Alpha Protocol Preview

Written by Joe Martin

September 27, 2009 | 10:41

Tags: #alpha-protocol #espionage #preview #rpg #spy #stealth

Companies: #obsidian #sega

Your Weapon is Choice

That motto, that ‘Your Weapon is Choice’, seems to be something that Obsidian has really taken to heart in developing Alpha Protocol too. Like all respectable RPGs, Alpha Protocol has a series of main branches incorporated into the plot and along your way through the game you can find yourself allied with or pitted against all manner of secret societies and shadowy cults.

Who you choose to work with and why does a lot more than just affect how the story flows too, with nearly every choice having an in-game effect too through the extensive perk system. For example, in the mission we got a chance to see at GamesCom, we saw Mike infiltrate a millionaire’s yacht and squaring off against a mysterious and punky looking girl with a love for akimbo pistols and dead CIA agents.

A brawl ensued obviously, but the curiously quiet assassin proved no match for Mike’s lightning-fast Kenpo and shotgun skills. Then, as she cowered on the floor we got a chance to see the dialogue system in action and how fundamentally it effects the game.

*Alpha Protocol Preview Alpha Protocol Impressions
The CIA take paintball very seriously

The dialog system itself is aesthetically similar to Mass Effect’s, with each spoke on the conversation wheel representing the attitude and approach of the three most famous spies in the world. While there are extra options added in for most situations, the standard selection is the manipulating suaveness of James Bond, the brutal efficiency of Jason Bourne or the desperate aggression of Jack Bauer. It’s a shame there isn’t an option for Our Man Flint based around using his trademark cigarette lighter to solve every problem.

In this case, the options we were given involved executing the now-defenseless girl, bullying information out of her or turning her loose. Opting for the third, we were then fast-forwarded to a later encounter with the head of one of the bigger in-game factions, who the girl worked for. He thanked us for releasing her and offered to form an alliance as way of thanks – options that would not be available had we killed or tortured her.

One of the things we like most about Alpha Protocol is that it isn’t just an endless slog through samey combat missions either. There are interrogations to do, vaults to sneakily break open and, most importantly, safehouse hubs in between all missions. When not on-mission you’re confined to the safehouse, where you can buy and upgrade your weapons with new options, accept new objectives or complete optional tasks, as well as interact with your web of contacts.

*Alpha Protocol Preview Alpha Protocol Impressions
Hadouken!

It’s that last one which had our curiosity most piqued, as we saw Michael set research objectives for his old friends and browsed through emails to learn more about his adversaries and colleagues, building dossiers through careful investigation. Again, like almost everything in Alpha Protocol, the dossiers aren’t just a collectible either and will actually yield new dialog choices or perks as you uncover the dirty secrets of your rivals. Somehow it reminded us very much of the SIDNEY sections of Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of The Sacred, Blood of The Damned – though that’s likely a rather obscure reference for most PC gamers and doesn’t reflect how extensive the system in Alpha Protocol is.

Really though, judging quite how extensive Alpha Protocol will be is hard for even us to judge – as, again, we don’t think we’ve seen enough of it yet to make any firm claims or form any solid impressions. We’ve heard a lot of talk and seen that there are a lot of different paths to take through the game, but whether those paths are enjoyable on their own merits and not just cool purely by virtue of existence is another thing entirely.

One thing we do know though; we liked absolutely everything we have seen in Alpha Protocol and we’re cynical and jaded enough most of the time to allow ourselves the tiniest sliver of hope for how Alpha Protocol might turn out. It’s still a few weeks away from release, but we’re going to be very excited about the game in the mean time.

Alpha Protocol is being developed for the PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 by Obsidian Entertainment. It will be published by Sega and is due for release October 27th.
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