by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
Do Your Homework (cntd)
In such cases, a dossier can provide valuable information about a personís history, on-going activities, and more importantly, their triggers. Dossiers are built overtime through conversations and purchases. They can even be found in locked safes or encrypted hard drives in the field, and can provide damage bonuses or combat weaknesses Ė useful in more physical battles.
During specific circumstances, a fourth option in conversations will become available. When an enemy feels like he has the upper-hand and is enjoying the sound of his own voice, Thorton can cut him off with a quick pull of the trigger and the phrase ďWhen you have to shoot, shoot. Donít talk.Ē Actually, Thorton may not recite a line from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but doing so would certainly fit the circumstance.
The option to cut conversations with a well-placed fist or gunshot arises elsewhere, as in the case when I had a gun pointed at my betrayer in Moscow. On that occasion, I chose not to end the conversation prematurely, a decision Iím not sure paid dividends.
Choosing Your Arsenal
Of course, in many cases, Thortonís only option is to fight, especially when heís out in the field. After all, he canít have meaningful conversations with every hired thug he meets. To combat such hooligans, Thorton has an array of weapons and abilities at his disposal.
Towards the beginning of the game you choose or create a specialization for Thorton that will determine how far he can progress along nine skills, including Stealth, Sabotage, Technical Aptitude, and Toughness. Depending on how you allocate points in these skills, you can walk by enemies unseen and unheard, mow down opponents Rambo-style, or focus on hacking and lock picking.
Your choice of firearms will also affect your play style. Four types of weapons are available to Thorton: pistols, good for close to midrange combat; submachine guns, useful for suppressing enemies behind cover; shotguns, very powerful in short-range combat; and assault rifles, most effective at long range. Individual weapon components can even be upgraded to improve damage, accuracy, recoil, stability, and ammunition.
To obtain such weapons and upgrades, Thorton must go through the Clearinghouse, an international black market that deals in weapons, armor, explosives, drugs, and dossiers. You can also hire private military corporations or bribe locals through the Clearinghouse to recon an area or draw guards away, making missions easier.
Regardless of what skills or weapons you choose to focus on, combat is very satisfying in Alpha Protocol. In fact, its combat is on par with both modern third-person cover-based shooters and stealth actioners. Weapons have a very substantial feel, and the gameís cover mechanic is solid. Enemy AI even seems to have spent some time at the firing range.
Innovative & Engrossing
Itís hard to find any weaknesses in Alpha Protocol. It has an innovative and engrossing dialogue system, one that will hopefully usher out the traditionally slow and flaccid systems. It has meaningful consequences to decisions, stemming from well-written dialogue and a complex cast of characters. Its combat is solid and diverse, if not innovative.
Minor components of the game are also well-executed. The in-game email system proves meaningful in its pseudo-implementation of the Dynamic Stance System, and taps into the allure of flirting through text. Even the news casters that follow your exploits from Saudi Arabia to Moscow to Rome to Taipei offer some amusingly sharp wit.
If anything, Alpha Protocol may be a little short, especially for an RPG. But thatís a minor point, especially since this is a game you will want to play over and over again given the very strong writing and the myriad of different scenarios. When Obsidian Entertainment claimed, ďYour weapon is choice,Ē they werenít kidding.
An engrossing dialogue system, well-written story and characters.