Alpha Protocol

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Alpha Protocol
Alpha Protocol cover.jpg
North American cover
Developer(s) Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) Chris Parker
Designer(s) Chris Avellone
Composer(s) BT, Rod Abernethy, Jason Graves, Alexander Brandon, Dan Schneider
Engine Unreal Engine 3
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Release date(s) AUS May 27, 2010[1]
AUS May 28, 2010 (PC)
EU May 28, 2010[2]
NA June 1, 2010[2]
Genre(s) Action role-playing, stealth
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution Digital disc, download, cloud computing

Alpha Protocol is an action role-playing stealth game developed by Obsidian Entertainment, their first title for an original intellectual property, and published by Sega. The game revolves around the adventures of field agent Michael Thorton. The game was originally set to be released on October 27, 2009, but the release was pushed back to May 27 in Australia, May 28 in Europe and June 1, 2010 in North America.

Upon release, it was met with mixed to positive reception. Praise was given to its narrative and conversation elements, while criticism was directed towards buggy launch and poor combat mechanics.



Alpha Protocol is played from a third-person perspective, allowing the player to see Thorton and his surroundings at all times. As Thorton is a trained CIA operative, the tools at the player's disposal include numerous firearms, hand to hand combat using Kenpo,[3] and spy gadgets.

In addition to the action elements, players also earn Advancement Points, which can be placed into any of the ten different skills in the game.[4] These skills will increase Thorton's ability to use certain weapons and grant different abilities to him. These abilities are free to use, but require a "cooldown" period before they can be used again. One ability, called Chain Shot, has been mentioned in previews and allows Thorton to scan a group of enemies in slow-motion before popping out of cover and shooting each of them more rapidly than he would be capable of normally.[4]

Dialogue system[edit]

At the heart of Alpha Protocol is the Dialogue System. This screen shows a typical dialogue sequence players use to decide their progress.

Alpha Protocol features numerous characters with whom to interact. Conversations occur in real-time, giving the player a limited amount of time to respond at key "decision points" during dialogue.[5] The dialog system in the game - known as the "DSS" or Dialogue Stance system[6] - allows the player to choose from three different attitudes, or "stances," when speaking to an NPC. Obsidian has said that these options are based on the personalities of the "three J.B.'s": Jason Bourne of The Bourne Identity novels and films, James Bond of the eponymous film and book series, and Jack Bauer of the television series 24, although the game itself does not use these names. During dialog sequences, the player will be able to choose from options like "professional" (Jason Bourne), "suave" (James Bond), and "aggressive" (Jack Bauer), sometimes with a brief description of the dialogue choice (such as "sarcastic") taking the place of the general stance. A fourth, "special" dialogue choice is also sometimes available.[4] Each NPC will react to these choices in different ways: one character might be intimidated by an aggressive stance, but another character may find an aggressive stance to be insulting or childish. While dialogue choices will have some immediately noticeable consequences, many may not be seen until much later in game.[7] As each conversation is experienced once per playthrough, multiple playthroughs will be required in order to experience all of the game's content; while the game contains a total of approximately twelve hours of cinematic sequences, a player will only experience around four hours during any given playthrough.


Alpha Protocol has a hub structure, in which Thorton must use safe houses in each city in order to lay low between missions. From a safe house, Thorton can change clothing, access a weapons locker, telephone contacts, and attempt missions. Some missions are critical to the progression of the story, while others are optional. Players can buy and sell weapons and equipment within their safe houses.[5] Cities include Rome, Moscow, Taipei[8] and a city in Saudi Arabia.[9][10]

Character romance[edit]

Thorton can optionally romance several of the female non-player characters. This is accomplished primarily by choosing the appropriate dialogue responses and gaining reputation, and also in completing missions in such a way that the NPC in question is not killed first.


The player can only carry two weapons at once. Pistols are weaker and shorter-ranged but they and assault rifles are the only two classes capable of precision shots, and only pistols can be suppressed for stealth[11] or use tranquilizer rounds to avoid fatalities.[12] Assault rifles do more damage and have longer range, and can be used quietly by using expensive and rare subsonic ammunition.[13] Shotguns and submachine guns are good at short range; while the shotgun user can charge up for a critical hit to knock an enemy down, the SMG user gains a damage increase as more of his shots hit targets in a short time.[14]

Weapons can be customized by placing modifications in one of four slots: the barrel, the scope, the magazine, and the accessory slot.[15] These modifications can have both positive and negative effects on the weapon's attributes: Damage, Accuracy, Recoil Control, Stability, and Magazine size.[16]

Characters can also choose and customize their armor. The main function of armor is to provide Endurance—a pool of regenerating hit points—to Thorton, but different suits can specialize in stealth or increasing the amount of gadgets Thorton can carry in his inventory.[15]

The player can choose also which skills to advance, allowing them to change their play style. The character can advance skills which make him kill his enemies more efficiently (Pistol, Assault Rifle, Shotgun, Submachine Gun, Martial Arts), make him better with gadgets (Sabotage), harder to kill (Toughness) or spot (Stealth), or provide miscellaneous benefits (Technical Aptitude).[14]


Agent Michael Thorton is the newest member of "Alpha Protocol," a clandestine service established to perform covert operations that cannot be traced back to the U.S. government. His initial mission is to assassinate the leader of Al-Samad Shaheed, after an attack on a passenger aircraft in the Middle East. After capturing Shaheed—whom Thorton can either execute or release—the terrorist leader claims that Halbech, a defense contractor, sold him the missiles and gave him all of the necessary information to carry out the attack. After relaying the information, Thorton's position is attacked by a missile strike, and Thorton is presumed dead. Being contacted by a member of AP, Thorton is told that the group has been infiltrated by members of Halbech who want Thorton dead, to cover up the fact that Halbech provided the missiles to Al-Samad. At this point Thorton's handler now becomes Mina Tang, an AP member who is in secretive contact with Thorton.

An analysis of Shaheed's information reveals three key locations. The locations can be played in any order and events that take place may influence interactions that occur other locations. These locations include Rome, where an Al-Samad cell possibly connected to Halbech was activated; Moscow, which was the shipping route for the stolen missles; and Taipei, where the Taiwanese president is the target of an assassination attempt. Thorton realizes that Halbech's plans in these cities is to raise global tensions and spark a cold war, turning the world into it's marketplace.

In Rome, Mike meets Madison Saint James and, with her help, discovers the VCI (Veteran Combat Initiative), a private security firm run by Halbech's former Chief of Security Conrad Marburg who is planning to blow up a museum featuring a Crusades exhibit to provide incentive for harsher anti-terrorism legislation in the EU. Infiltrating the museum, Madison is kidnapped by Marburg, and Mike is forced to choose between saving Madison or preventing the destruction of the museum and several casualties. Afterwards, Marburg flees (unless the player is able to bait him into finishing the fight causing his death). Michael leaves the city with the blood of the bombing or Madison's on his hands.

In Moscow, Agent Thorton tracks the shipments of large quantities of weapons, encountering Sergei Surkov, a Russian Mafia boss, who fingers his former protegé, Konstantin Brayko, as Halbech's contact in Russia. During this, Michael may also encounter SIE, a German, VCI-affiliated, psychotic mercenary with a fondness for her M60 machine gun, and Sis, a mute in service to Albatross, the leader of the G22, paramilitary group with an agenda that is not fully revealed. Michael is tasked with infiltrating the American embassy to reach Surkov, which G22 performs with or without Thorton's help. After discussing the arms deal with Surkov, Michael attacks Brayko's estate, and Brayko himself, who attempts to kill Michael in a cocaine-fueled rage. If Thorton spares Brayko, or speaks to him before killing him, he learns that Surkov was formerly partnered with Halbech and that he set Brayko up to take his fall. After pursuing Surkov, Thorton has the choice to either partner up with, arrest or execute Surkov. Michael cannot pursue Surkov if he executes Brayko before learning of the truth from him.

In Taipei, Michael uncovers a plot by Omen Deng of the Chinese Secret Police, to assassinate Ronald Sung, president of Taiwan, and spark massive riots in a bid to provoke a conflict between China and the U.S. Garnering assistance from the White Oak Mountain Triad leader Hong Shi and Agent Steven Heck, a psychotic man claiming to work for the CIA, Michael determines the timetable for either the murder, or the instigators of the riots. The former can be used as evidence to convince Sung to wear body armor. Eventually, Deng and Thorton duel on a building overlooking the podium; afterwards, Deng can be killed or spared by Thorton. If Deng is spared, then it is revealed that both he and Thorton were tricked into thinking the other was the assassin, allowing the real assassin (unknown at this point) to shoot Sung (and possibly kill him).

Along the way, Thorton encounters Scarlet Lake, a photojournalist and freelance assassin, though this is not revealed until the end of the game, working for Halbech. After completing the three operations and settling his affiliations with any of his former contacts, Michael surrenders to Alpha Protocol and is brought to Henry Leland, President of Halbech and temporary commander of AP. Leland and Michael discuss his activities, and Leland attempts to recruit Thorton (if the player has a high reputation). If Thorton refuses, Thorton escapes the AP facility, and with the aid of his prior contacts, if any, fights or sneaks through the AP facility. After confronting Leland himself, Michael may opt to execute or capture him, but Leland is killed if caught.

If Thorton agrees to work with Leland, he also escapes the AP facility, eventually confronting his former superior Yancy Westridge. Shortly after executing or sparing Yancy Westridge, Thorton has the option to partner with Leland or betray him.

Escaping into a bay on a boat marked with an Omega symbol, Thorton thinks on his next move, and whether or not life will continue to be this exciting.


The game was developed with Unreal Engine 3 which was suited to cross-platform design.[17]

Gary Steinman writes, "Mina might seem normal enough, but Alpha Protocol has its share of quirky characters. We used a Kill Bill test."[18] Chris Parker explains, "If a character fits in Kill Bill, that's probably too over-the-top. But we don't want them to be just normal suits. That'd be really boring. I don't know how many M60 wielding psychopath blonde girls there are, but there's one in our game!"[18][full citation needed]


The theme was composed by electronic producer and artist Brian Wayne Transeau, better known by his stage name BT,[19] and veteran game composer Jason Graves. During the battle with Brayko, "Turn Up the Radio" by Autograph plays in the background. All in-game music and cinematics were composed by Rod Abernethy and Jason Graves.


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PC) 73.20%[20]
(X360) 64.92%[21]
(PS3) 64.57%[22]
Metacritic (PC) 72/100[23]
(PS3) 64/100[24]
(X360) 63/100[25]
Review scores
Publication Score B+[31]
Eurogamer 7/10[26]
Game Informer 6.5/10[29]
GamePro 3.5/5 stars[30]
GameSpot 6/10[27]
GameTrailers 6.4/10[32]
IGN 6.3/10[33]
X-Play 2/5 stars[34]

Alpha Protocol has received mixed reviews. Games Master magazine gave Alpha Protocol 84%.[35] Eurogamer gave the game a 7/10, but criticized its lack of polish.[26]

Some critics have been less forgiving, with VideoGamer giving Alpha Protocol 6/10 and criticising its "huge range of technical issues" and "flawed combat."[36] Destructoid gave it a 2/10 and said the game was 'absolutely dreadful', the 'enemy AI is an astonishing shambles, almost to the point of being impressive' and that 'there are games in their beta stage that are more complete, better designed, and more worth paying for than this mistake'.[28]

GameSpot's 6/10 review was also mixed, stating that "Alpha Protocol's astounding intricacies are tarnished by bugs, clumsy gameplay mechanics, and rough production values." and "Alpha Protocol's ambitions are commendable, and if you're a role-playing fanatic, you'll enjoy investigating its intricacies. It's unfortunate that its various ingredients are so undercooked. The flaky cover system, the mediocre production values, the fundamental blemishes gone unchecked—these elements add up quickly and drag the experience down. The elaborate storytelling and character progression are impressive. It's too bad that the gawky, glitchy gameplay can't rise to the same standard."[27]

The Australian video game talk show Good Game '​s two reviewers gave the game a 7/10 and 7.5/10.[37]

Alpha Protocol has however become an underground hit, as according to Obsidian Entertainment, the game still is selling copies.[38]

Due to the less than positive reception, Sega employee Mike Hayes confirmed that Sega would not be publishing a sequel, but also added it was a good concept.[39]

Possible sequel[edit]

While Sega will not publish any sequels, Obsidian Entertainment, is interested in making a sequel.[40]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Alpha Protocol Has Gone Gold!". SEGA America Blog. Sega Corporation. May 4, 2010. 
  3. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (August 14, 2008). "Alpha Protocol First Look Preview". VideoGamer. Pro-G Media. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2008. Thornton fights using Kenpo, which the player will be able to improve as they progress through the game 
  4. ^ a b c Porter, Will (April 22, 2010). "Alpha Protocol - first look". GamesRadar. Future plc. 
  5. ^ a b Butts, Steve (October 31, 2008). "Alpha Protocol Interview". IGN. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved November 2, 2008. 
  6. ^ Nguyen, Thierry (December 8, 2008). "Alpha Protocol Preview". 1up. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved August 4, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Alpha Protocol - Round Table Discussion - Part 1". SEGA America Blog. SEGA of America Inc. September 4, 2008. Archived from the original on 9 October 2008. Retrieved November 1, 2008. 
  8. ^ Porter, Will (April 22, 2008). "Alpha Protocol - first look". GamesRadar. Future plc. Retrieved November 2, 2008. 
  9. ^ Game Informer Magazine (80): 41. April 2008. 
  10. ^ Alpha Protocol Review- gamespot
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b Alpha Protocol Game Manual
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Steinman, Gary (2008). "Alpha Protocol: Guns Gadgets Espionage". PlayStation: The Official Magazine. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Alpha Protocol for PC". Game Rankings. Archived from the original on 30 June 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Alpha Protocol for Xbox 360 - GameRankings". Game Rankings. Archived from the original on 8 June 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Alpha Protocol for PS3". Game Rankings. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Alpha Protocol (PC) reviews at Metacritic". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 18 May 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Alpha Protocol (PS3) reviews at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Alpha Protocol (Xbox 360) reviews at Metacritic". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  26. ^ a b Donlan, Christian (May 28, 2010). "Alpha Protocol". Eurogamer Network. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  27. ^ a b VanOrd, Kevin (May 29, 2010). "Alpha Protocol Review". GameSpot Australia. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  28. ^ a b Sterling, Jim (May 29, 2010). "Review: Alpha Protocol". Destructoid. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  29. ^ Juba, Joe (May 28, 2010). "Gameinformer Review". Game Informer Magazine. GameStop Corporation. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2010. 
  30. ^ Cabral, Matt (May 28, 2010). "Alpha Protocol Review". GamePro Media. Archived from the original on 2010-08-03. Retrieved May 28, 2010. 
  31. ^ Sharkey, Scott (May 28, 2010). "Alpha Protocol Review". 1up. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved May 28, 2010. 
  32. ^ "GameTrailers Review". GameTrailers. MTV Networks (Viacom). May 28, 2010. 
  33. ^ Onyett, Charles (27 May 2010). "Alpha Protocol Review". IGN. IGN Entertainment. Archived from the original on 3 June 2010. Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  34. ^ Mastrapa, Gus (May 28, 2010). "Alpha Protocol Review". G4. G4 Media. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  35. ^ Pakinkis, Tom (May 27, 2010). "Alpha Protocol review - 84% in GamesMaster". CVG. 
  36. ^ Smith, Jamin (May 28, 2010). "Alpha Protocol Review". VideoGamer. Pro-G Media. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  37. ^ "Good Game stories - Alpha Protocol". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2010-06-07. 
  38. ^ Schreier, Jason (2012-12-17). "The Knights of New Vegas: How Obsidian Survived Countless Catastrophes And Made Some Of The Coolest Role-Playing Games Ever". Kotaku. Gawker Media. 
  39. ^ "SEGA Not Doing an Alpha Protocol Sequel". MyInsideGamer. 2010-07-06. 
  40. ^ Logan Westbrook (2011-05-23). "Obsidian would like to make another Alpha Protocol Game". Escapist Magazine. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 

External links[edit]