Why didn't Alpha Protocol, last year's best RPG/shooter hybrid, find its place on more "best of the year" lists? The easy answer is that a) people liked other games better, and b) who cares? But as a bona fide, card-carrying, state-certified, legally designated Alpha Protocol apologist, I'd like to consider a few reasons it didn't find a wider audience among the dudes who adored Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and other highly glossy, middling fare that earned big bucks and stratospheric Metacritic scores.
Alpha Protocol is not immersive. In this post-Matrix World of Warcraft era, that's a big no-no. A lot of gamers expect they will sink into almost fully realized worlds instead of mere games. But Alpha Protocol can't be bothered. It has no day/night cycle. Pedestrians or bystanders or shop vendor NPCs do not mill about. There are no side quests or minigames or man dates or radio stations. You are never just out and about in the city.
Mafia II made you drive everywhere so you'd feel like a real gangster and the horse in Red Dead Redemption ensured your share of sunsets. But Alpha Protocol cuts to the chase and leaves it to your imagination to fill in the blanks. You don't get to walk up to people to talk to them. Conversations just happen. And when they happen, the scripts are rigid and easy to parse. You always know the exact flavor of any response, which is always neatly divided into one of three categories. There is no fuzziness or ambiguity. The conversations are so clear cut they're literally color-coded.