Title: Alpha Protocol
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Sega
Price: $59.99
Release Date: February 2009

With a rich story and open-ended gameplay, Alpha Protocol has the potential to deliver an action RPG experience every bit as good as Deus Ex. I'm not sure any developer would ever want expectations for their product to be that insanely high but there it is.

Alpha Protocol is the first original intellectual property of renowned role-playing game studio Obsidian Entertainment (Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2). Players control Michael Thorton, a rookie CIA field agent who is betrayed by his superiors on his first mission. Now an international fugitive, he must expose the conspirators in order to stop their evil scheme and clear his name.

The odds are stacked against Michael but he was trained well by the CIA. He can use a combination of stealth, combat, and technical skills to achieve his objectives. He'll also acquire a variety of cutting edge weaponry and gadgets, which he can store at safe houses across the globe. He'll also have special abilities he can call upon to help him out of tight spots, such as a heightened reaction time that allows him to slow down the action temporarily.

Unlike most secret agent games, Alpha Protocol is not merely an action game. It is first and foremost an RPG and as you advance in the game, you'll gain experience points to put into any of Michael's ten skills in order to reinforce your preferred play style. The game allows you to decide what kind of secret agent Michael will be and the missions will be flexible enough to accommodate player choice. Will you sneak into the enemy base through the sewer duct, charge the front gate with a shotgun at the ready, or fast-talk your way past the guards?

Obsidian's games, like BioWare's, place a heavy emphasis on players being able to choose the personality of their character as well. When Michael is talking with other characters, the player can choose to act suave, aggressive, or professional. Your choices in conversations will have concrete effects on the storyline and you'll have to play the game through the game multiple times to explore all of the options. Obsidian has proven the strength of its writing team in the past; AP lead designer Chris Avellone also served as lead designer for Knights of the Old Republic II and Black Isle Studios' Planescape: Torment. The game promises a rich, morally ambigious story of international espionage.

AP is due in stores in February 2009 for PS3, PC, and Xbox 360.

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