An Hour With… Alpha Protocol

By John Walker on May 31st, 2010 at 12:30 pm.

This screen is definitely the best thing in the first hour.

We had hoped to bring your our Alpha Protocol WIT by now, but a series of unfortunate circumstances means that it’s much delayed. You might even have your own Thoughts to Wot below. So here is a description of the first hour or two, which isn’t a very pretty sight. I’m absolutely sure things much improve after this, especially now I have the game in a state in which I can play it at all. So yes, this is especially negative. No, this absolutely is NOT our review of Alpha Protocol, and anyone who says it is gets a dead arm.

When you’re a spy, it’s very important to never step over anything. If there’s a long way around, ideally surrounded by guards, cameras and locked doors, then this is the route the good spy will take. Rather than lifting his legs over a one foot fence.

A lot of people think a spy uses the art of stealth, silently sneaking through rooms, the enemy not even aware he was there. This is a myth. When you’re a spy you want to walk into a room, loudly declare your arrival, then mow everyone down with an assault rifle. Don’t worry about the alarms – just turn them off and everyone will forget you were ever there.

And of course, when you’re a spy you have to buy your own weapons.

I could keep going with this joke for ages. When you’re a spy you have to hack the .ini files of the game to change options that appear in the game’s menu but don’t actually do anything. When you’re a spy you don’t have to worry about leaving dead bodies lying around as they evaporate seconds after death. When you’re a spy you only go into cover about one in three attempts… But the strangest thing about /Alpha Protocol: An Espionage RPG/ is that it’s not about being a spy at all.

Not for any of the above reasons. But because it just simply isn’t a game about a spy. It’s a game about being a commando. It’s every other third-person action game, where a black-ops military man is sent to clear out entire bases, except with an awful lot more talking.

Conversations implement something a little similar to Fahrenheit’s much-ignored system. As the other character is talking you’re given three or four manners of response to choose from. These will be words like, “Suave”, “Frustrated”, “Professional” and the ilk, that determine how Michael Thorton behaves. Unlike Fahrenheit you’re given quite a lot of time to make this choice, and like Fahrenheit, the responses often seem at odds with the word you picked. Seemingly innocuous choices can lead to causing offense with your companion – but then, that’s life, isn’t it?

Once you’re in the field, things play an awful lot like Mass Effect 2, except with a peculiar reluctance to use cover. Thorton would much rather stand in the line of fire than hide behind a box, it seems. Which makes the option of stealth a frequently frustrating direction to head in.

In fact, it seems quite impossible to sneak through an area unnoticed – combat is forced upon you. You don’t have to kill. Tranq bullets let you stun enemies, and hand-to-hand combat will put them into a deep, bruised sleep.

Although my attempt to play through without killing fell in the very first mission when I discovered as soon as Michael ran out of tranquiliser bullets he switches to regular ammo without asking. The pool of blood leaking out of the baddie was my first clue.

In between combat there’s the minigames. There’s three main types: hacking computers, turning off alarms, and picking locks.

Hacking computers is horrible. You’ve got to identify two sets of stationary letters and numbers in a large grid of rapidly changing figures, except after a short amount of time their position will move, and your ability to match the codes up is painfully slow. And on the mouse, barely controllable.

Turning off alarms involves a technology-ised version of the puzzle where you have to work out which fisherman has caught the fish on their tangled lines. Weeee.

And picking locks asks you to line up the tumblers. Played as intended (on the 360 controller, sigh) this is a vaguely tricky challenge to use the analogue nature of the triggers to squeeze them into place. On the mouse it’s as elementary as just clicking three times.

None is good. All are a frustration that interrupts the flow.

However, all these are delights only to be enjoyed by those who can play the game at all. Obviously new PC games are likely to have patch-requiring conflicts, but AP’s seem especially egregious. For a few, including me, the game is mostly impossible to play with mouse and keyboard.

Some extremely peculiar decisions have been made regarding how the game is set up. Mouse smoothing, for instance, something no one ever wants to set to “on” is hard-coded as “on” and is not available as an option. This is causing a lot of players to find the game staggers horrendously when they move the mouse, making aiming near-impossible. However, when played with a controller (ideally a 360 controller for compatibility) it moves smoothly. So it seems very likely to be horrible porting to PC.

Stranger still, options presented in-game do nothing. Vsync, for instance, cannot be turned off, despite its claiming to have done so. And like many Unreal 3 engine games there’s no option to turn on anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering, however here, if you overrule and instruct your graphics card to force it, incredibly the dialogue choices vanish. So instead of picking a style of response to the conversation, you instead have three anonymous circles, and inevitably randomly guess at the insulting one. Which is… odd.

Then there’s the minigames, some of which are proving impossible to complete with a mouse, again requiring a controller for any hope of success.

(For clarity I should add: there are rumours on some forums that the various issues above are only occurring for pirated/DRM-removed versions of the game. This is not the case. The version of the game we have is a boxed copy sent directly by Sega.)

Hacks have appeared for those with the know-how to edit .ini files, but of course these are temporary plasters that don’t completely address the issues, and are certainly not something that anyone should expect a player to have to do.

The first hour with Alpha Protocol, involving a long, meandering tutorial, and a very dull mission in Saudi Arabia, is clearly not promising at all. What I’ve heard is that things pick up considerably after this. And I will be writing a full review once I’ve completed the game, hopefully bringing much better news.

However, I’ll be playing it on a 360 controller unless a patch appears very soon.

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192 Comments »

  1. mpk says:

    Do you have a collection of dead arms you hand out to people you don’t like? I have this image in my head of a basement full of shelves, all with disembodied arms neatly stacked…

    • Ian says:

      It was a typo, they actually send out copies of Resident Evil: Dead Aim.

    • Bascule42 says:

      Dead arm..brilliant, haven’t given or received a dead arm since school. Rolffleing at that one.

    • Bret says:

      Well, yeah. Who doesn’t?

  2. ChaK_ says:

    Beard and glasses uglyness FTW

    Anyway I passed on that one, too many problems as I’ve read everywhere. I’ll wait for a steam sale and patches…. eventually.

    Or not

    • jsdn says:

      It’s honestly not that bad. The game is still very playable, and even fun. It’s just that the issues that do exist are ones that could have been easily avoided with very little effort. Myself, and probably many others here, are getting really fed up with half assed PC ports. It’s starting to become unforgivable, even an expectation, just like movie tie-in games are expected to be terrible. This article was just saying how unforgivable it is, but I don’t think John Walker thinks its a bad game as a whole. Me either.

    • suibhne says:

      @JSDN: This isn’t a matter of a poor PC port (aside from the specific problem with mouse movement). The PC version is no worse than the console versions and might even better. And yes, that’s sad.

  3. mrmud says:

    I actually like what I have played alot.
    This game reminds me of Deus Ex alot more than Mass Effect 2 (how accuracy works, how you can approach missions in different ways and so on).

    However you are completely right about all of the issues. With a mouse+keyboard I could not get past the Hacking tutorial but once I reluctantly switched to a 360 controller I passed on the first attempt.
    All in all the game seems very much designed around an xbox360 controller and everyone should really try playing with one if they have the opportunity (even if like me you normally prefer mouse+keyboard).

    But for me, once I got past these issues I really like the game.

    • Premium User Badge

      lhzr says:

      yep, haven’t played a lot of deus ex, it’s still on my to-do list, but from what i’ve seen it’s pretty much like that.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yeah, I got the Deus Ex impression too. I think it’s the similarities between both the mission styles and the vast array of choices.

    • sfury says:

      reminds me of Deus Ex, Bloodlines, even Hitman at times (because of the way I play it) though along with some of the good sides it’s taken bad or plain strange approaches too

      but still after 15-20 hours I love it – a true RPG is about choice and cosequences and this game delivers a lot, and really there’s lots of good stuff later

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      @sfury

      Sounds great, I needed a bit of cheering up. Picking it up today, but I may not get around to playing it until a month or so, I am finally finishing the Witcher. Hopefully a few patches will have appeared by then.
      :)

  4. Premium User Badge

    lhzr says:

    alpha protocol is amazing. if you’d put it next to mass effect, it would be the same sort of comparison like between stalker and crysis. big budget polished shiny sparkly mainstream mediocrity versus .. something else. a pretty amazing something else.

    i can heartily recommend AP for everyone who thought ME was boring (and not an rpg) and for whom polish is not the most important thing in a game.

    • sfury says:

      +1

      I find even the action (though a bit wooden) to be way better than ME.

    • sfury says:

      …but oooh all the pretty CHOICES!!!

      Now that’s a real RPG, a few bugs can’t stop me enjoying the hell out of it and dreaming of another playthrough. :)

    • Wednesday says:

      Medicority? I’m enjoying AP, but it’s not in the same league as Mass Effect 2. Everyone bangs on about how much better Obsidian are at writing than Bioware, but ME2 went for a character piece, while this sits in Spy-Thriller trope land.

      The overall narrative is not impressive.

      You make ME2 sound like some soda-pop fantasy, but I was far more engaged emotionally than I am here.

  5. Bowlby says:

    Sounds awful. It’s a shame, too, because I really wanted to buy this game out of support for the DRM Sega is using (Uniloc). A bad port is a bad port, though, and, honestly, this game deserves nothing more than mediocre sales if this account is anything to go by. Disappointing.

    • Lacero says:

      What’s special about uniloc? I was looking at the game on steam and it said you’re limited to 5 activations. Does it work differently to Securom?

    • Archonsod says:

      You can deactivate any time you like from any net connected PC, so it’s really no more than five installs active at once. You only need to activate on a given machine once, and once activated you don’t need the disc. Sega have also stated they’ll patch it out in 12 – 24 months time.

    • Bowlby says:

      Kind-of. It’s basically a more flexible system comparable to that of the secuROM DRM EA packaged with Bad Company 2. Stuff like being able to deactivate installations remotely is a huge plus point, as is the promise that they’ll remove the DRM 18-24 months down the line. Apart from no DRM at all, and maybe Steam, this is the most consumer friendly version of copy protection I’ve seen yet.
      http://forums.sega.com/showthread.php?p=5788545#post5788545

  6. ChaK_ says:

    BTW, how the hell nothing filtered in the preview?

    I mean it just sounds awefull, didn’t anyone notice that during a demo? i was hyped, and had high hopes, I’d rather know sooner what a pile of crap it would be…

  7. Premium User Badge

    lhzr says:

    about the mouse smoothing thing: yes, it’s on and it makes the camera behave badly. it’s also fixable by a quick edit of some .ini files. set some stuff to false instead of true and you’re good to go, no need for a controller. if you know how to use notepad you shouldn’t have much trouble doing this.

    also give this a shot:

    MinSmoothedFrameRate=20
    MaxSmoothedFrameRate=30

    in My Documents\Alpha Protocol\APGame\Config\APEngine.ini

    should also help with the twitchy camera.

    • John Walker says:

      I did this, and it caused other problems. However, needing to do this to play a game is completely unacceptable. It was especially tragic that Obsidian employees were posting links to this advice on their forum, rather than saying, “a patch is being made right now.”

    • Premium User Badge

      lhzr says:

      oh, sorry about this, john.

      here’s something else you can try (in the same ini file)

      UseBackgroundLevelStreaming=false
      OnlyStreamInTextures=true
      OneFrameThreadLag=False

  8. Easydog says:

    I think that the terrible intro is a good thing. It lowered my expectations and consequently I stopped judging it by ‘Mass Effect’ and started to see the little fun things. Still not brilliant, but I’ll be replaying it and it has it’s moments. I had to play on an xbox controller to start enjoying it though.

  9. Janek says:

    I’ve fortunately not had any of the technical problems some others have had, so I’ve quite enjoyed it so far. Takes a big leaf out of the Mass Effect book in being much better as a giant Choose Your Own Adventure than an actual game. I mean, taking a sneaksy silenced pistol wielding route is entertaining enough (I’m reminded of Arkham Asylum a bit), but it’s mostly just padding to get you from conversation to conversation.

    Definitely some odd design decisions (and/or lazy porting) though – the hacking minigame is clearly designed for dual analog sticks, and there’s a few other niggles. Also the animations are pretty bad, but I stopped noticing that after a while.

  10. Premium User Badge

    lhzr says:

    “It’s a game about being a commando.” huh?
    if you choose to play like that, then yeah. i also played that way, but from what i hear it’s perfectly possible to play stealthily.

    • CLD says:

      It’s very frustrating(and hard) to play stealthy. Once you activate an alarm(which will happen often), all enemies go crazy and they run at the point where you activated the alarm, so of course you need to fight your way out of it.

    • Premium User Badge

      lhzr says:

      well, yeah, unless you run away from there, find an alarm panel and turn it off, making everyone return to “normal’.

    • bleeters says:

      …which isn’t so much playing stealthily as ‘taking advantage of the weaknesses of crappy AI’, no?

    • Archonsod says:

      Resetting an alarm doesn’t return them to normal. If they’ve seen you they’ll stay at red, if not they go back to yellow. Takes a fair bit of hiding before they go back to green.

      The AI isn’t too bad to be honest. Alerted guards whether by sound or site will investigate what triggered the alert. There’s some nice touches between the various quality of opponents which is nice; low quality guards tend to panic and run for the alarm more often, they usually try and suppress you with fire while one or two charge in to deal with you whereas higher quality opponents will use grenades to flush you out and attempt to flank your position.

      As for the stealth issue the main problem in the early game is that you don’t get any decent stealth armours, which means the enemy can still hear you while you’re sneaking about. (the night ops armour is better than the others, but it’s such a minor nerf to the enemy detection range you may as well not bother). Also, until you get the “always on” awareness skill traversing any area with more than a couple of guards can be a nightmare.

    • bleeters says:

      Fair enough, then. That sounds far more promising than guards returning to whatever they were doing without a care in the world.

    • John Walker says:

      lhzr – as I explain above, playing stealthily isn’t something the game makes very possible.

    • The Snee says:

      I just finished the game, and played stealth just fine, quite enjoyed it.

      There are a few forced combat sections, but then you can use stealth as a weapon. Once you get awareness upgraded, identifying targets and avoiding them is easy, and once you get shadow operative, and especially evasion, it becomes incredibly satisfying.

  11. Kits says:

    It’s not an awful game, but it’s not what I was hoping for. It got more possible to play stealthily once you picked up a few more levels in the relevant skill and the enemies didn’t hear you from half a mile away and after Saudi Arabia I was going completely melee take-downs and martial arts for the odd occasions I was discovered.
    My biggest gripes were that the ‘choices’ in the game seem rather ambiguous for the most part and in general it finished a lot sooner than I’d have liked with a very pathetic ending.

    • Archonsod says:

      I was quite amazed by the difference some choices had to the way the missions and plot played out on my replay. First time through I had a veritable army to call on in the final mission and nailed the two big guys. Second run through I was pretty much on my own and forced to choose which bad guy to take out.
      Also, the main missions where you get given a choice of what to do (trying hard not to spoil it here) can have some surprising results, particularly on the state of the world at the end of the game.

      I’d definitely recommend you play it at least twice and take a different approach on each run. Like Deus Ex there’s certain inevitable outcomes, but it’s impressive just how many little twists there are in the road that gets you there.

  12. SpinalJack says:

    And companies wonder why their PC sales are going down

    • Premium User Badge

      lhzr says:

      if sales for this one will be low, it’s gonna be because pc gamers start to become more similar to console gamers. that that as you will.

  13. Archonsod says:

    The mouse was fine for me once I ratcheted up the sensitivity. It seems to default to “mouse mat made of treacle” mode.

    Cover is largely useless I found. Apart from some select boss battles where it’s pretty much essential you can get similar (and in some cases better) results by hitting crouch and walking behind the object, which has the advantage of avoiding the irritating glue people seem to paint all over it.

    The sneaking thing is possible (there’s perks for doing so) but tends to be much harder than simply going in guns blazing. There’s repercussions to taking either route though which will manifest later in the game. I’ll not spoil the surprise :P Alarms can be ignored in the early part of the game when all they do is set the guards to red alert and spawn a few more. In later missions an active alarm can lock out some of the side areas or affect the outcome, and the automated defence systems tend to be tied to the alarm system too.

    The minigames aren’t that brilliant. The difficulty seems to be set purely by the time limit (except the hacking one of course, where it’s set by the shoddy controls). The alarm one can get particularly tight when you’ve got a gordian knot of ten circuits and ten seconds to clip them in.

    And it does get much better later. I’ll avoid spoilers and simply say a hotel, the CIA, a Roman Villa and the 80′s.

    • Premium User Badge

      lhzr says:

      the minigames aren’t brilliant but they’re 10 times better than the mining stuff from me2. also you can put a few points in the tech skilltree and/or buy some gadgets and/or mods for your armor which will make the minigames a cakewalk.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yeah, the thing is though if you specialise in the hacking side of things it means you’re sacrificing something else. On my second run it was a breeze because I used the armour upgrades (and was a Veteran, so skilled in everything), but the first time through those minigames started to get harsh by the mid way point. 10 seconds to hit ten circuits is a bit of a bitch.

    • Premium User Badge

      lhzr says:

      hmm, i didn’t specialize in hacking, i just added a couple of levels to it, enough for it to become..doable. there are also some gloves that should make hacking easier, can’t remember when/where you can get them, though.

    • JohnArr says:

      Every character just needs to spend 3 measly AP in the techy/hacking skill and then the minigames become doable. Never fun, but not frustrating at least.

  14. Pidesco says:

    It’s easy to stealth your way through the tutorial on normal, even when playing a recruit. The hacking minigame has confusing controls that should have been done better, but gets much, much easier with practice.

    Also, note that this is an RPG in the sense that specialization is required for you to develop your character properly. It’s not possible to master everything like in Mass Effect or Fallout 3.

  15. robrob says:

    When I read “you can get through the game without killing anyone”, my brain parsed it as “you can get through the game without having to fight anyone”. Hopefully they patch this all pretty soon, it still looks like a fun game. I know a few people who have enjoyed it once they got over its immediate problems.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Yeah, those claims always bother me. Lots of games, even classic ones (Fallout, Torment, etc.) make claims about how you can get through without firing a shot, or only having to kill one or two people or whatever. What they don’t say is that you can’t get through the game properly like that. You have to know what you’re doing, often take speed run type approaches by skipping side missions, and run from battles constantly.

      When I hear that you can get through a game without killing anyone, my mind immediately goes to the same place yours does, Robrob, that you can get through the game without fighting people, that all sorts of situations have non-violent resolutions. What is usually the case is that you skip the resolution entirely by avoiding the situation, you miss most of the game because you’re constantly running away from it.

  16. LewieP says:

    I am waiting on patches, and probably a discount, on this one.

    • Premium User Badge

      oceanclub says:

      “I am waiting on patches, and probably a discount, on this one.”

      To be honest, it’s already fairly discounted (and this preview indicates why!). Sounds like it’ll be cheap as chips soon enough unless they do rush a patch out (fixing INI files, how hard can it be?).

      P.

    • Antsy says:

      Hard enough that Gearbox never bothered to do it for Borderlands :S

      I have Alpha Protocol here in its wrapper. I’m still not sure if its going back or not.

  17. RLacey says:

    CD Wow finally dispatched my preorder today. Oh well, at least it was only £14 if it turns out to be rubbish. And this game still interests me.

    • SmallGods says:

      I acquired it the same way, mine hasn’t arrived yet though you lucky so and so. I figure for £15 or so, it can’t be too bad. And yes, patches for the win. I may hold out playing it till I finally complete all of GTA IV’s missions, let them get some patches out..

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      I apparantly ordered it that way too. Completely forgot about that until I got an email about it being dispatched.

      So I guess I don’t have to wait for it to be discounted as I’ve already bought it discounted! Happy days.

  18. Eight Rooks says:

    I’m slowly liking it more and more as I go on, though I’m also having my fair share of problems. Couldn’t care less about AA or framerate glitches, but the animation’s awful, the graphics mostly look like something from about five years ago at least (couple of decent face textures and some of the safehouses are all right, but that’s about it) and I had some hiiilarious bugs. My favourite has to be every enemy disappearing when I reloaded a checkpoint, which seems to be related to them not spawning until the last minute (because when you’ve got the ability that tells you where everyone on the map is, you can see them appear up ahead). That one only happened in Saudi Arabia though.

    Still, I’m using a 360 controller, so no complaints there. I’m quite liking the minigames – really not seeing the bitching, unless it’s just that they’re awful with a mouse. My problem is more just how silly and videogame-y they are (every single lock has an alarm attached for when you fail, even shabby wooden doors in the back end of the Middle East?). I mean, everything in the game works, when it’s not bugged. It’s playable and does what it’s supposed to do. It just feels poorly thought out and, well, weird. Why is it my super-spy who’s supposedly a decorated soldier has to concentrate for five seconds to plug someone in the head? But it’s doable.

    And the story and writing is pulling me on. [b]Far[/b] better than Bioware overall, no surprises there (Jesus the writing here is so much better than Dragon Age it’s not even remotely funny). Though I agree it still suffers from ‘didn’t mean to say that’, particularly with the Bond options, which frequently just come across as nudge-nudge wink-wink lechery. It’s daft global conspiracy nonsense, but much more smartly written than, say, Assassin’s Creed, which is fun but cripplingly dumb. Good voice-acting, too.

    Oh, and you hardcore PC types might like this one – the Uniloc DRM does not work for me. At all. I have no idea what’s doing it, but I have to delete two files the game left on my HDD then type the code in by hand, every. Single. Time I want to start it up. Copy and paste the code, it crashes. Sometimes I type it in it crashes anyway. Try and start it again after it’s actually worked, it crashes. Driving me mad. Mostly I could care less about DRM schemes, and Uniloc’s certainly less stringent than most, but this is really not what I hoped for.

  19. Azhrarn says:

    I quite like the game (and like John I haven’t “reviewed” it for more than a few hours so far).

    The mouse issues he describes are more or less absent for me, the hacking mini-game is pretty terrible though, even when your mouse responds properly. The Camera is a bit iffy at times, which I assume is the mouse smoothing then.

    Aiming is smooth as butter though, so for some reason I’m not displaying all of the symptoms. ^^
    But the “dice-rolling” in the background bugs me somewhat, why use a real-time FPS interface when you’re going to have RPG style mechanics determine the effectiveness of the shots anyway.

    The copy installed on my brothers PC though has severe aiming issues, which I assume are what John experienced as well.

    Graphics are decent enough, although the very slow texture loading is a bit distracting, especially since I know my PC can do a lot better than this. The game’s framerate seems rather inconsistent at times too, with inexplicably huge slowdowns for a second or two sometimes occuring frequently and sometimes not all for an entire mission.

    Considering this is an Unreal Engine 3 game I was expecting silky smooth performance, but somehow the developers managed to make a mess of a perfectly stable engine.

    Hope to see Johns Wot I think soon, as I rather value the insight, and I’ll continue playing the game in the mean time.

  20. Flappybat says:

    Alpha Protocol is a bizarre game. Most of the mechanics are frankly crap, combat and movement are years out of date, post Splinter Cell Conviction and Mass Effect 2 there is a lot to expect from a spy and action RPG but AP hasn’t felt the world turn since Deus Ex.

    it’s obvious that the bizarre skills, such as being able to turn totally invisible and run around in plain sight for half a minute (seriously) are just a band aid for poor level design, bad AI and wonky stealth mechanic. Action isn’t any better with the disastrous cover system and awful bad design decision lifted from Deus Ex to make you a bumbling fool with any firearm unless you have six or more skills invested in them.

    It’s incredible that somehow a game still comes together out of these broken parts. The conversations, characters and situations are generally pretty sharp and there is a lot of potential branching in the story. If you forget modern games and adapt a bit to it’s play style you can go forget the problems for a bit, until it hits you with some rubbish arcade boss fight or an unexpected forced shootout.

    Unfortunately the message to take away from all of this is that Obsidian are incompetent if left to their own devices and should only be using other peoples work as a starting point (NWN2, KOTOR2).

  21. kwyjibo says:

    Why release an unfinished game in May? I’m guessing they ran out of money.

    Will this mean franchise kill, or will they persevere in the style of Kane and Lynch. I hope its the latter, because there is space for a real world RPG.

    • Archonsod says:

      They delayed it almost a year. Not sure precisely what’s unfinished about it, but then I’ve had no real technical hiccups.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      this game prove obsidian never had a problem with tight deadlines, their problems is feature creep, they effectively have no beta phase of development, this was indicated by the post from the disgruntled employee who said that when they were given more time by sega they started adding features rather than polish the ones that were already there.

  22. The Sombrero Kid says:

    this game is fucking brilliant, it’s basically like deus ex but shitter, which means it’s basically better than any other game farted out this year, except mass effect 2, the amazing thing is though, is it’s better than mass effect 2 in some ways.

    there are a few problems however:
    the keyboard/mouse controls are physically impossible to use, don’t even bother trying you will ruin it for yourself.
    the initial difficulty with the stealth approach is a bit of a problem, but most if not all of the issues with it are eliminated as you upgrade your character.
    the loading pauses are extreamly annoying, it will pause to load enemies into the level and try and pretend nothing happened, the longest load times in the game are switching menus in the shop!
    some of the dialog is a bit iffy, but most of it is absolutly diamond perfect amazing-o-tron!

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      initial difficulties with the stealth approach that get resolved with a couple of upgrades include:

      all the minigames (they actually get pretty fun after they’re not impossibly difficult)

      the weak pistol becomes a lethal crit machine as long as you play stealthily

      it’s too easy to be seen early on but after a few upgrades it becomes harder for the enemies to see you and if they do one of your powers actually give you a second chance to hide thing which is a really good idea.

      the hand to hand combat to my knowledge is never fixed, basically everyone in the game can block except you, which is particularly frustrating against the super speedy knife guy whos attacks you literally can’t avoid.

    • jsdn says:

      I’m using mouse/keyboard. I’m about halfway through the game and doing fine. Please explain this “physically impossible” reasoning. Sure, there’s issues, but they’re fairly minor ones.

    • sfury says:

      maybe on some systems there are bugs when controlling it with mouse and keyboard

      not mine though – apart from the occasional slight stutter to load new parts of the level or enemies – everything runs and plays smooth, even minigames

    • Torguemada says:

      What are you guys talking about mouse/keyboard being impossible to play with, im on my second playtrough and i have had no problems with my controls except in the hacking minigame

    • The Snee says:

      I went through the treasonous step of plugging in a 360 controller. I think analog movement control was more useful for me than mouse precision.

  23. JohnArr says:

    The surprising thing is it that it isn’t terrible. Analyse each part individually and you see cut corners, no playtesting and shoddy design, but step back and taken as a whole it’s actually alright.

    This is why the Deus Ex comparison is strong, it becomes more than the sum of it’s parts. It never reaches the greatness of DE however.

    What I used to expect from an Obsidian game is a complete lack of polish, but interesting writing and characters. Unfortunately, there are few interesting people to meet, Thorton himself is an arse and the game has some of the most boring dialog sections I’ve ever played.

    If this was Obsidian reaching it’s full potential, breaking out from Star Wars or Bioware, then it was a little underwhelming.

  24. RLacey says:

    Interesting game… technically broken… this year’s Vampire: Bloodlines?

    • Premium User Badge

      lhzr says:

      yeah, like that, but prolly a bit less umm .. complex.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      That was the impression i’ve been getting from the comments here as well. though perhaps lacking the quality to attract the same amound of rabid and utterly brilliant fan patching which renders the things quite smooth to play. Which means it will be worth a punt for me when it drops in price as I can put up with some technical snags and subpar gameplay as long as I’m being entertained.

    • sfury says:

      or a bit ….more complex?

      a great mix between Deus Ex and Bloodlines, not without problems of course, but bloody brilliant and unlike anything else

    • Lilliput King says:

      Doesn’t really sound very interesting, though. People have called the characters and the combat boring, and there isn’t really anything else to the game that might make it interesting.

      I haven’t played it yet – should be reserving judgement, want it to be good. But I can tolerate technical weakness if the game shoots for the stars. What stars is AP actually shooting for?

  25. The Sombrero Kid says:

    the stuff about the guns being inaccurate is total pish, the game is not realistic it’s a mechanic to stop you doing a splinter cell conviction and getting headshots from across the map with your silenced pistol it’s not realistic for the bullet to go exactly where you point the reticule either.

    • JohnArr says:

      Yeah, it’s obviously a gameplay abstraction in order to make your skill choices worth while. I can accept that, I played the system and had fun. Thing is, Bioware obviously thought that it was crap and moved ME2 towards a shooter, where bullets go where you point them, and a lot of people felt they made the right decision.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I think most of the people who complain about the pistol accuracy have never actually fired a handgun. Unless you’re literally standing 5 feet from something you’re not going to get the bullet exactly where you’re aiming, even if you’re a skilled marksman.

    • Archonsod says:

      The inaccuracy isn’t too bad, and you can always tighten it up with the right upgrades virtually as soon as you leave the tutorial, should you desire.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I get the impression from videos I’ve watched the it uses the standard “reticle shows area where bullets may land” mechanic. Is that the case? If so I have no idea why people are wondering why they can’t hit something when they’re aiming at something that’s taking up 1/5th of the reticle.

  26. The Sombrero Kid says:

    ohh and if this had come out before dragon age and heavy rain it’d've been universally praised and a masterpiece of non-linearity despite it’s lack of polish.

  27. Tei says:

    You can talk bad things about AP for 4 hours, and if you continue talking, theres 16 extra hours where you have nice things to say.

    Is a very flawed gem. Mass Effect 2 in comparation, is a string of recruit missions.

    IMHO:
    Mass Effect 1 > Alpha Protocol > Mass Effect 2.

    I am probably very unfair to ME2, because it has interesting graphics, and AP has just “talking”. But talking in AP create memorable scenes, hard to take decissions, while the amazing graphics of ME2 create “Yet another cute corridor”.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I don’t know if this is particularly fair. That comparison would work if you were talking about say, Crysis or something instead of ME2. Because, there was certainly talking in Mass Effect 2. Loads of it, it’s practically all I remember from the game. Certainly I don’t remember ever being blown away by the graphics is ME2. They were decent sure, the faces were very nice, which you know, adds to the talking, but I never really considered ME2 a graphical powerhouse. Was it supposed to be?

      I understand if you didn’t like the talking, but saying that it didn’t have any character interaction seems a tad disingenuous, unless you honestly missed half the game.

  28. FlynT says:

    Another point that really sucks are the subtitles! They run thru so fast that its nearly impossible to read anything.

  29. Schadenfreude says:

    Michael Thorton is a massive tool. A more unlikable main character I have never played. Every dialogue response just makes me want to punch him in his massively bearded face.

  30. Mitza says:

    The first hour or so is pretty dull, but after I have completed all the missions in the second location of the game, I find myself yearning to get back home and keep on playing.

    It’s a strange game, but it’s really enjoyable. All the extremely negative reviews I’ve read are an absolute shame. This is the kind of game that deserves a sequel, because they could fix the major flaws and refine&improve the rest of the game. But, for some reasons, this only works on games like Mass Effect and such :)

    One thing that probably damages this game is the fact that it doesn’t fit into one category. It’s got covers and 3rd person shooting, yet it’s not Gears of War. It’s stealth, yet it’s not Thief. It’s RPG, yet it’s not Fallout. Also, the fact that most of the reviewers are retards might not help at all :)

    • sfury says:

      So right!

      I hope it doesn’t go the way of Bloodlines because of the crappy reviews. Sadly, those will definitely affect sales, as has the not so revealing ad campaign – I really had to play the game 5-6 hours to get how good it is. :(

    • Lilliput King says:

      If you played an unpatched Bloodlines, you would understand the crappy reviews. It had nothing to do with lack of vision on the reviewer’s part. It was practically consumer advice.

  31. Eight Rooks says:

    I’m not getting the ‘Thorton’s a tool’ stuff, either. Most gamers baffle me, frankly, but then I don’t find Golden Age Lucasarts that funny (oh, I went there) and think Bioware are massively over-rated. Minsc is not funny to the point of nails being dragged down a chalkboard and deserves a ghastly, lingering death, the first Mass Effect was rubbish, Dragon Age is largely unremitting tedium, Shale’s a one-note joke and Morrigan’s a stupid character mired in cliches from start to finish. AP? The faux-Bond stuff devolves into jarring sleaze too often, no argument there. But other than that it’s tightly, intelligently written stuff that’s miles above just about anything else in the industry. I’ve only had one horrible bug with the dialogue, where I managed to buy some intel pre-mission in Taipei that gave away a Big Twist yet my Thorton didn’t acknowledge this at all. (‘Oh, God, you’ll never guess what’s really going on!’ Me: ‘Well, duh, I read that on your email five minutes ago.’)

  32. tekDragon says:

    The real tragedy about mini-games is that developers seem to think they enhance gameplay when even the really good ones are completely unnecessary.

    I despise them, all they do is waste people’s time and interrupt gameplay that is (sometimes) otherwise immersive/thrilling.

    Just say no to mini-games.

    • Dominus says:

      amen brohter
      +1

    • Adrian says:

      Plus ME 2 only had TWO different mini games (unless you see that tedious mining as a minigame) and both of them were worse than buggy! They were plain boring!!! Sure AP’s minigames might be bad but don’t tell me ME2′s minigames were actually good!

    • Archonsod says:

      You can skip them with an EMP charge if you really can’t be bothered. Even for some reason locks which utilise good old fashioned chambers and ordinarily need a lockpick to open. Apply an EMP grenade and mysteriously all the tumblers drop into place and the thing opens.
      In fact, to be honest this was the only use of EMP grenades I actually found. Theoretically they’re good for taking out camera’s and turrets, but camera’s aren’t too difficult to avoid (and the levels which do make heavy use of them usually let you shut them all down at some point) and turrets are inactive unless the alarm is raised (which can happen if they spot you, but since they don’t move avoiding them isn’t that difficult).

    • Taillefer says:

      Developers really do have strange ideas about mini-games.

      Lock-picking in Thief is the only good example I can think of. It was a beautiful way to add tension and not just a gimmick because you play a thief. Having to pick the lock in real time as guards patrol by. Not being sure if you have enough time to get the door open as you hear footsteps getting louder and louder. Panicking as you try to decide whether to keep going or just run. The cell doors in The Cradle were particularly memorable. They even made locks trivial (or open) if they were in safer areas, because they understood having to pick every lock adds nothing to the level. Basically, wouldn’t even be considered a mini-game, as it should be.

      And then you have something like ME2, where they don’t seem to understand that if your mini-game is no fun as a standalone game, then it’s no fun as part of the game either. I don’t remember having to do them under pressure, always in a completely safe area, they may as well have been solved automatically. They added nothing, they were just…ugh.

      /Ranty rant. Sorry.

      Uhm, yeah…Alpha Protocol…

  33. JuJuCam says:

    I’ll confess I’ve been playing this on XBOX, and still it’s not without it’s technical flaws. Unfortunately for AP I got it the same day I got Red Dead Redemption, and I gave it a fair whack having read that it takes some time to ramp up to a reasonably good gaming experience (which is true for me). Only once I started playing RDR… well it’s just very difficult to go back to AP. I think it knows this. I think so because when I put my disc back in the dreaded box, the first mission I took resulted in being stuck in a small airlock style passageway with impenetrably closed doors either side of me.

    It’s a shame because I find the possibilities tantalising and the more I play it the more I want to play it over in a completely different manner.

    Also I somewhat agree with Shadenfreude above who thinks Thorton is kind of a dick. There aren’t really any “Nice guy” options here to be honest. He’s either Grumpy, Sleazy, or Brown-nosey. But at least it doesn’t have any sort of “moral compass” indicator, so you’re free to consider his actions in whatever light you wish.

  34. Jaedar says:

    I too hated AP at first, well first game general apathy, then tedium, then hate. But it really grew on my as I passed the 15 hour mark. I was ready to give up completely after 10 hours, being shuffled in to a boss fight I spent an hour or so trying to beat. But after that, I started loving it. The characters and the openess of the narrative really grew on me.

    A word to anyone who’s just started playing: Invest heavily into at least one combat skill(preferably two), or you will get minced by the bosses.

  35. Miker says:

    As mentioned earlier in this thread, AP seems to share some similarities with other Obsidian and Troika games in that it’s completely unplayable at release, yet somehow awesome enough to justify all the meddling around. Is it possible that, being an Unreal Engine 3 game, AP will be modded into something playable? I’m well aware that UE3 =/= mod support, but for anybody that’s looked at the .inis and stuff — could it be done?

  36. Premium User Badge

    jaheira says:

    I’m very much enjoying Alpha Protocol. Great Dialogue. The Chain Shot skill for Pistols is the coolness.

    Awful animation, and I got stuck on the scenery once (did in ME2 as well come to think of it) but I’m totally willing to forgive it.

    Obsidian have limited tech skills and amazing writers; they should do a point-and-click!

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      Replying to myself here – how gauche.

      Just played AP for another three hours and it’s getting better and better. Stealth works great. Amazing silenced pistol action. Some of the best dialogue I’ve experienced. Might be game of the year so far for me.

  37. sfury says:

    It has a slow and not that interesting start, that I agree, but later it becomes full-on awesome RPG.

    I’ve never hit any serious bugs so far, stuttering is occasional and never hit me in a critical moment or fight and all the other time the game runs smoothly at 60 fps at a 2-year old system so I can’t complain about that.

    Am I the only one who likes the mini-games? Computer hacking can be tough sometimes but keeps me on my toes so I enjoy that bit too.

    The game could use way more polish, sure, but once you get over the issues – it is very fun to play and what’s most important – it’s not only the missions that matter, but very much what you do out of them, who you talk to, how, when, what you choose to do, who you ally yourself with, how much intel you gather… Also dialogues are great and well-written, voice over also, there are some great characters there! (and some cliche ones, but only few)

    Feels like a good mix of Deus Ex, Bloodlines and Hitman, not just another bland mass-produced rpg. There are some really unique things in this game that I am happy we’re finally seeing in a modern RPG, lost of non-linearity so without having actually finished it I can say – it’s the most memorable RPG I’ve played in some time.

    Hope they resolve the issues with patches and sell enough to make a better polished sequel.

    • sfury says:

      …but the ending is abysmal.

      I also hit some parts that were put there just for a filler – I really didn’t enjoy playing these, and as the end approached things started to get more and more ridiculous and the whole thing ended on a b-movie note.

      I just don’t understand where Obsidian were going with this one and how did they squander so much potential…

      All that delay – couldn’t they get their stuff together and figure out what to focus on?

    • The Snee says:

      Yeah, the ending was a bit flat. I got a satisfying finale, followed by a ride into the sunset without a passing mention of [character who was literally just killed and I really liked. Like more than a friend. You'll know who if it happens], so i might play through again as shooty guy.

  38. DK says:

    A buggy Obsidian Game?! Say it aint so!

    So, who are you gonna blame this time? The publisher? Gonna change it up and blame the player? It can’t be Obsidians fault because they are soooo great….

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      It’s not buggy. One incident of getting stuck on the scenery is the only problem I’ve had in 11 hours.

    • The Snee says:

      Try using fury against sis on the boat. For me it made her accelerate to lightspeed when it ran out.

      Try pausing on some stairs, then walking off to do the bow leg shuffle.

      It’s buggy

      Still a good game though.

  39. Toby says:

    I’m very surprised by all this positivity… I found it a fairly dire experience throughout. Comparisons to Deus Ex and Mass Effect are unfair on both of those games. Every single core mechanic, bar the dialogue and levelling, feels broken or undercooked. The gunplay is stunningly boring, there’s some blindingly obvious weapon balance issues, the AI act like suicidal schizophrenics ,. Controlling Thornton feels unsatisfying, the graphics are wank as is the art design… The dialogue has its strengths, but not enough to prop up the rest of the game. I didn’t find that the experience improved as I played on either. Yeah, I’m negative, this was a fucking disappointment, but I never thought it would be this disappointing.

    I mean, it’s already been mentioned, but why in the hell didn’t they let Thornton jump over barriers? Why? What does that sort of thinking indicate? It’s one small frustration of many but representative of the whole- Obsidian just don’t seem to know what they’re doing.

    It just made me want to play a game that did this kind of thing properly, so I started a new ME2 game yesterday after wiping AP from the face of my computer. The comparisons are startling.

    • Toby says:

      Re-reading that the barriers jab sounds a little petty and bitter… But really. REALLY?

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      “Comparisons to Deus Ex and Mass Effect are unfair on both of those games. Every single core mechanic, bar the dialogue and levelling, feels broken or undercooked. The gunplay is stunningly boring, there’s some blindingly obvious weapon balance issues, the AI act like suicidal schizophrenics ,. Controlling Thornton feels unsatisfying, the graphics are wank as is the art design… The dialogue has its strengths, but not enough to prop up the rest of the game. I didn’t find that the experience improved as I played on either. Yeah, I’m negative, this was a fucking disappointment, but I never thought it would be this disappointing.”

      That actually makes it sound like a very good comparison to Deus Ex. Which is a shame, because this game sounded like it was going to be quite like Deus Ex, but without a lot of those problems.

      Probably going to be a bargain bucket buy, but hopefully a worthwhile one. Judging by the low price it was released at, I doubt it will be very long before it is very cheap.

  40. Vaporz says:

    Obsidian doesn’t have a very strong track record with patching their games, do they? It’ll probably be up to the .ini-modders to sort things out.

    • sfury says:

      Last time I installed NWN2 with the expansions – it took me more time to install all the patches (even though it was automatic), then those combined…

      Now about KOTOR II – yeah I hope this gets such mod support as it got, if they don’t patch it properly. Good thing it’s on a famous engine too. Hope that helps.

  41. Auspex says:

    I heartily recommend Richard Cobbett’s write up.

    http://www.richardcobbett.com/codex/alpha-protocol/

    • Toby says:

      That was entertaining, thanks. Also, someone on the comments for that piece links to a post on a Joystiq thread from a purported Obsidian developer:

      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:c_EkLdc9Z2EJ:www.joystiq.com/2010/05/28/alpha-protocol-game-review/comments/28268530/+site:joystiq.com+joystiq+tired+dev

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I enjoy the “I’LL NEVER FORGIVE THEM FOR WHAT THEY DID TO KOTOR2″ comments I see in other places (like that Joystiq comment thread). What they did? You mean making a Star Wars game that doesn’t suck?

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      KOTOR2 had no proper ending and incredibly interesting sub plots with no conclusion, HK-47s especially. Compared to the first? Yeah, it sucked. I was so disappointed that I had to play it through twice back to back to make sure it wasn’t me being shit at the game.

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      KOTOR II was brilliant and I challenge anyone who says differently to a naked wrestling match TO THE DEATH.

      That is all.

    • cjlr says:

      KOTOR II was forced out by LucasArts in time for christmas, even though the game wasn’t going to be finished properly for another six months.
      So, um, there’s that too to consider.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      @putty really? what is it that you loved about it? I’d love to believe that it was good, and that I missed something. There were some interesting bits, like the Mandalorian camp, but it was so incomplete!

      I’m really trying to get positive for Fallout: New Vegas (which is a crap title, considering we already had New Reno) because I want to believe Chris Avellone has still got it but I’m not holding my breath.

    • malkav11 says:

      I don’t know about Putty, but I felt that pretty much the entire game up until the very endgame (Korriban, IIRC) was brilliant, wonderfully written with tons of great characters, quests and dilemmas, a nuanced portrayal of morality in a setting which has tended to be very black and white about it, and pretty darn decent on the whole levelling up and slaughtering people with a whole lotta force lightning, too. Plus it fixed most of my trivial annoyances with the first KOTOR (trivial enough that I don’t remember most of them – only the bit where you didn’t start as a jedi). Now, the endgame is notably incomplete, but I just feel like 5/6ths of a great experience is still a great experience, and the way it was unfinished and never patched to completion (by Obsidian at least) was clearly LucasArts’ fault.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      The interaction with your teammates in KOTOR2 is unmatched in an action RPG, imho. Yeah, the ending is weak, but I don’t think it was bad enough to counteract how great the rest of the game was. The ambiguity of the main antagonist, in addition to the entire idea that you confront someone who DEVOURS PEOPLE THROUGH THE FORCE (which has to be the closest Star Wars has come to having a legitimately evil/scary character), the lack of a ridiculously cheesy Bioware-esque sexual relationship (which has the side-effect of making the interpersonal relationships seem more meaningful), the influence system that has tangible effects on your party’s abilities and their loyalty towards your character, a plot that wasn’t ripped straight out of Neverwinter Nights…I dunno, I thought the game was incredible and it surprises me that it isn’t a nearly universal sentiment.

    • bleeters says:

      I found the influence system in KotOR2 chore to manage, myself. A chore that didn’t especially make sense, as making statments a specific party member agreed with would move them towards your own dark/light side alignment. In short, I created a light side HK-47 by agreeing with his requests to throw grenades at civilians. What? ‘Course, little did I know the damn thing would be re-used in Dragon Age. More the fool I, I suppose.

      And, well. The ending. The ending which was a terrible, shoddy mess. And, come to think of it, the beginning, which was an joyless chore, like vacuuming or putting on bed sheets. Droids! And lo! More droids. KotOR1 may not have had the most enthralling first few hours either, but at least I spent it blasting gamorreans with a wookie and chatting up sith officers in bars. Which isn’t to say the entire experience was as terrible, or that I didn’t enjoy parts of it. In truth, the bits inbetween shoddy-intro and shoddier-ending were quite enjoyable. But I suspect the hideously unfinished state that it was booted out of the door in impacted the reception somewhat. KotOR1 had nearly three times the development time that the sequel was awarded, after all. For my part, it’s crushing disappointment at what clearly could’ve been, rather than plain “boo this sucks”.

      But yeh. Alpha protocol, huh?

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      @Tom: Man, that’s a tough one. I could write a long, pretentious, pseudo-intellectual blog post about why KOTOR II is the best thing to happen to stories in game since Planescape: Torment. But of course I won’t, because a.) I don’t have a blog b.) I try not to be a pretentious pseudo-intellectual and c.) I haven’t actually played Torment (a horrible heresy I intend to correct sometime this summer, time permitting). Nonetheless, here’s the CliffNotes:

      Star Wars, on a fundamental level, is a myth. Ignoring the Star Trek-esque continuity that grew around it, ignoring the midichlorian-infested prequels that killed the feel of it, ignoring the sometimes idiotic and always literalist fan community for the “Expanded Universe” that has sprouted — it is a legend, whose details and “factual” truths are intentionally blurred so that it can serve as a recapitulation of Campbellian myth, the traditional hero’s journey retold using early 20th century sci-fi tropes so that it can captivate a modern audience the way that Beowulf or the Odyssey would have when they were first told around a campfire. This is what first captivated you when you were a child watching the movie, fully absorbed by the cantina scene because you were RIGHT THERE and the aliens were REAL and your imagination was running wild with the infinite possibilities presented by an uncharted territory.

      KOTOR II understands this, and it deconstructs it. The war you fight in the game is not an epic military struggle to be immortalized forever, but a shadow war over a dead galaxy. You are not the grand savior of the galaxy, but a passer-by, an Exile wandering the fringe, broken places in the galaxy, turning a few screws in the way you deem may be best, and moving on before you are missed. Your enemies are always presented as abstract concepts — the True Sith, the eponymous Sith Lords, Revan — and they are made even more threatening by the very fact that their power, their influence is not explained. They are instead the manifestations of their respective concepts (Unspeakable Lovecraftian horror, power, hunger, betrayal, etc), and in dominating them (or going off to dominate them by fading into obscurity, in the case of the True Sith) what you really win is a victory over yourself. I could go on, but already I’m starting to ramble and overuse parentheses.

      But the thing that most struck me about KOTOR II was not just the quality of the writing, characters, and situations per se, but the way that, more than any other game (with the possible exception of PS: T, which I again have to play) they reflected a consistent series of themes and motifs. Decay and the diminished feature prominently throughout the narrative, and is most apparent to returning players from KOTOR I: your legacy as Revan has turned to nothing as you fade into obscurity and legend, Korriban is a dried husk, Dantooine has gone from green to brown, Onderon is doomed to a bloody civil war, and so on. Even the subplots and sidequests reflect this somber, dying mood, most notably the Mandalorians but also tons of others. And all for what? So that you may murder your mad mentor, rejected by both Jedi and Sith and spurred by her love of life to deicide, and ultimately follow her path of eking out your own morality from the fragmented shards of reality.

      Oh God, that reads so horribly. But that’s more or less my feelings about the game, summarized, without going into a ten-page long analysis of the player’s relationship with Kreia, which to me forms the crux of the whole thing in the first place. Your mileage may vary wildly, of course. But I thought it was brilliant.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      @putty

      yeah…. ok, it was pretty magic in a lot of ways. I think what I ought to be saying is that the ending of the game felt like such a let down that it overshadows the rest of my experience, and makes it impossible for me ever to return to it.

  42. Pew says:

    I laughed and facepalmed heartily during Giantbomb’s video playthrough, yet it made me want it. Cancelled my preorder when the first proper reviews came in though, but I’ll gladly pick it up for cheap in, oh, 2-3 weeks?

    Bad AI can be fun to play with, ridiculous design choices can be overlooked if you really want to, and as long as you don’t get stuck because of a bug or die over and over because of bad design, I’m totally fine with that. But not at full price.

  43. jti says:

    The funny thing is, I like this more than Dragon Age: Origins. With all of its clitches this still has more soul.

  44. 7 Seas says:

    I hated the game when I first played the intro, and almost walked away entirely. I came back the next day and played 7 hours straight. Loving it!

    My character is pistols, melee, and stealth and I just feel like a badass. While the game is limited (like all games are) and so you can’t hop of over barriers or whatever, it helps you easily see what your choices are in each tactical sitaution, and what the options are for approaching it.

    I found the actual combat way more fun than ME2, which I still cannot believe people enjoy. ME2 is a game with no true choices and crappy combat, AP has great choices and mediocre but fairly entertaining “”superheroesque” combat.

    IT’s really worth giving a second chance. I even enjoyed the intensity of the mini games.

    If you play on PC, play with a 360 controller or nothing.

    • jti says:

      And here is the other thing, I’m playing the game with keyboard+mouse and am having no trouble at all. Nothing to complane about them.

    • sfury says:

      Haven’t played ME2 yet, but I find it way better than ME1 even without the polish – better action, better role-playing, non-linear – the list keeps going.

      btw – no problems with the mouse+keyboard here too

  45. Lagwolf says:

    If there is a hint of not being able to play the game with a keyboard/mouse how can people be praising the game? Not everyone has an Xbox controller kicking around. I read some of the reviews of this game and decided I am very glad that I didn’t pre-order. So sad to see a game with such potential end up being so shoddy.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      didn’t have a problem with the mouse/keyboard controls at all. only thing to get used to was the minigames where you’re controlling, for example in the hacking minigame, the code part directly in a bit of a delayed mouse mode. the confusion some people experience during this I think is that the mouse cursor is still on screen and it’s still going at full regular mouse speed. obsidian should probably hide the cursor during this as it doesn’t relate to the minigame. but just ignore the cursor, control the puzzle piece directly with the mouse and it’s a breeze. everything else works perfect

    • Archonsod says:

      I’ve not got an Xbox controller and have zero issues with keyboard and mouse, beyond as I mentioned the mouse sensitivity being too low by default.

      One thing to note however is that it could well be having the Xbox controller plugged in that causes these problems. Windows isn’t great with identifying when it should and shouldn’t listen to it’s USB ports. In fact I know a few games I can get hilarious results with merely by plugging in my guitar hero controller, often causing the character to spin like a mad dervish without me touching a thing.

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      Keyboard and mouse working fine for me

  46. Eight Rooks says:

    Much as I hate point and clicks, I’d still buy such a game. Hey, stunning music and art direction got me to buy Machinarium, a point and click with some decent writing for once could easily do the same.

  47. Javier-de-Ass says:

    loved this game. will play through again in a few days doing things differently, maybe even looking at some of the gadget stuff. pistol/stealth/handtohanded my way through the first time. mostly using the professional type responses, though using some others when I felt that was appropriate. friended most people, killed a couple. didn’t have any problems with the mechanics of the game at all. stealth, shooting, minigames, whatever. got used to and learned to love them within the first few hours. I’ve read some impressions from across the net, especially americans seem to despise this game, and I simply can’t relate to any of the criticisms. not to the shotting complaints, not to ai complaints, not to general jank complaints and not to ai complaints. I didn’t come across any big bugs in the game, in fact only two one of which was a minor interface bug that went away if I went up a interface layer and down again. and the other was a room in taipei where the guard/enemy people could see me through a wall. really enjoyable story choices, even though the overall story didn’t blow me away, and at least on my first playthrough it fell apart a bit during the ending. but an excellent overall effort from obsidian. it seems like the game is doing ok saleswise so far, hopefully they will get to do a sequel.

  48. Vinraith says:

    What a waste of potential, I’m glad I canceled that preorder. It’s particularly upsetting because an “espionage RPG” is such a cool concept, and they apparently did nothing with the espionage aspect, choosing instead to make the same old third person cover shooter with a lot of talking. I’m disappointed in Obsidian.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      the hell?

    • Archonsod says:

      Depends on what you mean by “espionage concept”. There’s a lot of bugging computers and trying to get out of there without being caught so the target doesn’t realise you’re eavesdropping on their conversations for example. But discussing such things would result in massive spoilerage.

      Also some of the missions do change according to how you’re playing the game. Sneaky characters can start one mission in particular by sneaking into a building. Aggressive characters on the same mission instead drive an APC through the main gate and open up with the mounted machinegun on anything still standing. It’s adaptable like that.

  49. d00d3n says:

    The game uses a very annoying save system that makes it hard to manipulate conversation trees through trial and error. As a rule you have to replay the last action segment to have the conversation again and to even get the opportunity to do this you need to constantly back up your auto saved mission checkpoints (this is the only type of active saving that is allowed in the game). You get very few skill points in the game which forces you to specialize in three or maybe four skills because it doesn’t make sense to pass on the progressively increasing benefits of these skills at high levels in favour of a well-rounded but weak distribution. The difficultuy level can be a huge problem if you haven’t invested in the right skills, especially during boss fights. In essence this is one of those “real” RPGs that should only be attempted by power gamers if they have access to a complete walkthrough.

    On a positive note the hunt for reputation points (the main reward in conversations) is highly addictive and kind of pushes you through the game. I was disappointed that the end of the game, where many of your built up friendships and career choices come into play, was by far the buggiest, most unbalanced and confusing part of the game.

    • Archonsod says:

      “On a positive note the hunt for reputation points (the main reward in conversations) is highly addictive and kind of pushes you through the game.”

      And as you’re told at the start, it can be just as beneficial to really annoy someone as it can be to get them to really trust you. And sometimes, having them like you too much can cause problems.

      Handlers are a good example. You get one buff if they like you, another one if they don’t. But also, the quips, assistance and conversations with them throughout a mission are affected by your relationship with them too.

      Not sure on the end game thing though. I didn’t notice any real bugs (your handler can switch based on your relationships and decisions). It is kinda annoying to have what is basically a string of boss fights for the final level though.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      “The game uses a very annoying save system that makes it hard to manipulate conversation trees through trial and error.”

      Awesome.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Jason

      I would agree except that I suspect the conversation system works like Mass Effect’s, and carries the same inherent problem. Sometimes, the three word summary I clicked on doesn’t remotely match the 3 minute long speech it produces. With ME I tend to save before every conversation to avoid having things come out of my characters mouth I explicitly don’t want them to say. If I can’t do that here, and if that phenomenon persists in this game, it’s one more reason to avoid it.

    • Vinraith says:

      Actually, I’ve just discovered it’s even worse than that, as I found a clarification of the “emotions” aspect of the dialogue system. There’s basically no way to know what’s going to come out of your mouth, and no way to save before a conversation in case what comes out isn’t what you want. That’s pretty much a game killer, right there.

    • malkav11 says:

      While I don’t like the system as implemented in either Mass Effect or Alpha Protocol, I do want to say that even though it’s more problematic in Alpha Protocol, it also bothers me less. I know enough to know what the likely consequences of a choice are in Alpha Protocol, and I feel less like I’m betraying my character and more like I’m deliberately manipulating others through conversation, which is entirely appropriate for a spy game. And the actual decisions will be labelled. (E.g., Arrest, Extort, Shoot).

    • Psychopomp says:

      “The game uses a very annoying save system that makes it hard to manipulate conversation trees through trial and error. ”

      OH NO I HAVE TO DEAL WITH MY CHOICES, WHATEVER SHALL I DO

  50. Lukasz says:

    Any, ANY game which is compared to bloodlines and Deus Ex, which is told that it plays similarly is a f–ing win in my opinion. Nothing else matters really.

    Sold!

    • Wulf says:

      And that’s it, isn’t it? That’s what it’s all about.

      A lot of what I don’t like about consoles these days is that they’ve gotten us into this mindset where less experimental, less ambitious games are okay, because they’re smooth, smooth like an entertained, dull brain, not all bumpy and moist like a well engaged one. Games are getting to the point of being where idiotic action movies are, people are glued to the screen, jaw agape, and staring. Moreover, they expect the machine to do all of the work for them.

      Except… Deus Ex didn’t do all of the work, it wasn’t perfect, it was ambitious and experimental. This is true of Vampire but by even greater magnitudes. We have to edit a few INI files to get the game to where it feels right for us, individually. So? So?! Honestly, if a few easily fixed quirks are the price I have to pay for a game that’s comparable to Vampire, then that’s a price I’m happy to pay. I feel some PC gamers have been spoiled by console ports, and they’ve forgotten how to customise, how to edit, and how to deal with an ambitious, brilliant game. They’ve switched off their brains, they want the game to tell them who to be and what to do. I don’t even think they want choices any more.

      That’s something I’m hugely disappointed about, because as a PC gamer, and a follower of niche games throughout my life, that was all that I sought out, I flocked to the strange, the ambitious, the peculiar, and the truly worthy, and I played such brilliant, amazing games. And yet, if people were to play things like Vampire, Betrayal at Krondor, or Ultima VII today, they’d carry on about how buggy it was, or errors that could be easily worked around or fixed.

      It’s like… today’s PC gamer is presented with two options: a lavish, varied feast and a gigantic, immaculately produced but otherwise not very noteworthy bar of chocolate. They have the choice of just eating the chocolate, or surveying the feast, picking out the bits they like, and leaving the parts they don’t, perhaps even having to prepare bits of food by their own hands. Today’s PC gamer would grab the bar of chocolate and scoff at the feast, because a feast is too much work.

      That’s sad. That’s really, really sad.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      @wulf elegantly put. I’m waiting for the proper review of this before i turn away completely, simply because there have been a couple of Deus ex and vampire comparisons. But equally there are those that are outright rejecting the comparisons and neither case has fully swayed me yet.
      While I completely agree with your point that a few bugs shouldn’t spoil a game for you, I’m not of a generation that has ever known dicking about in .ini files to make a game playable. I still require a level of perfectionism on the part of the developers, simply arguing that a game has vast scope and ambition shouldn’t allow a developer to get away with putting out an incomplete product. We’re very lucky to have modders out there who will do the work to finish game when its creators have abandoned it or are simply unable to, Killap of Fallout 2 and the Vampire community patches spring to mind, but that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

    • Lilliput King says:

      The very last time the player uses the taxi in Bloodlines, my game crashed. It’d crash again and again, over and over at that point. There was no way of progressing.

      Bugs are an unforgivable way to treat your consumers. Obsidian should be ashamed.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      @lilliput Thats got to be one of the most famous bugs in history, hasn’t it? I’ve got a feeling Vampire was one of the first games I ever bought with my own money, and that bug nearly ruined the whole thing for me. Though ever since my first play I’ve placed it in my top 5 games ever, I don’t think I completed it for about four years…

    • Herring says:

      I’ve put 15 hours into this and gotten (I estimate) about 1/2 way through. Most of the criticisms I’ve seen here are spot on. Some dodgy animation. AI occasionally ropey. Minigames that are either overly hard for PC (using the mouse to move the hacking choice) or too easy (lock cracking). Rare random combat results.

      And you know what? it doesn’t matter.

      It’s a singular game. “Deus Ex, without the SCI-FI and a proper conversation system” seems about the closest I can come up with. It amazes me how reactive the game is to choices you make, both seemingly minor ones in-mission, and obvious ‘big choices’ in some of the conversations.

      It’s poorly polished. Some of the design decisions were mad. It suffers from being multi-platform.

      But it’s a ‘True’ RPG in the oldest school way….

    • Wulf says:

      @Lilliput King

      I don’t know, I kind of think that makes you a perfect case scenario for what I’m arguing against. The question is: Are bugs worth an amazing, singular gaming experience, the likes of which is so brilliant, unique, individual, and ambitious that you’ll likely not play another like it for years to come?

      Your answer is no, my answer is yes, your entertainment is a gigantic bar of chocolate, mine is a varied feast. Sometimes a game that ambitious can’t be polished to the degree of a simple, less ambitious, less complicated, and entirely less clever game. It’s a trade-off. As a PC gamer I’ve always made that choice, and I go in with eyes open in regards to the bugs. Save often and you’ll have the time of your life.

      There have been show-stopping bugs in every ambitious game I’ve ever played, they are games that are buggy and transcend the medium, there seems to be something about transcendence and bugs that’s mutually inclusive. There are simpler, more polished games that just give a person more of the same and do absolutely nothing to push a genre, there are few to no bugs, but only very rarely are they actually exciting as gaming prospects.

      As a thought exercise for anyone: try thinking of a PC game that did new, refreshing things, that really transcended the medium and set the bar for all other games to follow. Then think of all the bugs that game had. We need these games, because without them the games industry is going to stagnate, and can any of us honestly say that it hasn’t started to do that all ready? When was the last big budget game that really did something that wasn’t just a little bit innovative, but actually did, indeed, to say it again, transcend the medium so much as to set the bar higher for others to try to surpass?

      You might not like Alpha Protocol, and you might not like Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, but I love them. I love them for what they are, and I love them for what they’ve accomplished, I love them for showing us how different gaming can be, for putting new possibilities in our heads, for opening up the potential of gaming. Sure, we could sit around and eat chocolate/play very-polished more of the same every day, but I don’t see much fun in that.

      Give me an Alpha Protocol over something like Fable (which I mention for its ridiculous levels of polish) any day.

      And regardless, if one saves often and is bothered to do a little digging then any bug in any game can be overcome. I’ve never been beaten by a bug yet, not one, not once, not ever. Perhaps everyone else is lazy and I’m not, perhaps it’s because I don’t expect my computer to do everything for me and think for me, but if the price of a game like Vampire, or Alpha Protocol, or Ultima VII is having to put in a tiny bit of effort to read up on and fix a few bugs, then so be it!

      @Tom

      You should really replay Vampire with the newly released Clan Quest Mod 2.0 (which combined pretty much damned nearly every mod and graphical upgrade for Vampire ever into one neat, tidy package). I promise you that you won’t regret giving it a go. It’ll boggle you how much the fans have been able to do with it, from fixes to entirely new content.

      @Herring

      I couldn’t agree more. And I feel that’s important, but I also worry that we’re moving toward an age where people just like to shut off their brains, and an ambitious, clever game is just too much for them to deal with. I didn’t think I’d end up feeling like a fogey this fast, and interestingly I don’t long for the entertainment of the past, just the PC gamers of the past. I long for a time when there were people who’d see the worth of an ambitious, brilliant game. Instead of judging it solely on the level of polish, the quality of graphics-whoring, and nothing else at all.

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Wulf
      “You might not like Alpha Protocol, and you might not like Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, but I love them.”

      No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I loved Bloodlines to death.

      The point is it shouldn’t be ‘Buggy + interesting / stable + boring.’ There’s absolutely no reason we can’t have stable + interesting. There’s no reason we should accept that buggy games are an inevitability, and give devs a free ride because of it. In essence, there’s no reason we should be putting up with this shit from Obsidian. It’s self-defeating.

      If a game is buggy, we should bloody well say so. It doesn’t necessarily make it a bad game on its own, but we’d be fools to say it doesn’t contribute.

    • Colliic says:

      Anything that detracts from your enjoyment of the game should be pointed out, whether its lack of polish, bugs or anything else. I remember bloodlines as well. It was a fantastic game, but also a tragic one. I loved it and was crushingly dissaponted as it wound down to the end-game, complete with a game breaking bug that was patched by forum goers long before the devs. It’s not at all unreasonable to expect a game to work and be great.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      @wulf what’s the new content like? I’m a little wary after the crudity of the Fallout 2 restoration project.

    • Wulf says:

      @Tom

      It’s of a markedly high quality. It actually surprised me, to be honest.

      Here, I’ll show you a couple of examples of some dialogue added by the mod:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy9SAEI1kEc – Beckett’s quest.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM3ezc-97jk – Damsel’s quest.

      It was actually the videos of it that convinced me to try it.