Protocol developed by Fair Games and published by Samustai was originally released on PC back in 2018. The game is entirely about a military complex containing top secret experiments and subjects. We play as a soldier working for some form of military service that has ties to the United States government. We are sent to the Arctic circle far away from any form of life and must fulfil the protocol by making first contact with alien life forms. The protocol is just a way to ensure the soldier follows commands from the Complex’s Artificial Intelligence. If the player deviates in any way against the Protocol, the AI policing all of your actions then will obliterate the facility and the soldier in a Nuclear Explosion. Examples of breaking the Protocol involve throwing objects at the drone following Prometheus the soldier around or an incorrect input at a terminal.
Protocol struggles identifying itself, but the best genre that I can think to place it in would be Adventure. Adventure, meaning it’s an interactive story that involves hunting objects and the surrounding to advance the story. The game itself runs on Unreal Engine and is composed of 6 chapters with a brief intro and epilogue. Each chapter has puzzles that require finding specific objects to progress. The gameplay is entirely first-person perspective and the player does cast a shadow. However, the Soldier has no body at all when looking down at the ground. The game’s most vital object is easily your key card you obtain in the drop pod after gaining control. Using the right trigger to interact with your key card, which is found by looking down, the player will then be holding it. Using A to use objects when prompted if close enough. Objects also can behave awkwardly in the game when setting them down again. Sometimes an object may even begin to shake or jump around making it hard to find again if important.
A few short puzzles after gaining control of the character codenamed “Prometheus” you manage to escape the drop pod unscathed by fire. After leaving the drop pod you must find a way to power the facility to gain access through the front vault doors. The puzzles in the game for the majority of the time are includes searching around for key objects to use such as charging the terminal battery. There is the occasional odd puzzle such as the vaccine Prometheus creates when entering the Complex to administer to himself. It’s a color puzzle involving mixing vials of medicine together and then needing to take a specific color pill after losing the ability to distinguish any color. Another puzzle later in the game involves creating a medical concoction and this plays as a small introduction.
Shortly after being processed as the Complex’s newest employee, we discover what’s being held in holding cells waiting to be autopsied and interrogated.
The alien life forms we were sent here to meet are named the Flesh which is fitting considering their space ship is made out of primarily organic material. I will keep the review spoiler free since the story is probably the biggest part of the game that players will enjoy given that this title explores puzzles via death and genre bends with several endings to earn.
The game doesn’t keep you locked away in a small area for a chapter once you’re in the Complex, it actually has Prometheus running to different sides of the Main hub area using your key card to access different parts to solve new puzzles. You can lose your key card permanently in some instances, there is even an achievement related to being locked out by leaving a card in a slot. If the player does lose their card in some cases near the end of the game, there are still some hidden around near corpses that decorate the facility.
The game is filled with many twists such as a hacker that forces you to play minigames on a console while they read all the confidential files. I personally disliked this part of the game since the controls for the minigames were just using the right trigger and looking at the left or right of the terminal’s screen while still being able to move your camera. The controls really could have been better for these short games considering a couple of them are classics. Flappy Bird being the first of four, the other few that were played were similar to Asteroids, Galaga and another vaguely similar to Pong. These minigames were all frustrating as they were intended to be since we have no control in the Complex and are at the mercy of the AI in charge.
The core purpose of the game is to either beat the game with no errors or beat the game with all available deaths meaning you must break the protocol every way imaginable. There are many ways to fail. Dying by any means is against the protocol as is disobeying direct instructions. The first weapon obtained in the story was a charged object that had to be picked up to defeat spores. The main weapons of the game are brought up by “Y” and has recharging ammo which becomes available after being trained against drones.
The game is most definitely a trip to those who can bare the genre bending. The fourth chapter was easily my favorite part of this brief Indie story. The entire level plays as if it’s a classic Doom shooter. Once loaded into the level through a cerebral headset via the alien spaceship, the player must use colored skulls to open specific doors and fight bosses in a digital retro world. This is Doom-inspired, but plays nothing like Doom. The weapon Prometheus yields is actually an alien gun and also has a shield function using the right bumper. The shield saved my life many times in the end game chapters from many drone fights. There are only three weapons in the whole game so the game isn’t necessarily a shooter.
All the puzzles involve observing the environment which can be a great thing if the visuals weren’t so low in quality. Not all textures in the game are bad, they just seemed aged and lacking detail such as the flooring outside the complex at the entrance. Yet there are cute items the player comes across such as ”Protocola.”
The audio for Protocol is a mix of good and bad. The game has an original soundtrack with actually decent music to be heard. Over an hour of original tracks which all sound fantastic. The audio for the voice actors however is where the quality takes a dip. The actors did a fine job of reading out the lines, but some parts could have been recorded a second time for quality’s sake. There are many points in the game where Prometheus will be talking to the AI making witty remarks and the volume for one line will be much louder than what it needed to be. The Ai is also taking form as Prometheus’ Ex-lover to create some cheap shots for the humor within Protocol. The environment sounds do lack in quality but this just may be the Unreal engine having issues with objects blocking pathways for sound in game. The lack of quality in environmental sound and voice actor recordings may be overlooked if the player is invested in escaping the Complex alive after fulfilling the protocol and escaping the squishy maze in chapter 4. However, most of the gameplay offered is just following orders closely and beating some mind games the AI tries on the soldier.
The longevity is considerably high for an all-single player experience if the player can ignore the bugs. There are specifically 8 endings to obtain, some requiring full playthroughs to earn but chapter select is allowed. There are also 51 achievements to obtain for the 1000 gamerscore, but chapter select makes this easier to manage. I did find that the achievement for no errors auto unlocked upon my first ending earned so with regards to the difficulty of the game, it’s not hard – just agitating. That being said, it will help to know that the second warning after epileptic seizures warning is that resets are required at time and dying is standard. I came across a few bugs in my one playthrough and do plan on finishing up all the miscellaneous achievements involving using specific items at certain points in the story. Just casually playing the game took around 9 hours to beat but completing will take near 20 hours, the hardest part finding each way to break the protocol. The main menu next to chapter select will tell exactly what you’ve discovered so far while playing and can be done across multiple playthroughs of the game.
The game shines with an original soundtrack, but isn’t flawless with known audio issues. The graphics do look dated, but the story is what will shine and what people will remember after playing the game. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game set in the Arctic Circle before. It’s a unique interactive story with some challenging puzzles at times. The shooter aspect isn’t flawless either with random spawn in of enemies that can occur left me questioning how I died in some parts. I had to reset my game a couple times due to losing access to my key card and being stuck in an area. There is some longevity in Protocol with its eight endings, some leaving the player questioning their dubious morals. If the gameplay of Protocol stuck with less bending of the genres, then it would have been a hit with a more polished feel. Instead, the game knows it’s buggy and encourages the player to reload checkpoints or reset the game and it intends to annoy purposely. At least the achievement list is fun and encourages playing the game to explore all content and isn’t overpriced for what is offered.
Protocol is an alright puzzle game, it’s an alright shooter game, it’s just simply alright. It’s very busy jumping from genre to genre and focusing on atmospheric building and keeping the player entertained using some crude and brash humor at times that becomes stale on replays.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.