Let’s say someone’s just given you a jack-in-the-box. He then motions for you to crank the handle, so you give it a whirl. Round and round it goes until—boom—out comes a platter with the world’s most delicious cake on it. Awesome! Before long, you want more cake, so you crank the handle again—only this time, a fist rockets out and punches you right in your cakehole. You try again. Another fist. Again. Fist. But then, finally, cake.
That’s Alpha Protocol in a nutshell. More often than not, the game rewards your efforts with a frustrating menagerie of awful design choices and glitch-ridden combat. But every once in a while, everything comes together, and you get a tiny, shimmering glimpse of what it might feel like to actually be James Bond or Jason Bourne.
Many of you may be of the opinion that the only good DRM is no DRM, but Sega’s take on the tech world’s most reviled acronym is definitely a step in the right direction.
Here’s how it works: super-spy RPG Alpha Protocol will require an online connection precisely one time for an initial activation – after which, you can play the game on a boat, in a moat, in a box, with a fox, or in other less Suess-inspired locales. Better still, for those stranded on desert islands or other areas that have somehow avoided the Internet’s dominion, there’s an official workaround. The only drawback? Installs are limited. However, deactivating installs will be as painless as possible.
Here’s the kicker, though: Sega’s guaranteed that it’ll release a patch that removes the DRM entirely within 18-24 months. In other words, if Sega’s servers ever kick the bucket, Alpha Protocol will still be alive and kicking. Other game publishers have implied that they’ll employ a similar strategy, sure, but Sega’s the first to look us in the eyes and actually promise it.
It’s not ideal, obviously, but we can live with it. Now, we promised ourselves we wouldn’t beat a dead horse by rambling on about a certain other type of DRM that’s been flooding the news streams lately, so we’re going to be as subtle as possible about it. UBISOFT SHOULD DO THIS. Now then, honest opinion: is that too subtle? Should we maybe add some neon lights?
Like a real (and by “real,” we mean utterly fictional as depicted by Hollywood movies) spy, Alpha Protocol’s release date has been all over the place. Except, instead of globetrotting and neck-snapping, Alpha Protocol’s release date has been leaping through time.
First it was fall 2009, then it was “spring 2010,” then it was “summer 2010,” and now – finally – the game’s decided to take a load off and settle down by just killing hundreds of people and infiltrating heavily guarded fortresseson June 1. Yeah, by our admittedly flimsy logic, Alpha Protocol’s got a lot to live up to, considering that its release date is more awesome than most full games.
And that’s really all she wrote – at least, for now. If you’d like to know more about Alpha Protocol’s particular brand of espionage, feel free to whet your appetite with this preview.
Our spies may have failed to infiltrate Sega’s innermost info-santcum – or even make it through Sega’s PR minefield, for that matter – but it doesn’t matter anymore. The word’s out: Alpha Protocol’s delay is official.
Sega’s website now lists the game as launching in “Spring 2010.” Originally, it was supposed to be out around – oh – today.
As you can imagine, we’re pretty bummed. From what we saw, Alpha Protocol was set to sneak behind the holiday season’s jam-packed frontline and surprise everyone. Now though, the wait continues. Also, our small army of Bothan spies is in various states of exploded-ness. That’s kind of disappointing too, we guess.
We were pretty thrilled by what we saw of Obsidian’s spy RPG Alpha Protocol at E3, so obviously, we’re not-so-thrilled to hear that the game might be facing a rather large delay. Originally scheduled to launch this month, Alpha Protocol’s now listed as infiltrating consoles and PCs in June 2010, according to both GameStop and Amazon.ca.
We contacted Obsidian in an effort to confirm the slippage, only to be pointed in Sega’s direction without a solid “yes” or “no.” Sega has yet to respond to our – or anyone else’s – queries as of this time.
Our guess? It’s been delayed. Not necessarily all the way into June, but Sega’s silence reeks of an upcoming announcement. And as much as we hate to see it happen, we actually think the delay will be good for Alpha Protocol. Sega’s under-the-radar promotion of the game is befitting of the game’s stealthy spy theme, but sadly, that’s not how you sell a videogame. Maybe by the time 2010 rolls around, Sega will have drummed up some more hype around the game.
In a way, Alpha Protocol reminded me of fellow E3 sleeper hit Scribblenauts. See, both games stumped me – Scribblenauts through a clever, mind-bogglingly detailed word entry system, and Alpha Protocol because no matter where I tried to poke holes in its concept and execution, developer Obsidian Software was always one step ahead. Of all the games I saw at the show, Alpha Protocol was the only one that really had me silently mumbling, “They thought of everything.”
At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking Alpha Protocol and Mass Effect were separated at birth. After all, both are chock full of smooth-talking macho main characters, third-person gun-centric dead-making, and a cast of mouthy side characters who serve as a peanut gallery to your morally motivated actions. Thing is, Alpha Protocol takes many of those shared fundamentals and does them up in suave spy style, resulting in an RPG that’s both streamlined and familiar. The bottom line: if you generally like BioWare RPGs but think they could use a few tweaks here and there, keep reading.
After a quick look at the character customization screen, our presenter tossed main character Michael Thorton straight into a mission. The objective: infiltrate a Russian Mafia compound and make life difficult for the Russians primarily by shooting them. However, seconds into the mission, a gun-toting mercenary named Sie, whose tank top was wholly unsuited to the snowy weather, bounded onto the scene. Working with an organization called the VCI, she was also out to spill some Mafia blood. Thus, our silver-tongued spy did his thing.
Here, we saw the game’s conversation system in action. Like Mass Effect, Alpha Protocol presents you with a series of phrases that get at the gist of your character’s response without actually blabbing the whole thing. There’s a twist, though: chit-chat in Alpha Protocol is on a timer. Nope – students of the Captain Shepard “stare blankly ahead for fifteen minutes while trying to untie your tongue” school of conversation etiquette aren’t welcome here. As a result, conversation never skips a beat, making speech an involving, straight-to-the-point action – not unlike that of the spy movies that inspired the game.
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