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Friday, 21 May 2010

Preview- Alpha Protocol

Released: 28th May 2010
Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Sega

In the surrounding hype of Rockstar's wild west epic Red Dead Redemption, its easy to forget that other games are indeed also laid out for us on the release calendar, vying for a 'dead-eye' split second of our attention. In one of the busiest months of releases thus far in the year, Obsidian Entertainment's Alpha Protocol has, rightly or wrongly, been struggling to get us gamer's just as excited for this spy/espionage RPG that they would perhaps crave.

In a genre that seems more strongly attached to fantasy from the likes of Fable and Oblivion, but with the likes of Bethesda (Fallout 3) and Bioware (Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2) showing in abundance that this needn't be the case, it's with high hopes that I look towards the latest game from the developer that brought us KOTOR II and Neverwinter Nights 2, along with the 'is it/isn't it' sequel Fallout: New Vegas- out later this year.

Originally announced way back in 2006, Alpha Protocol, which was initially destined for a late October 2009 release, but since pushed back to the current 28th May 2010, is a third-person action RPG set in the murky world of CIA operative Michael Thorton who is on the run from the US government following a botched mission, and on the road to uncover a secret conspiracy...

OK, the set-up is straight from Hollywood and yes, we've seen it played out from the Jason Bourne's and Jack Bauer's of the world time and time again, but as a game, it provides ample ground for guns, gadgets and sophisticated game play. In addition to the expected gun-play, hand to hand combat and use of advanced gadgetry, the player will also have use of added “action elements”- 10 skills that can be upgraded throughout the game in traditional role-playing fashion, that can range from improving accuracy to a 'slow-down' action, akin to Splinter Cell's “mark and execute”. The dialogue system (or DSS- “dialogue stance system”) is also at the forefront of the experience, with all conversations happening in real-time and requiring timed player input at key “decision points” that will no doubt alter progression throughout your investigation. Choosing from any one of three “stances” (that are effectively different attitudes taken towards the conversation; suave, professional or aggressive), players will also have the Mass Effect 2 ability to end the conversation abruptly in an “action” choice that are available at specific moments. Such conversation's will shape the game differently for each player, and choices made here will have effects that may or may not be immediately apparent, but ultimately having a dynamic impact on the rest of the plot-line. Combat is also given the same freedom of choice; load-outs are selected before each mission from the vast array of weaponry and gadgetry on offer which means stealth is just as much an option for more reserved players than the all-out 'run-and-gun' type! Weapons can also be customised to suit such encounters as well as appearance of the main character if you believe a gruff moustache will somehow give extra bravado to your actions!

With real-world hub cities including Rome, Taipei and Moscow to enjoy and the world of spy espionage to uncover, I'm eager to escape the dusty plains of the wild west for a few days to soak in this very different experience. The name's Bon...Oh, wait. Alpha Protocol.

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