Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if the price dropped pretty soon. I just sent a game back to GameFly and have this and Blur on my queue. If this game comes first, I'll make sure to post what I think about it here.
This is a game that does not play very well. However, it is a game that is totally worth playing. The non-linearity, the storytelling, the way it plays out is pretty rewarding. However, the shooting and the stealth are frustrating and unrewarding.
I'd compare it to a mix of the first Mass Effect and Vampire Bloodlines. The story is highly malleable, it's somewhat impressive how specific the game can be when recalling decisions, mission results or dialogue choices. It's maybe the first game that properly writes spy fiction. Just about every game before turns spy fiction into your basic action movie, where the protagonist might as well be Sly Stallone but with gadgets. There are twists and turns, and the game is pretty sprawling in terms of your relationships with characters. Becoming friends with people requires a lot more gameplay and involvement than it does in Mass Effect.
But yes, the shooting is classic RPG/action crap. The right trigger might as well have a symbol of dice rolling, because placing your reticule over a guy's head is not what decides if he gets hit. You only get enough points to specialize in two out of three areas, and whichever one you didn't specialize in will come back to bite you. If you didn't get points into hacking, you will set off alarms trying to break locks and hack. If you didn't get points into stealth, you won't sneak through anything (which actually has story considerations). If you didn't take points in combat and health, that will become even more of a nightmare.
As I said, plays poorly, completely worth playing.
I love this game. It is the closest thing to a next gen Deus Ex we are going to get (and I'm not talking about Invisible War which was a huge letdown). The game does have flaws but the RPG aspects are handled very well. Do not expect a shooter with RPG elements. This is an RPG, period, although one that plays like a stealth shooter. The closest game with a similar style is the Splinter Cell series. Combat doesn't handle as well and your ability to hit is entirely dependent on your skills (gun accuracy, recoil, and stability have a huge impact on this). The story is very much like the TV series Burn Notice and I bet the developers were influenced by it.
Your character is completely customizable although you cannot choose your name or gender (you are Michael Thorton -- sounds like Michael Westen). You don't get a lot of appearance choices either but the rest of the game is customizable. You can choose between spy, engineer, or a combat career that will define your skill specializations. Or you can choose to be a recruit (starts with less but is customizable and you can choose your specializations if you choose to become an operative after your first mission) or after beating the game you can play as a veteran with more skill points to start. You get skill points every time you level which allows you to add 2-3 ranks in your skills. New ranks do give you some nice active or passive abilities and most don't seem like they are wasted. For example, after 5 ranks in stealth your active ability Awareness (allows you to know the direction and facing of nearby enemies - invaluable for stealth) becomes passive and is always active. Also, you gain perks during the game based on how you talk to certain people, how you use gadgets and solve problems, as well as your combat results. These perks can improve your stealth abilities, reduce active skill cooldowns, give you bonus skill points or xp, or even allow you to carry more items with you.
Equipment is very customizable as well. You can equip one armor, two weapons, and at least 4 different gadgets (first aid, grenades, bombs, shock traps, etc) during each mission. Each weapon has 4 customizable slots (barrel, grip, frame, and accessory) that improve the capabilities of the weapon (damage, accuracy, recoil, stability, and clip size). There are 4 classes of weapons, pistol, SMG, assault rifle, and shotgun. Note that both the pistol and SMG are wildly inaccurate, especially early on and until you increase your weapon ranks. I chose to specialize in pistol and once you get about 8-10 ranks it becomes quite effective, especially when silenced or using the Chain Shot ability (time slows down and allows you to paint targets - Dead Eye meter essentially). There are different classes of armor (stealth, tactical, combat) and can have up to 4 modifiable slots. Armor is rated on endurance (regenerating armor value), damage reduction, sound dampening (4-5 is usually for stealth armors), upgrade slots (modifiable armor slots), and inventory space (number of gadgets you can carry beyond 4).
Equipment is purchased at an equipment clearinghouse (like an online merchant). The equipment available is dependent on your relations with different factions. You can also buy intel from here to improve your capabilities in upcoming missions or buy additional dossier information on particular factions or persons (building good dossiers helps in future missions as well as gives perks and helps you in understanding how to communicate with particular targets).
Missions are quite varied and your actions within them affect future missions. For example, you can choose to save a terrorist and have him help you with intel and money in the future. Some missions you can choose a different handler or have additional operatives help you (some require purchase from the intel clearinghouse). When talking to other operatives or targets and you need to reply a screen will show up that will allow you to choose your stance (suave, aggressive, professional) by selecting a particular button. You only get like 5 seconds to change what is initially selected. Your conversations have a great impact on who you're talking to and how the story plays out.
During a mission you will get multiple objectives to complete as well as complete any bonus objectives you encounter (some must be bought as intel from the clearinghouse). Sometimes you will have to choose how to proceed and this will affect how factions view you and will affect future missions. There are three minigames associated with electronic bypass keypads, computer hacking, and lockpicking. For electronic bypass you have to connect circuits in the appropriate order. For hacking you have to match two codes on a screen with randomizing characters (the ones you need to match are static). For lockpicking you have you use the analog shoulder button to apply the proper pressure before you set the pick. All of these are affected by your skill in sabotage and you can even get another try at high enough ranks so you don't trip an alarm if you fail.
After a mission you are given a brief on what you did, what effect your decisions will have on future missions, and how factions that were involved view you. You also get access to safehouses where you can view trophies of your conquests (usually from bosses), check your email (you can even reply to some of them using the same conversation scheme), or buy new equipment.
I won't go into details on the story but you are a new member of a black ops group called Alpha Protocol (if it's exposed the US disavows knowledge of the group - plausible deniability). Eventually, after a few missions, you are cut off and are deemed a rogue agent (Burn Notice anyone?) and are forced to make your own way. If you like political intrigue and espionage the story will be interesting but you may get bored if you don't.
I think I am about 60% done and I'm really enjoying this. If you love RPGs and loved the original Deus Ex or espionage thrillers like Burn Notice, Bourne Trilogy, etc. you will probably like this. If you prefer action games to RPGs this game will frustrate you (you can still miss even if you have an enemy in the reticle).
Last edited by Ranger Wolf: 06-04-2010 at 11:23 AM.