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Inside The Alpha Protocol

Michael Thorton is a professional dude. Or is he suave? Aggressive? Regardless of that, he's sorry about your "wodka."

Choose wisely.
You know, I'm probably too clumsy to be the suave, James Bond sort of spy. I'd probably be a little more forward and violent, with more neck snaps and a whole lot of shooting. Or maybe I'd just be The Spy Who Slept In. The nice thing about Obsidian's Alpha Protocol is that it looks like it'll let you play the spy role in a lot of different ways (though I doubt you could be the sleepy spy who missed the mission entirely).

You star as Michael Thorton, a CIA operative who hits the field on a number of different missions. While a lot of the action appears to be focused on shooting dudes, the game also has a lot of dialogue sequences and Mass Effect-like dialogue trees that let you make an impact on how things proceed. Actually, the dialogue stuff was one of the coolest parts about the game. The options I saw looked a lot more complicated than the obvious "this answer is the Good answer, this answer is the Evil answer" stuff you see in a lot of other games. That's because the responses are broken up more by tone. So you can respond professionally, aggressively, or suavely in most cases. Different characters react differently to your tone, so the crazy Russian chick that you just had a gun battle with might be way more into your aggressive style, but might want to just go right back to shooting if you roll up on her with one of the other types of responses. If you get aggressive on an old Russian guy, that may lead to you slamming his head down onto the bar and busted a bottle of vodka over his old head. He... might not want to sell you any weapons after you do that, though. As you interact with different characters, you'll fill out a dossier on each one, giving you some hints on how to push their buttons.

The other cool dialogue trick is that the game attempts to have a naturally flowing conversation. Your speech options show up before your response needs to be given, but a small bar starts draining almost immediately. You need to select your response before that bar runs out. It'll default to whatever tone your last response was in.

Obviously, there's more to Alpha Protocol than just hitting the talky talky buttons. Large stretches of the demo I saw looked like a third-person shooter with cover mechanics, with only a few hints of the dice rolls and role-playing elements that await you on the service record menu screen. You'll be able to trigger abilities in combat, such as Room Sweep, which makes you fire your shotgun twice as fast for a short period of time. You'll also gain experience that can be funneled into a number of different statistics, such as stealth or weapon-specific skills. Yes, even the shooting is governed by these systems--as you dump more points into a type of weapon, your accuracy with that style of weapon becomes better, and is illustrated by the size of the on-screen reticle. That'll probably be a tricky balance, considering how actiony a lot of the game looks. In games with a lot of shooting, I tend to get frustrated when I put the center of a reticle on someone's head and pull the trigger only to be rewarded with a miss.

But the game looks like it'll strike a good, solid balance between shooting people in the face and shaking them down during a dialogue sequence. With the game's customization options allowing you to change Michael's look and some interesting choices ahead, the end result could be absolutely thrilling in a way that most other spy-themed games totally ignore. It'll be interesting to see how it ends up after its release later this year.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
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Posted by Jeff
Choose wisely.
You know, I'm probably too clumsy to be the suave, James Bond sort of spy. I'd probably be a little more forward and violent, with more neck snaps and a whole lot of shooting. Or maybe I'd just be The Spy Who Slept In. The nice thing about Obsidian's Alpha Protocol is that it looks like it'll let you play the spy role in a lot of different ways (though I doubt you could be the sleepy spy who missed the mission entirely).

You star as Michael Thorton, a CIA operative who hits the field on a number of different missions. While a lot of the action appears to be focused on shooting dudes, the game also has a lot of dialogue sequences and Mass Effect-like dialogue trees that let you make an impact on how things proceed. Actually, the dialogue stuff was one of the coolest parts about the game. The options I saw looked a lot more complicated than the obvious "this answer is the Good answer, this answer is the Evil answer" stuff you see in a lot of other games. That's because the responses are broken up more by tone. So you can respond professionally, aggressively, or suavely in most cases. Different characters react differently to your tone, so the crazy Russian chick that you just had a gun battle with might be way more into your aggressive style, but might want to just go right back to shooting if you roll up on her with one of the other types of responses. If you get aggressive on an old Russian guy, that may lead to you slamming his head down onto the bar and busted a bottle of vodka over his old head. He... might not want to sell you any weapons after you do that, though. As you interact with different characters, you'll fill out a dossier on each one, giving you some hints on how to push their buttons.

The other cool dialogue trick is that the game attempts to have a naturally flowing conversation. Your speech options show up before your response needs to be given, but a small bar starts draining almost immediately. You need to select your response before that bar runs out. It'll default to whatever tone your last response was in.

Obviously, there's more to Alpha Protocol than just hitting the talky talky buttons. Large stretches of the demo I saw looked like a third-person shooter with cover mechanics, with only a few hints of the dice rolls and role-playing elements that await you on the service record menu screen. You'll be able to trigger abilities in combat, such as Room Sweep, which makes you fire your shotgun twice as fast for a short period of time. You'll also gain experience that can be funneled into a number of different statistics, such as stealth or weapon-specific skills. Yes, even the shooting is governed by these systems--as you dump more points into a type of weapon, your accuracy with that style of weapon becomes better, and is illustrated by the size of the on-screen reticle. That'll probably be a tricky balance, considering how actiony a lot of the game looks. In games with a lot of shooting, I tend to get frustrated when I put the center of a reticle on someone's head and pull the trigger only to be rewarded with a miss.

But the game looks like it'll strike a good, solid balance between shooting people in the face and shaking them down during a dialogue sequence. With the game's customization options allowing you to change Michael's look and some interesting choices ahead, the end result could be absolutely thrilling in a way that most other spy-themed games totally ignore. It'll be interesting to see how it ends up after its release later this year.
Posted by Colin

Sounds hot.

Posted by torus

The guy in that picture has an incredibly hairy chest.

Posted by natetodamax

I guess this looks cool...

Posted by Hyuzen

Looks crazy awesome. i really need to play more games like this...

Posted by ImperiousRix

Damn, I want to play it now.  RIGHT NOW

Posted by Undeadpool

As long as we can get choices more complex than SAINTLY GOOD and DEMONICALLY EVIL, I think I'll throw my support in.

Posted by Satune

The dialogue just looks great!

Posted by RedSox8933

Mass Effect + Spies - Space = Awesome.

Posted by teh_destroyer

If thy let you sleep in and completely miss a mission, I will pick this game up opening night.

Edited by graf1k

Alpha Protocol has had my interest piqued for a while now, but I agree with Jeff about the shooting. That was one of the very few things about Fallout 3 that annoyed me. I understand there isn't much point to an RPG if you can't level something up, but I was hoping rather than giving you a better dice roll, you'd just use XP in this game to level up the power or abilities of your weapons and gear and leave aiming to skill, kind of like Infamous seems to do, even if that isn't an RPG. Oh well, at least you can crack a Ruskies' head on the bar.

Edited by Jackel2072

so far im not sold on the shooting aspect of the game. the videos i have seen look meh. Thats not to say how ever, that im not looking forward to seeing more of the. the dialog stuff does sound cool. If its more like what mass effect 1 promised (interprupting people, interaction (like the voka bottle)) then that sounds pretty sweet.

EDIT:
Jeff, could you be so kind as to comment on weather or not you can change the way the main charters face looks? or can you only change his cloths...

Posted by Red

I think they'll do accuracy in a way similarily to Mass Effect--the higher your accuracy, the steadier your weapons will be.

Posted by SeymourBewty

I too want to know if there will be character customization.  The dude they always show looks way too generic.  It will ruin the whole thing for me if that's the only option I have.

Posted by Brackynews

I-fayd-I-haffa-grenayd-in-ma-mowff!!

Posted by Claude

Yeah this sounds pretty cool in a Deus Ex, Splinter Cell talkin' BioWare kind of way.

Posted by Spiritof

Put "Tom Clancy", "Spy", "Metal Gear", "Duty", or "Protocol" in the title of your video game and you've already got my attention.

Call your game "Tom Clancy's Metal Gear Spy Protocol of Duty" and I'll have your babies...and I'm not even physically able to have babies.

Posted by N2NOther

I've been anxiously awaiting this game since I read about it Game Informer WAY back in January of 2008.

Posted by Stephen_Von_Cloud

Gameplay still looks lackluster but I like everything outside that (sounds kinda bad but could still be an enjoyable game)

Posted by freezerr

Woo Alpha Protocol!

These guys are definitely ambitious, trying to have a full-fledged RPG talky-factions story with guns-blazing action and full stealth capability.

Posted by Bubahula

thats awesome the dialogue in mass effect was awesome

Edited by Branthog

.

Posted by Delta_Ass

Hopefully they do a better job on this then they did with KOTOR2 and NWN2.

Posted by Seppli

Truely...

one to watch.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

As long as you can't go robotically toward head shots all the time (center of mass, you fools!) this might be an interesting take on RPG elements in shooters.

Posted by Terjay

That hunchback gait looked silly in the E3 videos. Also the other animations should be tightened up.

Posted by Baal_Sagoth

Thanks for the interesting Alpha Protocol info. I can't wait to get my hands on that game - I really hope the dialogue system is going to be every bit as interesting as it sounds. Considering what the Obsidian guys already achieved I'm optimistic though.

Posted by graf1k
@Terjay: Considering the guy from Obsidian that was on the last E3 Bombcast said the game is still pre-alpha, they have plenty of time to fix stuff like animations.
Posted by giyanks22

I cannot wait for this.

Posted by ultrapeanut

yesyesyesssssss

Most anticipated game of 2009.

Edited by raidingkvatch
@Claude said:
" Yeah this sounds pretty cool in a Deus Ex, Splinter Cell talkin' BioWare kind of way. "
which is the exact kinda way I would want this game to sound cool

@Delta_Ass: Dude, what?! KotOR 2 was awesome! OK it wasn't as innovative as the original, but it ws still a great game
Posted by death_and_drek

The main character has an annoying face, but I'm still really looking forward to this.  Obsidian deserves more credit than they get.  Hopefully, having a game based on their own IP will help boost their standing.

Posted by Gizmo
@torus said:
" The guy in that picture has an incredibly hairy chest. "
Jesus, even by my Turkish hairy chest standards, that is one hairy chest.
Posted by Media_Master

This is the way to go, no more good/evil only paths.

Posted by PenguinDust

So happy that more real-world settings are being used in RPGs.  This could be awesome.

Posted by Laticsfan

Looks sweet, can't wait for realease.

Posted by Jayzilla

so deep, so deep, put her butt to sleep. -The Cube.

Posted by phlegms

Sounds awesome!

Posted by phlegms

Sounds awesome!

Posted by nixium

Really hope this is good. I love the idea and the execution in videos looks solid however until I get it in my hands...who knows.

However me = jazzed for alpha protocol

Posted by deaux
@Branthog: I think this will be head and shoulders above the Bourne Supremacy.
A  modern spy RPG is a good hook, and it really looks to be on track.
Posted by Maxszy

I think this looks absolutely awesome and can not wait! The dialogue trees like this and telling of a story like this hasn't really been done much in the modern day setting. Especially as a spy game. Which I think is pretty damn cool.

Posted by mracoon

Still very excited about this game.

Moderator
Posted by MeatSim

Yea this is looking good so far can't wait to see more.

Posted by Delta_Ass
@raidingkvatch said:
"
@Claude said:
" Yeah this sounds pretty cool in a Deus Ex, Splinter Cell talkin' BioWare kind of way. "
which is the exact kinda way I would want this game to sound cool

@Delta_Ass: Dude, what?! KotOR 2 was awesome! OK it wasn't as innovative as the original, but it ws still a great game "
They rushed the development and a lot of the story suffered for it.
Posted by TekZero

Obsidian haven't made a game that I didn't enjoy completely.  I am very excited about this game.

Posted by TekZero
@Delta_Ass said:
"Hopefully they do a better job on this then they did with KOTOR2 and NWN2."

Wow,

I trully believe that both KOTOR 2 and NWN 2 were better than the originals.   Obsidian took great games and made them better.  Hopefully they'll do the same with Fallout: New Vegas.
Posted by Sunjammer

1. This is awesome looking.
2. Gamers are so god damn spoiled these days. WHEN I WAS YOung bLbalbalbal[trailing off]

Posted by GozerTC

Looks awesome!  Right up there with Mass Effect 2 on my "can't wait." list. :)

Posted by atejas
@raidingkvatch said:
"
@Claude said:
" Yeah this sounds pretty cool in a Deus Ex, Splinter Cell talkin' BioWare kind of way. "
which is the exact kinda way I would want this game to sound cool

@Delta_Ass: Dude, what?! KotOR 2 was awesome! OK it wasn't as innovative as the original, but it ws still a great game "
Also Mask of The Betrayer was supposedly amazing too.

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