The lights are on
There are probably two different kinds of people who will approach Alpha Protocol. The first is hardcore RPG fans who are coming for the expansive dialogue and story alteration elements, and then there are the shooter fans who think that they are getting a great shooter with some RPG elements. The first group will be very happy while the latter will probably want to shatter their disc into many little pieces
Obsidian's game is an RPG fan's dream. Your character and his load-out is almost infinitely customizable, no two Michael Thortons will turn out the same by the end of the story line. For character modification, following standard RPG conventions, you place skill points into various categories every few levels. Gun and armor customization follows a Rainbow Six: Vegas style system. The gun and armor modules are purchased through an online black market type store that also lets you purchase intel on characters or hire mercenaries to assist you on missions in various ways. The story itself is also extremely malleable. Major and minor details change with every play through depending on your interactions with different characters. If you killed an arms merchant in the first mission you will be in the dark about various shady interactions that occur throughout the game, making you take a very different approach to the story than if you had let him live and tracked his movements or taken him into custody for questioning. This variability lends a vast replay ability as no play through should turn out the same. The shooting mechanics, while looking like standard third person gunplay is also very reliant on your stats. Its almost as if Obsidian took an isometric RPG and converted it into a third person game. For instance, if you have your cursor over an opponents head and you shoot, normally you would think that it would hit, but in Alpha Protocol your shot percentage is entirely based on your skill with the type of gun you are using, a perfectly aimed shot cold miss based on a calculated percentage. This will probably be a deal breaker for some people but if you accept that the actions taking place on screen reflect your characters abilities and not your own, then the gunplay is not too much of a problem.
Alpha Protocol's graphics, while not being at the forefront of technology, do not detract from the experience in any way. The locals you visit are nicely varied and have there own distinct look. The texture work does not show any of the usual Unreal Engine pop in, which is nice. The only two problems I have seen with the graphics are the lip syncing, which isn't well matched to what people are saying, and how Thorton walks when crouched, which looks like he is sliding along the ground rather than walking.
The AI shows some weird tendencies, like charging you when they have a perfectly good gun in their hands, or climbing up a ladder when you are right next to them, but occasions like this happen infrequently and generally your opponents provide a challenge.
I haven't experienced any game breaking glitches my several playthroughs. I have several times been in cover and risen off the ground slightly but I always settle back down quickly and glitches are easily addressed through patches.
In closing, Alpha Protocol is a really good purchase for anyone who misses the hardcore CRPG's like the original Fallout's. The gameplay is very stat driven and the story is amazingly adaptive to the players actions. Any one who is interested in an action RPG with some mild player input should look elsewhere.
A side note: I played this on the PC, so I can't comment on if the console versions are drastically different or glitchier than the PC version.
This is one of the best rpg's I've played.