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Everything goes wrong with Alpha Protocol

The failure of Alpha Protocol is a crushing blow. It combines two of our favorite genres: role-playing game and spy thriller.

So what could go wrong? Nearly everything.

The titular Alpha Protocol is one of those top-secret government agencies that takes on the jobs that are too hot for anyone else to handle. Its current goal is the assassination of a Middle Eastern terrorist, and the agent on the case is a cocky recruit named Michael Thorton. You can adjust some of Thorton's traits - at the start, you can make him a gunslinger or a tech expert or give him a beard and glasses - but he's essentially a charmless creep.

You'd think contemporary spy craft would put a premium on stealth, but most of the missions in Alpha Protocol devolve into mindless shooting. That might be tolerable if the shootouts were well-executed; instead, they're bogged down by glitches, from sloppily programmed opponents to an inconsistent cover system that leaves you all too open to enemy fire.

Early in the game, Michael isn't supposed to be that sharp a marksman, which leads to one weird effect: Even if you shoot a villain in the head at close range, it takes four or five bullets to bring him down. It's easier to kill an enemy by running straight at him, even if he's armed, and punching him.

Alpha Protocol

RATING M for Mature

PLOT A blah role playing shooter

DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $60

BOTTOM LINE Alpha dawg

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