Alpha Protocol screenshot
Alpha Protocol screenshot

If pursuing a career in games journalism hadn't worked out for me, I would have been a government agent. I'd wear a watch that could drive my car remotely, sleep with a gun under my pillow and never leave the house without a smoking hot chick hanging off my arm. Although Gabriel Logan, Sam Fisher and Solid Snake have all given us a taste of interactive espionage, few of their respective games seem to have captured the lifestyle in the same way that Hollywood has. SEGA and Obsidian are looking to change all that with Alpha Protocol, the self proclaimed 'espionage RPG' that lets players live out their fantasies as a globetrotting CIA agent.

Alpha Protocol wears its inspirations on its sleeve. While main character Mike Thorton clearly models himself on the likes of Jason Bourne, James Bond and Jack Bauer (although has bucked the trend with his initials), the game itself has taken lessons from BioWare and Mass Effect. Replace Commander Shepard with a blend of the heroes mentioned above, swap the intergalactic setting with a bevy of real world locations, and exchange the space opera narrative for that of espionage – and you'll have a pretty good mental picture of Alpha Protocol.

A familiar 'dialogue stance system' (as Obsidian has called it) envelopes the action, allowing the player to steer the conversation based on what kind of character they're looking to portray. Through flattery, comedy, mockery, intimidation and downright rudeness, Thorton can build or destroy relationships with other characters, which will ultimately affect the direction of the narrative. Choices aren't necessarily verbal either; often there'll be an option to use physical force. At certain points in the story the game will present the option to 'execute' another character, allowing you to permanently remove them from the narrative. You can even flirt up a storm with some of your female handlers, and if your chat-up lines are up to Bond's standards, they'll end up back at your spy-pad for some hanky-panky.

Despite borrowing the mechanic from BioWare, the dialogue system happens to be one of the game's strongest assets. Obsidian is well known for its talents in the dialogue department (KOTOR2 being a shining example) and Alpha Protocol has been treated with the same care and attention. How you decide to react to different situations determines what missions you're given and what characters you're likely to encounter. Supporting this branching narrative is an impressive 30+ endings, and the mid sections will differ dramatically from game to game, too. To see everything the game has on offer will take a serious investment of time.

Alpha Protocol screenshot

When Thorton isn't chin wagging with other characters, he's infiltrating enemy headquarters, intercepting crucial intel and taking out key members of terrorist organisations. The narrative surrounding these exploits is well crafted, if a little confusing. After a high-tech US missile falls into the wrong hands, the CIA sends Thorton to clean up the mess. During the mission, however, Thorton is betrayed by his employers, cut off and forced to go rogue. Working on his own agenda, he attempts to prevent the impending missile catastrophe while uncovering exactly who it was that sold him down the river.

Thorton's mission is orchestrated out of several safe houses acting as the hub for real world locations including Tai Pei, Rome and Moscow. As far as spy-pads go, these safe houses are pretty swanky, offering services to check email, change weapon load-outs and even watch the news. It's the kind of place you imagine James Bond chilling out with a Martini before a mission. This is one thing that Alpha Protocol does reasonably well: it makes you feel like an undercover agent. Whether you're flipping through enemy dossiers on your PDA, catching up on new emails or tinkering with your equipment – you'll feel suitably like an employee of the secret services.

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14 Comments

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vinniffa's Avatar

vinniffa

For now I enjoyed the game too.. I don't know.. maybe I will change my mind.
Posted 22:30 on 22 May 2011
cousinwalter's Avatar

cousinwalter

I started play this yesterday and quite enjoyed it thus far
Posted 11:15 on 23 July 2010
mackvesta's Avatar

mackvesta

Argh, can't say I wasn't expecting this after looking at the trailers. Graphics don't make a game but it set an alarm bell ringing which I tried to ignore. Will still play it of course, I love Obsidian (well, Chris Avellone) and although their games don't ever seem to have the polish of Bioware, the story and role playing aspect has always felt more engaging, and the review doesn't seem to indicate they disappoint there. I'm happy to deal with a few gameplay frustrations, it won't be the first time after all...
Posted 06:12 on 08 June 2010
renegade's Avatar

renegade@ SexyJams

Why read it when you can judge the review on the numbers and the short pros and cons!
Posted 14:39 on 30 May 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

I'm not worried about the score.
I actually read the review, and it sounds extremely disappointing
Posted 19:30 on 28 May 2010
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

Damn. Guess I'll be sticking with a rental. Can't say I'm surprised; each time I've seen something on the game it put further doubt in my mind.
Posted 17:30 on 28 May 2010
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Play the actual game before you say "ohhh dear, i'll give it a miss" other sites have been giving this an 8.

You'll never know how good a game is unless you play it.
Posted 17:17 on 28 May 2010
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

It does suffer from cliches at times, but the whole researching enemies and snooping element is a really interesting idea. Like many things it *could/should* have been taken further - but then that might have been too much risk for Sega... I don't feel like I got a bad deal at that price - but then again, I was happy paying full price for the above-mentioned Spy Fiction. ;)

Plus, it is always nice to hear that 'Seeeeegaaaaa' upon starting. :p
Posted 17:06 on 28 May 2010
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ SexyJams

A bit dramatic? Regardless of the review, it does sound promising still. 30+ Endings is a bit ;) Why? I can't see myself putting hours & hours just to find out each individual ending. Maybe 2 or 3 endings would of rounded it off.

Is there no multiplayer thrown into this game?

Good read Jamin. I think I will most probably pick this up when it goes in the bargain bin.

@Clockpunk - £30 sounds a bit pricey for this game from reading the review. Even though Shopto do have great prices on some games and etc. I know I wouldn't consider buying it for £30 or I might if the review was different and so forth. Gotta admit. This review has saved me some money lol. Bargain bin all the way.
Posted 16:32 on 28 May 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

Heartbroken...
I was so looking forward to his :(
Posted 15:33 on 28 May 2010
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

I don't know - I'm really enjoying it thus far. The hacking, lockpicking and system cracking games are much more fun, tricker, and immersive than those found within ME2. Similarly the skills implementation with actual unlockable benefits at every level is a good choice.

The timed dialogue really does make you act on the spot - no dilly-dallying and keeping the pace fast.

The shooting, though. That reminds me of so many PS2-era games in its clumsiness in aiming and handling - especially Spy Fiction, if anyone here played that game? If that were sorted, along with more customization options and a few more... well... choices in every aspect, I think the game would be much better. Specialist weapons, a slightly more complex stealth system and more non-purely-game based options, such as being able to customise safe-houses and the like, would make it a really great game.

That said, I am thoroughly enjoying the game - it is fun, - and would be inclined to disagree that it is 'Disappointing'. I'd give it a 7, but agree very much in hoping any sequel would build on the really good bits mentioned above. Still, I think its well worth the £30 shopto charged me.
Posted 14:23 on 28 May 2010
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

yeah i was kinda looking forward to seeing what this got with neon giving some hype but i defo will miss this now great review jamin was there any difference between xbox and ps3?
Posted 14:16 on 28 May 2010
ayreon2084's Avatar

ayreon2084

What's the score, eh, GameSpot?
Alpha protocol score at Gamespot LOOOL :)

http://bit.ly/c3JcJR
Posted 14:11 on 28 May 2010
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

I was hoping this was gonna be good after hearing Neon talk about it on the podcast, but looks like I'll be giving it a miss.
Posted 14:06 on 28 May 2010

Game Stats

Alpha Protocol
6
Out of 10
Alpha Protocol
  • Refreshing concept
  • Dialogue Stance System is enjoyable
  • Huge range of technical issues
  • Flawed combat
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 28/05/2010
Platforms: PS3 , Xbox 360 , PC
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Sega
Genre: RPG
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 16,618 2
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