Everyone has a favourite Bond, right? Whether it’s the ice cold hardman of the original books and recent movies or the suave-but-useless Roger Moore, you’re hard-pressed to find anyone in the English-speaking world who doesn’t have an opinion on the matter*.
Thing is, we all know how a secret agent should behave. However, the only thing we all actually agree on is that he ought to save the world. It’s hard to imagine Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne and James Bond really having all that much to talk about, beyond “Hey! Would ya look at that? We all have the same initials!”.
I imagine this was the thinking behind Obsidian and Sega’s upcoming superspy RPG, ‘Alpha Protocol’. You play secret agent Michael Thorton, but from this point onwards we’re assured everyone will play the game differently. Whether you pile in there with your night-vision goggles on, blasting furiously or try to suave your way past the (inevitably) female counter-agents, there will be as many ways to play this game as there are to defuse a stolen nuclear weapon. No, actually there will be significantly more ways.
It’s a RPG. It’s from Obsidian. However, we’re assured there are no orcs of any kind. This is a departure from traditional RPG terrain – the setting is the present day, so there’s no magic, or lightsabers, or any of the usual trappings of the genre. It’s brave, and it’s unique, and it might just get the hardcore RPGers to take off their elf ears and Jedi robes for a moment and take notice.
The big push here, as you might have gathered, is character development. And it seems like it’s a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, there are the RPG elements that we all know and love – put a few experience points in shootery and you deal more damage, level up your stealth and make less noise, and so on. On the other hand is a holy grail of RPGs, and something they never quite get right – the branching storyline. The devs have already said that every level will be played through regardless of the path you choose, so what exactly changes? Well, apparently different factions may respond differently in the end game – but will it actually matter? Will it make the game feel different every time? We will see. However, they seem pretty set on the idea of the things you say to other characters coming back to affect the game later on.
Elements of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, then? Mixed up with Deus Ex? I can’t help but think that both games were serious influences here. If it’s anything like as good as either of those games, we’re in for a bit of a treat.
* - Roger Moore FTW!