The subject of decisions in video games is always ripe for the picking when it comes to editorials, and the latest comes our way via PC Gamer from Richard Cobbett, who takes a look at how a few developers have handled it recently, including BioWare, CD Projekt RED and Obsidian. Alpha Protocol is cited as an example of how to do choices right, even if Cobbett finds the game tough to recommend due to its well-known gameplay problems:

For now though, it's just worth remembering that there's more to a good decision than whether or not it changes the world and throws everything off its axis. The difference between freedom and the illusion of it in narrative-driven games has always been a thin one, even in the best examples. If all the smaller moments building up to them achieve is to help build a better connection to the characters and the world so that they feel more meaningful, that's often enough. At least, when done properly.

The tragedy is that the single best attempt that's ever been made of doing both the big and small scale decisions is also one that nobody ever seems to look back on, and even fewer respect. I refer of course to Alpha Protocol. It's a weak game. It's a crap shooter. Some of the boss fights could double as torture in the hands of a particularly cruel interrogator. But! If you can put up with that, what's underneath is an absolute masterclass in what games can do with decisions. Every character, every plot element is intricately tied together, from an older spy who congratulates the main character for getting into his city undetected or bitches him out for making a scene, to a vendor who treats you better for going to him before anyone else, to relationships that cover the full spectrum from love to absolute loathing, in a globe-spanning adventure whose greatest achievement is doing it so quietly that its genius can go totally unnoticed. Just check its TV Tropes page to see just a little of how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Too bad it's a tough game to recommend. Still, whether you want to feel excited about the potential of in-game decisions, or simply sad that nobody else has come close to its level, there's only one super-spy worth calling.