Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Xbox 360 - Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol by Obsidian / Sega

Here is a self-purported RPG. It gets a GZ of 2/10. In actuality, this game really isn't an RPG. It has some RPG aspects to it, but it is no where near a true Role Playing Game.

Character Creation

First, there isn't such a thing. You are who you are and you can't change that. You can change the appearance, but very limited. In a true RPG, you can choose to be male or female. You can choose classes and you can choose your outfit. There is very little of that in Alpha Protocol. You can find other outfits along the way to increase your armor, though. But these are whole outfits, not single pieces (i.e., gloves, shoes, pants, shirt, etc).

With the character creator in AP, you can change the hair to about 6 different styles. You cannot change the hair color. You can change the skin color, but again limited. You can't change the look of the face (i.e., cheeks, nose, mouth, chin, etc). You can add features like limited beards.


The gameplay is actually very limited. Most of the time you are sneaking around places trying not to be seen. You can go in gunz-a-blazin', but this is really counter to the missions and who knows what kind of things the game may change later as a result.

Leveling up

You do get to level up through Action Points (AP). But, you get so few it takes ages to actually level your character up in any real way.


The controls are strange choosing to put lots of different things on LT, RT, LB, RB, back and start buttons. After a while, I guess you'd get used to it, but it's really mapped in a strange way. Definitely not intuitive.

Save Points

Ok, so here is one of the major problems with this game (not that this is the only problem). Instead of a save-anywhere system, which any RPG worth its weight in salt should have, Sega opted to offer a 'Save Checkpoint' option. So, basically, you can save your current checkpoint and go back to that specific checkpoint. You can't save anywhere. This means you will have to lose a lot of things to restart a checkpoint. This is frustrating, time consuming and overly stupid. Bad decision Obsidian.

Effectively, this game only supports checkpoint saves and the saving of checkpoints can be done only after the current checkpoint is reached. If you forget to save a checkpoint, you lose the ability to go back to that checkpoint later. This is not an intuitive save system.


Well, frankly, there aren't any. You get missions and that's that. Whatever missions they give you, you do. You don't get any new missions until you complete the few current outstanding missions. In a true RPG, you should be able to find and start missions at any time. As I said, this isn't a true RPG.


This game is completely bugged. This aspect alone was enough for me to stop playing it. In fact, there is a mission to retrieve data from a computer. Once I had completed this task, the game locked me into an area that had no exit. So, my character (and my game) was completely trapped in this space. I had no choice but to stop playing there. It is quite clear that this game was not play tested at all. From this point alone, I would recommend not playing Alpha Protocol.


For what it is, this game's graphics are incredibly bad. The characters look low res. The levels look low res and the textures are weak. This looks like it could have been ported from a Nintendo 64 and probably would have run on an N64 also.


My recommendation is to avoid this game. It is currently far too buggy to recommend playing.. unless you like hitting bugs that prevent you from continuing the game. The game itself needs a lot of work and appears to have been released in the beta stage. Frankly, they should have saved this game until sometime in 2011 giving time to work out the bugs and increase the texture quality.

  • Sound: 7/10 (not outstanding)
  • Graphics: 8/10 (bad textures, low res)
  • Gameplay: 5/10 (average, but also repetitive)
  • Story: 5/10 (no real story that I could see, just missions)
  • Bugginess: 1/10 (show stopper bug, prevents game progression)
  • Controls: 5/10 (needs work)
  • Bang-to-buck: N/A (not completed, probably not)
  • Play Value: $5 (wait till clearance, by then they might have a patch)
  • Overall: 2/10 (poor save system, bad gameplay, show stopper bugs).

Xbox 360 - Alan Wake

Alan Wake by Remedy

Starting with this review, I will give the overall score right up front.
This game is a 4/10. Why? This is one game I really wanted to like, but.... Let's get started.


You play as Alan Wake, a novelist. In this game, however, instead of writing a novel, Alan Wake becomes part of his own novel and must unravel the pieces before it's too late and everything is lost.

The game begins with Alan Wake and wife taking a vacation to a quaint cabin in the woods (cliche). It soon becomes apparent that there's something not quite right about the whole deal. When he visits the person to obtain the keys, he has a strange encounter that starts the whole deal of what follows.

Alan's wife disappears into the lake (along with the cabin, that supposedly hadn't existed in the lake since the 70s) and Alan must find a way to free her.

The story has a reasonably Stephen King like feel, but is marred by the unnecessarily repetitive game play. This is one game I was hoping would marry gameplay and story better than most, but unfortunately, it didn't.


This game is a standard third person shooter. It's not particularly inspired, but it does become both repetitive and annoying. It's repetitive because each level is nearly identical: running around in the woods trying to avoid the 'Taken' (spirits that manifest to kill you) and you must seek the next street light (that makes them go away). It's annoying because of the way the game spawns the 'Taken' to kill you (i.e., intentionally out of the camera and usually behind you). Unfortunately, each and every level is basically the same. There are a few exceptions to this when you have to avoid possessed objects instead of people, but even that becomes repetitive.

The weapons are mostly standard including a pistol and shotgun. Because the 'Taken' avoid light and seek darkness, you also have light weapons including a flashlight, flares and flashbang grenades. Unfortunately, the flashlight only removes the Taken invincibility and lets you finally kill them. You can temporarily increase the brightness of the flashlight to make it work faster (at the cost of using up the battery). The battery recharges, but very slowly.

At some points in the game, you get access to other light sources like search lights and construction lights, but these really do no better than your own flashlight. In reality, it's far simpler to run to the next street light checkpoint. And yes, the street lamps are generally checkpoints. So, it's actually far more beneficial to keep moving than to stop and try to defeat the Taken in each encounter.


The enemies you encounter include the Taken. These are dark spirits that manifest and try to kill you by throwing hatchets, chopping you or hitting you. They are primo at ganging up on you and, worse, the game loves to make them appear inches behind you out of the sight of the camera. For this reason alone, I am downrating this game. Using the lack of camera sight to throw enemies at you is a no-no. Never ever do this. If, as a game designer, you think this is some kind of challenge, it isn't. It's an unfair tactic to the gamer. If you want to design this kind of enemy, then offer a HUD where you can see them as a dot around you. So, you may not be able to see them standing just out of the camera, you can at least see them on the HUD.


The controls are pretty standard. There was nothing horribly wrong with the way the controls are mapped or how they work.


The game is broken down into distinct episodes or chapters, but this really wasn't necessary. So, you play for a short time and that segment ends (like a TV show). The next episode starts up and recaps what you did previously (like a TV show). You then move into the game play segment again.

The ending was a bit on the cliche side, but left you hanging enough that they can create an Alan Wake 2. It didn't really end as I expected it to, but the ending didn't really end either.


This game tried to be unique, but really ended up as a mediocre third person shooter. It's reasonably bug free, but it's still not perfect. It was also reasonably short as I was able to get through it in about a day of play.

  • Sound: 8/10 (eerie at times, but not that cinematic)
  • Graphics: 8/10 (not bad, but shaders could have been better)
  • Gameplay: 4/10 (boring and repetitive)
  • Story: 4/10 (episodic format was not necessary, ending weak)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 8/10 (average, nothing new)
  • Bang-to-buck: 1/10 (no replay value)
  • Play Value: $10 (story is really better than gameplay, not by much)
  • Overall: 4/10 (could have used more work).