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.