Monday, 13 December 2010

Polished unmnetionable or broken marvel?

Duality is quite a common theme in games. Okay, so that statement mainly applies to good and evil, the major plot line of most games worth their metascore. Whilst Alpha Protocol certainly dances along the good and bad morality fence, it also precariously dangles both sides of the good and bad quality line. It’s a good RPG with each decision making an impact, whereas it’s a broken shooter with all the working mechanics of an Amstrad VCR caught in the gears of a combine harvester.

After picking it up for £5 on the PC and playing it for hours, I still can’t decide if it’s a good game or not. The idea of a modern day RPG intrigued me, but the “meh” reception from critics - which has ultimately denied the game a sequel - put me off picking it up at full price.

It’s one of those occasions where if you can avoid looking at the bright pink elephant in the room that is screaming racial slurs and stamping poo into your carpet, there is a good game underneath. Unfortunately, if you go in expecting a good third-person shooter, you won’t be doing this. You need to approach it purely from the RPG side to get the most from the experience. It’s a bit like saying that a toaster is a good kitchen appliance but an ill-advised bath toy.

I’m not the biggest RPG player in the world (or Worcestershire), but I have yet to come across a game where dialogue choices have had such profound effects on the game you play. A mess up on my part meant that I had to play the first third of the game again, and even though I strived for similar conversation options, I must have made alternative choices along the way.

Surprise doesn’t quite cover my reaction when the guards I had encountered on my initial play through, originally donned in suits and toting pistols were in fact man tanks bearing shotguns this time round. This one simple twist has made me wonder what the game would be like if I was actually nice to some of the people I come across. It has definitely made me want to go back to the game after completion for a different run through, but that’s only if the game’s major flaws haven’t caused me to punch my fists into mushy stumps.

Anyone who plays the game, even those who genuinely enjoy it, can easily point out the shortcomings within a minute of playing. It just feels wrong. There’s an awkward clunkiness to it all that means you are wrestling with controls half the time.

Game mechanics are also frustrating. As it is an RPG, your character starts out with a shooting ability that can be rivalled by most feral animals. It means that what you aim at is rarely what you’ll hit, especially if you don’t take the few seconds the game insists you are immobile and exposed for to line up the perfect shot, indicated by the crosshairs shifting colour. Not what you need when you want to shoot someone in the blink of an eye.

In journalism terms, this is a ‘good game poorly executed’, but personally I would say that if you can pick it up cheap and play it primarily as an RPG, it is a great game. It’s one of those things that I feel needs a sequel to show its true potential, but it looks like the kaibosh has been put on that one.

Still it’s not like we are going to be deprived of good sequels in the future, with Uncharted 3, Prototype 2, Arkham City, Mass Effect 3 and Portal 2 peppered over the release schedule for the next two years.

1 comment:

djmegavolt said...

I thought I was the only one that saw those bright pink elephants ;P
I picked up a copy in the Steam sale; hoping I will find the greater game that lurks beneath.