up loving it in many ways more than I loved the original. I have this game shipping to me from GameFly and I'll reserve my opinion until I actually PLAY the game.'ll of course be after I beat Red Dead Redemption because I'm completely in love with every single facet of that game!
  • gannsi - June 2, 2010 3:09 p.m.

    I played it on PS3 and i never got any bugs!! why are so many ppl whining about the bugs??
  • lovinmyps3 - June 2, 2010 3:08 p.m.

    I was briefly interested in this game a while back, but then Mass Effect came out.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - June 2, 2010 2:01 p.m.

    Guess I gotta wait for Mass Effect 3 :-(
  • anelson89 - June 2, 2010 4:25 a.m.

    @ tygerclaws you are my new hero
  • IcarusLeonardo - June 2, 2010 4:10 a.m.

    Wasnt very surprised but yet i did keep my eye on it till now good artical Mikel.
  • Doctalen - June 2, 2010 3:37 a.m.

    Why is it that whenever a stealth game is made, it is usually better to just run and gun?
  • initialreactionshow - June 2, 2010 2:27 a.m.

    Excellent, well-written review Mikel. I have not played the game but I was interested when I first heard of it years ago. I feel that if Alpha Protocol came out before Mass Effect 2, it would have been better received because it is so similar to ME2, but not nearly as good with more bugs, worse graphics, not as interesting of a setting, not as interesting of a story, and a worse combat system. Alpha Protocol would have been an 8 if it came out before Mass Effect 2, but I think you gave it a fair score of 7. If it wasn't for Alpha Protocol's story, it is clear that it would have gotten a lower score. I am not going to pick this game up or rent it.
  • solace357 - June 2, 2010 1:46 a.m.

    yeah Jim was brutal lol. I'm surprised Mikel scored it this high. I couldn't get past the first hour or so of gameplay.
  • groovy3000 - June 2, 2010 1:04 a.m.

    i laughed when i saw jim sterling gave this a 2.
  • Psylockerules - June 1, 2010 11:03 p.m.

    blimey a 7? who says you cant polish a turd

Showing 1-20 of 31 comments

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