Under development since 2006, Alpha Protocol is an espionage-based RPG that takes its inspiration from the movies of the same genre. During its time in development, Hollywood's definition of the spy has changed a lot. The James Bond series has regained its respect, thanks in part to its own adoption of Jason Bourne-style action, while on TV, Jack Bauer has continued to bring his own brand of ruthless espionage to our screens. The developer of Alpha Protocol claims to have incorporated aspects of all three "JB" characters in its game, which is something we witnessed in the demo we attended during this year's E3 conference.
The game puts you in the shoes of Michael Thorton, an American CIA agent who travels the world working undercover. Our demo joined Thorton in Russia and opened in the lush home that his secret government operative status affords him. A huge TV sits in the living room showing news of his recent exploits, while you can also use the space to dress him up and customise him however you like. If you're on a mission to meet someone at a coffee shop, you need to dress in everyday clothing, but if you're going into a combat mission, you'd be wise to wear armour.
Luckily, our demo consisted of plenty of action, namely, a combat mission where you have to infiltrate a Russian gang. The mission opened with a dialogue between Thorton and a female operative, which showed off the dialogue tree that will work in the game. You have only a limited amount of time to choose your responses to certain questions and statements, and you press one of the four face buttons to choose responses ranging from aggressive to passive. The woman we saw responded much better to an aggressive stance; she was a straight-talking Russian who just wanted to get down to business.
Alpha Protocol looks like it boasts a high level of attention to detail. The Russian gangs are all dressed in tracksuits, while the snowy environments also appear authentic. As you progress in the game, you'll be able to specialise in the nine different skills, including stealth, weapons, and hand-to-hand combat. We got to see some of the stealth moves in action. For instance, Thorton can strangle his victims or stab them in the neck if he sneaks up from behind. You can also unlock special skills, such as fury mode, where you slow down time and enjoy better hand-to-hand combat.
This being a modern-day role-playing game, your moral choices also play a big part in the character you build and how the world reacts to you. After completing a major part of the mission, you have the option of sending a shipment of weapons to another dealer or hoarding them for yourself. This will in turn affect the outcome of the mission, and in the demo we were shown, the Russian woman ended up turning into a miniboss fight. True to the spy genre, though, it appears as though she had a romantic affair with Thorton, and it's clear that your love interests will also play a large part of your relationships in the finished game.
Alpha Protocol is currently at alpha stage, with bug fixing currently taking place ahead of the Q3 2009 release date. The game is on show at E3 on the Xbox 360 at the Sega booth, and we'll hopefully see more it once this year's convention is over. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information as we get it.