Alpha Protocol

Choices, Customization Add To A Spy's Life
by Joe Juba on Sep 30, 2009 at 02:37 PM
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Rating: Mature
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Have you ever considered the potential downsides of world peace? Sure, war and suffering would be things of the past. But on the other hand, super spies like Michael Thorton would be out of a job. Luckily for him, the world of Alpha Protocol is full of strife and international intrigue, and we recently saw even more of the features and conflicts that gamers will encounter as they steer Thorton into harm’s way.

As you unravel the conspiracy, one of your missions takes Thorton to a snowy compound in Moscow crawling with enemies – and potential allies. After you clear out the first wave of thugs, Thorton meets a machine gun-toting seductress named Sie in command of her own small militia. In the ensuing conversation, your responses impact your standing with Sie and her troops; if you adopt an aggressive and no-nonsense tone, she gains respect for you and will help you out. Conversely, if you act like a glib wiseguy, she loses patience and her troops may attack you. Either way, Thorton runs into Sie again later in the level, and if you insist on making her mad, you can participate in an optional boss fight against her.

Your choices in Alpha Protocol extend beyond different conversation options. As Thorton works his way through the base in Moscow, multiple gameplay paths present themselves, and players decide which one best suits their skills. One route favors run-and-gun tactics, ideal for spies skilled with machine guns. Another uses stealth tactics to avoid detection, and the third involves hacking through security to access sealed areas. Depending on how you have allocated your skill points, you have unique abilities that augment your chosen style. For instance, sneaky characters have the ability to run silently, while gun specialists have improved criticals or the ability to chain multiple shots together. The potential variation in player builds means that the game has a different feel based on your choices.

When Thorton isn’t surrounded by enemies or dodging gunfire, he spends his time in luxurious safehouses in exotic locations like Taipei, Rome, and Saudi Arabia. The safehouses essentially function as your hub for an area, allowing you to buy information and weapons, select missions, and customize your appearance. While the basic character model is always the same, players help Thorton build a disguise by equipping armor, hats, glasses, and facial hair that range from awesome to ridiculous. No one wants to hassle a dude with a lumberjack beard!

Alpha Protocol was initially slated to come out earlier this year, but with a new October release date, Obsidian has more time to tune the mechanics and ensure that this mixture of espionage and role-playing lives up to its potential. The game is already looking pretty good, so we can’t wait to see the results of a few extra months of polish.