As a game journalist you usually can't help but end up with "pet games" as E3 comes up. These are games that you want to follow and learn everything that you can about them because something about the game really speaks to your interests. For myself, an avid fan of all things Obsidian, the pet game of E3 is definitely Alpha Protocol. A spy thriller wherein you can create your own spy and interact with a morally ambiguous world? What's not to love?!
You will step into the shoes of Michael Thornton, an ex-CIA operative who has joined up with another agency called Alpha Protocol. While you will be stuck playing Michael and there's no gender customization, pretty much every single other aspect of the game is entirely up to the player, leaving you truly in control of your game world. Your Michael Thornton will be entirely unique and your actions will cause your game world to evolve in totally different directions.
Players will be able to customize almost every aspect of their unique main character from basic customization, such as his face, hair or accessories, but there is plenty to be said for the actual gameplay mechanics of your character.
The skill system on its surface looks fairly similar to Mass Effect but most definitely swings off in its own direction. As you level up you gain points to put into various skills that allow you to shape your character. This means you could be a stealthy killer, wiping out bases with just your wits and knives, or a full blown commando, gunning down every single enemy you come across. If you're a fan of spy thrillers of any sort you will be able to recreate your favorite character with ease using this system.
Another thing of note is that you can pick up bonuses simply by making decisions on how you play the game. If you are diplomatic with one person he might be willing to sell you guns netting you a perk that unlocks his store but you would miss this if you bullied him too much. These can range from bonus experience, combat boosts or other varied bonuses.
Even from there you can still customize your equipment to a fair degree. Not only can you buy a variety of weapons, armor and gadgets but you can also enhance these with various upgrades. With this easily accessible from the hub you use to set out to destinations from you will be able to fine tune your weapon load outs for missions and ensure that you are always operating at maximum effectiveness. Heck you could even purchase weapon drops that will give you a cheap one use weapon placed somewhere in the level to help with hard sections.
When you've finally gotten your ideal equipment setup you will be able to initiate missions in whatever order you so choose. By changing the order up you will find that some details in each mission change such as being asked to send a weapon shipment to someone. This plays into the fact that you can approach each mission in a variety of ways. Say you get your hands on a weapon shipment after completing a level. Your options are to destroy it like your agency handlers have asked, steal it for yourself or ship it to a weapons dealer to get some reduced prices from his goods.
Each of these various actions that you undertake before, after or during a mission will have an effect on how someone in the world perceives you. Rather than sticking to total black and white shades of morality Alpha Protocol embraces a morally ambiguous angle. The choice of doing what is right and just or being a total bastard is entirely up to the player with each option having its own rewards and consequences. So the Agency might be pretty pissed at you for diverting those weapons to yourself but you will find the equipment to be its own reward.
A high point of the gameplay demo that they showcased was the much talked DSS, Dynamic Stance System. Rather than giving you a bunch of dialogue options the game gives you three general attitudes from which to approach a conversation. One example of this is found in a female mercenary named Zie. When you speak to her in your first encounter you will be able to either ally with her, blow her off or agree to mutually ignore the other. Even if you ally with her you can then betray her later on which transitions into a boss fight of sorts. Due to her personality she doesn't actually see this as a bad thing; it actually doesn't hurt your relationship with her.
As you meet characters you will unlock Intel on them in your PDA. By looking at this you can figure out what sort of conversation options will work best with this character. So you could easily figure out that Zie likes a more direct and upfront man of action, not some namby do-gooder who talks about his feelings. So if you wished to pursue a working relationship with her then it is made easier by simply accessing your information screens.
The Dynamic Stance System also has another benefit in that most of the dialogue that comes out of it is well written and, fairly often, quite amusing. Oh sure some might find bashing a drunkards face into a bar to be a bit rough but there's something hysterical about watching it happen as everyone in the background watches in interest. Even if you approach the dialogue with a more even hand Thorntons casual attitude is both smooth and amusing all at once.
With high-end graphics, multiple endings and the ability to fight almost any major character you deal with, Alpha Protocol has a real chance to shine this fall. Whatever poison you pick, be it the PC, PS3 or Xbox 360, you will be in for a great time with this title. Just make sure that you don't get on the agencies wrong side or you might just get a taste of some bar countertop yourself.