Alpha Protocol: To B, or B, or B?

Luckily for fans of the spy-game genre, Sam Fisher won't be the only spy in town this year. Also slated for Q2 of 2010 - just in time to go head-to-head with the summer blockbuster movies - is Obsidian Entertainment's Alpha Protocol, an RPG in which you play a spy in a modern-day setting.

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Alpha Protocol's spy is named Michael Thorton - about as inconspicuous a name as one could imagine, but his personality more than makes up for it. Far from being a mousy picture-taking diplomat, Thorton can behave like one of the three most famous fictional spies; which one is entirely up to you.

"We always use 'The Three J.B.s,'" says Obsidian's Senior Producer, Ryan Rucinski. "There's Jack Bauer, James Bond, Jason Bourne. Each have their strengths and weaknesses. Jason Bourne is stealth, kind of like 'I'm going to beat you up really close and get the hell out of here.' Jack Bauer: gun forward, amazing with the 9mm. And of course there's the James Bond, who is more of a suave, sophisticated type of guy who uses more linguistics with the ladies as well as other people to kind of get through things."

In Alpha Protocol, you will have the option to choose from moment-to-moment which spy's toolset is most useful. Says Rucinski, "You decide what kind of spy you want to be."

"You can choose to be a jerk, you can be a smartass, you can be very professional and you can also just be very aggressive. You can be Jack Bauer ('You can tell me what you know; I've got a gun in your face and I can shoot you'), you can be suave - you can convince your way into getting information, and all the people you talk to have different responses. Then of course there's James Bond. We do allow a lot of romantic relationships, so we kind of throw that out there."

What drives Thorton, then, is entirely up to you - as is how to go about getting what you want. It's a novel take on the spy genre, and with so much fictional fodder out there from which to draw, it's sure to please fans who think they know all there is to know about spies - which is part of what inspired the game's creation.

"I'll be honest: After watching several seasons of 24 and various spy movies, I want to play that character," says Chris Avellone, Lead Designer for Alpha Protocol. "So what we did was we had the real-world spy/espionage roleplaying game pitch, and then from there we wanted to explore, 'OK, what kind of espionage hero do we want to bring to this game and allow the player to be, or what sort of hybrid of traits from various archetype spy guys do we want to be in this experience?' And then we just sort of went from there. It's been quite a ride."

Rucinski says that although the game allows players to choose their own spy-type, he doesn't expect too many players to take the "jerk" road too often.

"We did some focus tests with this. We noticed that people like to think they'd be a bad guy, but some of the decisions they have to make to do it they just can't. I know I couldn't. Like, 'Yeah I'm gonna shoot a puppy.' Ugh, I can't do it."

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