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Video Game: Alpha Protocol

"The only thing I can say for sure, Mike; this business will change you."
Yancy Westridge to Mike Thorton

The year is 2010. Worldwide political tensions are at a breaking point when a commercial airliner is shot down by a U.S. missile over the Middle East, killing all aboard. The U.S. government claims no involvement, and dispatches Agent Michael Thorton to investigate and bring those responsible to justice.

As the first modern-day spy role-playing game, Alpha Protocol offers unprecedented control over the development of Thorton's abilities and his interactions with other characters. Upgrade skills such as physical combat, weapons mastery, and cutting-edge technology as you grow in experience and complete missions. Also noteworthy for having an immensely branching storyline; pretty much every single choice and many of your conversation options can result in completely different events or endings.

The dominant themes of the game are issues of both deception and betrayal. Treachery is common, as expected in a spy and espionage thriller, and there are lies upon lies and wheels within wheels. Everyone has secrets and everyone's agenda is suspect. Finding who to trust and who is manipulating the player is a major part of the game's storyline.

One of the more interesting features of the game is its perk system. You get rewarded with perks that boost your stats slightly for your actions during the game... regardless of what those actions are. That's right, you can get perks for doing virtually anything, which means that the game does not overly reward or punish the player for making specific gameplay or plot choices. There's no "good" or "bad," just results.

The game received mixed reviews — while its innovative story and dialogue systems were widely praised, some found fault with its gameplay, graphics, and/or lack of polish. Sales were soft enough that Sega has no plans to release a sequel. However, Obsidian have expressed tentative interest in making a sequel or Spiritual Successor so who knows?


Examples

  • Aborted Arc:
    • Sis' locket never comes up again after Mike shows it to Albatross.
    • In general, G22's objectives are never explained. It's implied that they're a previous iteration of Alpha Protocol, but that doesn't explain what they're doing now, nor why they're doing it, beyond a general "fighting against Halbech" objective.
      • The meeting with Albatross in Moscow hints that they're interested in preserving the status quo, or at very least have a vested interest in preventing Halbech's "mistake" turning into World War III.
  • Above Good and Evil: A gameplay version of this— there are no "right" or "wrong" choices to make, so to speak. Play non-lethally, Kill 'em All, act politely, act like a jerk, get caught a lot, be stealthy, bang every woman you can or abstain— nearly every action you take has some minor or major gameplay perk that pops up during the course of your game.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality:
    • Okay, so technically a pistol shouldn't be able to do any damage against a Stryker assault vehicle, but there are a finite number of missile launchers on the map during its boss fight, so...
    • Stealth having Mike literally vanish stretches the suspension of disbelief, but Rule of Cool.
  • Action Girl: SIE, Mina Tang, Sis, and Scarlet.
  • Action Insurance Gag: If Steven Heck is your handler for the last mission then you'll get this exchange when your evac chopper is blown up:
    Heck: Hey, Mike. Good news, bad news.
    Mike: What's the bad news?
    Heck: That chopper was our ride out of here.
    Mike: Great. What's the good news?
    Heck: I paid extra for the insurance package!
  • Addiction Powered: Konstantin Brayko ingests enormous amounts of cocaine to power up and fight Mike Thorton, allowing Brayko to do things like run incredibly fast and be temporarily bulletproof. You can thwart this by having Steven Heck sabotage his supply.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Conrad Marburg up to his actions in Rome. Then you just want to make him drink Dry Cleaner Fluid.
    • Subverted with Omen Deng, in the sense that he's not actually evil - he's a good guy.
    • Ali Shaheed as well. He's so affable you almost forget that he blew up a passenger plane full of innocents.
    • Sergei Surkov is a remarkably nice guy for an ex-KGB agent who lies to Mike's face and sends him after Brayko just to take out his competition.
    • For all his politeness and friendly demeanor, Hong Shi did deal with Al-Samaad, executed his second-in-command for questioning his orders about the aforementioned deal, and had an NSB agent tortured to death for approaching the Triads for security during an exchange.
  • A.K.A.-47: Played straight. For instance, a gun that clearly looks like a Glock is a 5.7mm pistol manufactured by "Rittergruppen". What looks like a FN Five-Seven is a 9mm pistol instead, manufactured by "Samael". And those two are only the beginning.
  • Altum Videtur: Latin shows up a couple of times. First off, Alpha Protocol has a Pretentious Latin Motto, Quo Nemo Sequi Potest which is loosely translated as Where No One Can Follow. Next up, Deus Vult is Latin for God Wills It.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Heck at one point mentions the CIA used cat-implanted microphones to spy on people. Operation Acoustic Kitty really happened (and was a resounding failure).
  • Always Save the Girl:
    • Invoked and deconstructed by Marburg.
    • The player himself can abandon Mina, SIE, or Scarlett, or even execute them himself depending on how the story has played out.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Conrad Marburg. During the mission where you have to check out his villa, Thorton sees a pair of golden statues of naked (male) Greco-Roman athletes. Thorton is slightly disturbed by the implication. If you bring Madison as your handler, she remarks that she's "never seen Marburg entertain any female guests." The statues are fairly common in Art Deco neo-classicism, but compounded with that comment...
  • And This Is for...: Mike can do this to Leland in the ending. What he says depends on what grudges he's holding. He could say Madison, Mina, his life, and anyone or anything else bad that's happened.
    • He will also do this to Westridge if you execute him. There, he will claim it's for "betraying my country."
  • And Your Reward Is Interior Decorating: Mike's trophies of his various adventures (many of which are specific to his choices) pop up in his room after missions.
  • Anti-Hero: Michael Thorton can be played as this, as the game offers a lot of choice in character development. Thorton can even make a Face Heel Turn, complete with Evil Smoking! See We Can Rule Together.
  • Anyone Can Die: Though very very few deaths are plot-mandatory, play your cards right (or wrong, depending on your point of view), and the only people from the character page left alive at the end will be Mike, Steven, and SIE or Albatross/Sis.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Ali Shaheed.
  • Amazon Chaser: Mike, should you pursue SIE.
  • Arms Dealer: Omar Nasri, responsible for selling stockpiles of Russian weapons to anyone who is willing to pay. The game has several other arms dealers as well, although they're mostly contacted anonymous through an Internet-based sales hub.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Execution, imprisonment, possibly another lecture from Westridge ..."
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Konstantin Brayko: crazy, loves his knife, obsessed with 80s American pop-culture, coke head etc.
    • Steven Heck is pretty loopy too. Fortunately, he's somewhat controllable. At one point in Taipei Mike says, "If I do this we'll have to shoot our way out." At which point the only response is a little burst of crazy laughter from him. Earlier in the same mission, if one tells him not to kill anybody, he looks like he's about to cry for a few seconds.
    • EVERYONE in the active part of VCI. One of their requirements for joining is "dishonorable discharge from army."
      • Special mention goes to SIE, who could best be described as a German, female, middle-aged Duke Nukem.
  • Back Stab: Well, throat-slit from behind, rather. Still works the same mechanically.
  • Bad Ass: Thorton. So you say you've just started working with and been separated from your agency on a dangerous mission in some Third World country? Well, it seems you'll have to work on your own, and bring all those terrorists down.
  • Bad Boss: Heck may be one for poor Wen.
  • Battle Theme Music: Brayko's favourite 80's anthem. Prepare to hear it many times.
  • Bee Bee Gun: Steven Heck suggests this as an interrogation technique ("The God Damn Bees").
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not, under any circumstances, call Steven Heck "Steve"
      • Watch out if he can't find his keys.
      • And he hates sweets.
    • The fastest way to lower Mina Tang's opinion of you is to injure civilians. Or US citizens even if they are marines or CIA who are trying to KEEL you.
    • Killing Marburg's men. He will charge and beat the crap out of you. "My men...YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT!"
  • BFG: SIE's personal weapon is an M-60, and she has no qualms about shooting it. A lot. Mike, on the other hand, doesn't get anything bigger than an assault rifle, though he can commandeer turret-mounted MGs, rocket launchers, and sniper rifles.
  • Big Bad: Leland and Halbech. At the start of the endgame, he offers Mike a job. Unusually for a videogame, you can accept the offer, and he actually helps you out instead of pulling an obligatory new-betrayal.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The yacht in one of Moscow's missions is named "Pobeda" (victory in Russian) with first two letters dropped out, leaving "Beda" (trouble or disaster in Russian). This is reference to the ship from cult Russian cartoon "Captain Vrungel's adventures".
  • Black and Gray Morality: Halbech are bad guys. Alpha Protocol are also bad guys. None of your allies are saints either, and the only one who isn't using you and doesn't betray you if you play him right is a Blood Knight Heroic Comedic Sociopath who's just in it to blow stuff up. That said, some characters are less evil than others, the closest being Albatross and G22.
    • And don't forget Madison St. James, who was just trying to do the right thing.
  • Blackmail: When you get data on Halbech's misdeeds, the most profitable use of it is to politely ask a Halbech executive to pay up in exchange for not blowing the evidence wide open.
  • Boobs of Steel: SIE is easily the most violent person in the game.
  • Book Ends: The first and final missions both begin with Michael escaping from Alpha Protocol's medical room. Also, The boat that Mike leaves Alpha Protocol on in some endings is marked with a large Greek alphabet letter Omega. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, while Omega is the last.
  • Boom, Headshot: Can only be done reliably with aimed pistol and rifle shots, but any bullet that hits someone's head will do Massive Damage.
  • Boss Banter: Pretty much all the bosses indulge in this to some extent.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Under normal circumstances, you don't want to waste too many bullets, but the special attack power for the submachineguns is "Bullet Storm," which gives you infinite ammo for a short period of time. (And then you have to reload as normal afterwards.)
  • Bragging Rights Reward: See New Game+.
  • Brand X:
    • Trundling Rock magazine on the table near the door in Michael's Rome safehouse.
    • In the assault on Brayko's mansion Mina will mention Galaxy Invaders when you go through the arcade.
      • All of the arcade machines are a Brand X of some real life game. There's one for Pac-Man, Mario Bros., Frogger, Asteroids, ect.
  • Bullet Time:
    • Played with; the Chain Shot slows down time so you can plan several shots, and Mike executes them, in order, and very quickly, when time goes back to normal. All with flawless accuracy, too; this has its perks in certain boss fights, since headshots do lots of damage, and drilling six pistol rounds into someone's head is a very effective way to kill them. All the other weapon skills (Focused Aim, Bullet Storm, and Room Sweep) slow down time very slightly.
    • The martial art skill "Fury" is a straight-up Neo-wannabe skill : every enemy is slowed down, you move at regular speed, and you get bonuses to melee ass kicking. In fact, even without it the melee charged attack is in slo-mo, the better for you to enjoy that nice roundhouse to the teeth.
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Poor Wen. First he gets tortured by Steven Heck who was doing it to get Wen to tell him where his keys were. Then, if you have a positive reputation with Heck after the final mission in Taipei, he gets framed for the (attempted) assassination of the President Ronald Sung and is, according to the news reporter during the end-credits, executed.
    • Nasri counts as well, though to a lesser degree. If you decide to arrest him, rather than kill or extort, he becomes subject to an increasingly twisted and painful set of interrogation techniques over the course of the game.
  • Camp: Brayko is like a camp take on Tony Montana
  • Can't Stop the Signal: Several of the endings in the game involve you leaking details of Halbech and Alpha Protocol's involvement in various terrorist acts to the press. You can also do this on a smaller scale over the course of the game. Except that the reporter you're selling the secrets to is on Halbech's payroll. Although said reporter despises Halbech.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • According to his dossier, Marburg's Catch Phrase is "Deus Vult," though he only utters it only once. But you have to admit, it is the line you are most likely to remember.
    • While Hong Shi hasn't got enough screentime to really call it a catch phrase, he does like saying "a man in my/his position".
    • "Dahling!"
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Michael can do some really impressive things through experience.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Mentioned several times is what happens should Alpha Protocol become public knowledge. Guess how Thorton leaves Leland and Westridge holding the bag for the stolen missile fiasco?
  • Chess Master: Leland and Parker. Michael can also be one, depending on your play style and choices in the game.
  • Chew Bubblegum: One of Brayko's taunts during his bossfight.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Like you wouldn't believe.
  • Cigar Chomper: Leland spends much of his screen time puffing away on a big cigar.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Brayko
  • Coincidental Broadcast: If your latest mission made enough of a splash to make the news, it will be the first story aired when you get back to your safehouse and turn on the TV.
  • Collapsing Lair: The Alpha Protocol base in the Grand Finale.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Michael. In addition to his more exotic hand-to-hand training, he also has the option of incapacitating a downed enemy with a particularly vicious stomp.
    • If you level up his martial arts skills, you also have the option to take out your pistol (or SMGs, or Assault Rifle, or Shotgun...) and shoot your opponent point blank, right after you've punched them in the face. Or, even better, you can shoot opponents while they are down. Both are great ways to tell a person to fuck himself. And you're thinking about Marburg now, right? It's an excellent boss-fighting technique too. Marburg, for example, is stunned by the point-blank shot longer than it takes to execute. Meaning you can kill the son of a bitch without even giving him a chance to breathe.
    • Reading their dossiers reveals that pretty much anyone who is anyone in the game follows this. Marburg, Sis, and Heck each have specific paragraphs outlining they're not above fighting dirty.
  • Completion Meter: The game tracks how complete your dossier files are.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • Certain bosses and other "major" enemies — the ones that run inhumanly fast like Brayko. Additionally, while Brayko is coked up, he will ignore almost all of your actions. Except the flashbang.
    • Omen Deng can turn invisible and run away at high speed during your encounter with him. Technically, you can turn invisible too, but it never works on enemies who are alerted to your presence, so he's at least bending the rules. The "cheating" part comes in when he turns invisible — which he can do at will — which then immediately triggers his endurance regeneration (almost everyone else has to at least have to wait five seconds, and Mike maxes out at 7 seconds wait). In addition, he frequently engages you in melee combat, and you can have an ability that reduces your opponent's chance of blocking by 75%. That doesn't matter, though: if he decides he doesn't want to get hit by your punches and kicks, you will not hit him. (He can't dodge incendiary grenades though.)
    • Even some of the standard enemies will go straight for you, even if you're cloaked, in cover, and have not been spotted in that level at all yet.
    • In short, the bosses in the game are, almost without exception, brutally unfair. Take whatever edge you can find.
  • Confusion Fu: According to Steven Heck himself, his fighting style is based heavily on this. Well, that, and Improvised Weaponry, including decapitation via soccer balls traveling at 400 miles per hour, impaling a target with a ten-speed mountain bike, and assassinating a Vatican official by strangling him with communion wafers. He also excels in a psychosis-based resistance to pain and bullet wounds.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Steven Heck. His story about Acoustic Kitty is actually Truth in Television, though.
  • Conspiracy Thriller
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: Happens all the time. (Oddly, in the few instances where Mike is actually working against the clock, Mission Control is suddenly silent. Probably because the timers are short enough that no false urgency is required.)
  • Contractual Boss Immunity:
    • Played straight with most major bosses, who can take multiple headshots, resist most gadgets, start out alerted to Mike's presence and stay that way making stealth useless.
    • Averted with most other minibosses, who despite having names and seemingly large health bars are still as vulnerable to gadgets, headshots or stealth attacks as any other mook.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Madison St. James is just a nice person completely removed from the various conspiracies who, by virtue of her boss being involved in said conspiracies, learns of said boss' plans to murder someone. She becomes involved simply because she decides to do what she sees as the right thing and warn him. She's also Alan Parker's daughter, and this has absolutely nothing to do with how she falls into trouble, but can be a key plot point if Mike figures it out. Dialog suggests that Parker has been estranged from her for so long that he himself didn't recognize her until he's told. Hilariously lampshaded if Mike uses this information, prompting Parker to shoot Marburg for either putting his daughter in danger or outright killing her:
    Marburg: Of all the... Madison St. James was his daughter? What next?
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Albatross and his disturbingly cyborgish G22 soldiers.
    • Marburg, Parker, and Yancy haven't let their age slow them down either.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Leland. He could really only be more obvious by having a big label with 'SLEAZEBAG' on his suit, if that Godawful tie of his doesn't count. It's bad enough he should be shot just for wearing it.
  • Cosmetic Award: Beyond just the X-Box Achievements, your personal room will have trophies in it from Mike's adventures, based off of his choices in the past and who likes or dislikes him. For example, one of your earliest objectives, an arms dealer, gets you his beret if you arrested him rather than letting him go. Mike usually has something snarky to say about his collection pieces when you examine them.
  • Covert Pervert:
    • You can romance a lot of the female characters in the game. There's even an achievement for romancing all of them within the span of one game. With a variety of different personalities and Guide Dang It, you may see some romances well in advance, others, not so much.
    • Also, for the record, no, you cannot romance Sis. Saved you some time, there.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Pumping too many points into one stat while neglecting all others is a good way to make the game unplayable in short order for an inexperienced player, or on the Hard difficulty, or both. Having a few playthroughs under one's belt and thus a better understanding of how the game flows as well as the Veteran background make overspecializing a more viable playstyle.
  • Cross Hair Aware: Every potential boss NPC has a visible laser sight on their guns. There's one even on SIE's machine gun.
  • Cute Mute: Sis.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: Mike really enjoys dropping the whole "stealth" thing and loudly announcing his presence while out of cover in cutscenes.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: Several, most notably Omen Deng and Brayko. It doesn't match well with the style of this game to have to fight enemies that just run up to you, ignoring the 2 assault rifle clips to the face you just gave them, and just beat the everliving crap out of you.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Madison Saint James.
    • Scarlet and Mina too in the endgame. Though with Scarlet it can be subverted in that she comes to help Leland if you fail to rescue her.
  • Darker and Edgier: An in-game example: if Mike has been friendly with Mina, but then are sent by Leland to kill her, she'll remark when Mike arrives that he seems harder and colder.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Implied in the last mission's debriefing. If your handler is SIE and you have sex with her Michael will comment that he hopes the camera wasn't recording. In the debriefing it says that Michael has a video that he removed and encrypted and has seen 143 times. It is a highly valuable piece of information wanted by all government agencies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Some of Michael's non-controllable dialogue hints to this being his default personality.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Pretty much any named character that is introduced as an antagonist can become an ally if you spare his life. There's even an achievement for getting all your enemies to be your friends within one game.
  • Defector from Decadence: It's never outright stated, but it's heavily implied that G22 is an off-shoot of one of the previous iterations of Alpha Protocol. According to a secret fact given by Albatross if you refuse to ally with him in Moscow, it mentions that one iteration was called G19, and Albatross knows of Alpha Protocol's inner workings. It helps that Alpha Protocol follows an apparently well-established policy of "Yellow Brick Roading," whereby each agent sets up their own funds, supplies, contacts, and safehouses, meaning that any agent could theoretically shoot off and do their own thing if the organization goes under.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: And we mean everything. This game ran so rampant with this trope that even Yahtzee commented on it, stating his opinion that the game was "just showing off!"
    • Characters will actually comment on your clothing style, armor, and weapons choices, and cutscenes will be completely different depending on sometimes minor choices or even what skills you have points in. For example, after recovering the assassination plans in Taipei, if Mike has a high technical aptitude, he'll be decrypting the files. Otherwise, Mina will do it.
    • In some cases, the commentary will come several missions later; e.g. if you're wearing heavy armor while rescuing Surkov from the US Embassy, he'll comment on the armor when you meet him. If you're wearing civilian attire, on the other hand, he'll comment on it later in his office.
      Surkov: "You have a lot of pockets! Have you come to check my internet connection?"
    • Omen Deng will comment on your choice of armor in the subway station. For stealth armors, he compliments you on wearing camouflage, but says civilian clothing would have been smarter. For heavy armors, he says "You look like you're prepared for war." And for utility armor, he tells you "You look like you're prepared for anything." He compliments you on blending into the crowd if you choose civilian clothing, even though you're openly carrying two guns.
    • Informants for a particular mission hub will be pleased if you came to them first rather than going to do some other business in their turf. Grigori will show off even more of how much he knows if you happen to have visited places other than Moscow first. "Taipei, out of Rome?" There was no reason the developers needed this level of attention to detail, but they did it!
    • Getting past the door guards at the US Embassy in Moscow requires some careful persuasion....unless you chose Soldier or Veteran as your background, in which case you pull a Bavarian Fire Drill and walk right inside without any trouble at all.
    • The game keeps track on what stances you use in the opening of the game and gives you a perk for sticking to one of the three stances. Characters will keep referencing your dominant stance, which may not be the one you used mainly during the opening. At the very end, Leland will mention it if you've undergone a shift in dominant stance during the game, describing it as Character Development and ask you if you feel comfortable with your new direction.
    • Another statistic the game keeps track of are fatalities (naturally) as well as Hospital Bills, highlighting the fact that incapacitating someone non-lethally does not mean they were unharmed.
      • It also tracks "orphaned children", with those killed in the Middle East yielding far higher numbers due to regional differences.
    • For a short while during the mission to infiltrate Marburg's villa, Thorton is disarmed of all his equipment. You cannot use lethal stealth kills on enemies during this time - his knife's been taken away, too!
    • Some are quite subtle. If you are relaxed and chatty with Grigori, he'll like the fact you're not violent nor businesslike. Later, when you first meet Surkov, he'll have no idea who you are - because Grigori didn't betray you to him.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Thorton can set one of these up on Leland and Alpha Protocol. And it is awesome. To elaborate: as you play the game, it becomes increasingly obvious that Leland has no idea G22 exists, and with skill and effort it's possible to keep it that way for the entire game, as they stealthily assist you in bringing down his entire organization. Then in the endgame, Halbech thinks they've finally caught you, all your allies are accounted for, no one is left to help you, there's no possible escape...and then suddenly the power goes down, the security grid goes nuts, and the compound is stormed by dozens of coordinated heavily-armed commandos in high-tech military gear out of fucking nowhere.
  • Dirty Coward: The boss fight with Darcy, where he simply hides up in a guard tower flinging grenades, sending wave-after-wave of minions at you, and taunting you endlessly, and then has the gall to say he's kicking your ass. He'll also complain that you're not playing fair if you go into stealth mode or hide behind cover.
  • Disco Dan: Replace disco with 80's rock music and you have Brayko.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Steven Heck's a nutcase, but he is remarkably calm and casual most of the time, even in combat. He tends to treat missions where things get blown sky-high as absolutely normal. But God help you if you don't know where his keys are! Poor Wen Shu...
    • It was notable that during the hotel mission he is whistling while in a shootout with the hotel guards.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • Double Entendre:
    • SIE's possibly favorite trope, next to BFG.
    • The first email you get from Steve—er, Steven Heck, concerning the weapons he sells on the black market, is titled "Buy My Junk." He actually admits its on purpose. Made even more hilarious with the translation in Poland when it translates to "Grab the barrel of my gun" . A perfect example of Woolseyism.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Played with. While fighting Brayko he can defeat himself by taking doses of cocaine. But that's if you have Steve—er, Steven Heck "fix" it beforehand. If not than Brayko just goes on cocaine fueled, knife rampage.
  • Easy Exp: You get Perks for everything.
  • El Cid Ploy: It is implied that Fidel Castro is dead and that the Cuban government is covering this up. Ironically, Castro proved that he was still alive a few months after the game was released.
  • Escort Mission: In Russia, one mission ends with you having to protect Surkov from hordes of either G22 or VCI goons, depending on which you chose to ally with. (How much damage he takes during the fight determines his attitude toward you afterwards.)
  • Every Man Has His Price: As suitable for a spy drama, you get a lot of bribe attempts, be it with money or with information, tossed your way in this game.
    • Bribe Backfire: It's up to you how you want to respond to them, with plenty of opportunities for this. The most clear-cut example comes if you're friends with Steven Heck, however: At the end of Taipei, a VCI representative will try to bribe him into fingering you as Ronald Sung's assassin. Steven pops off two of his fingers with a cigar clipper (the guy called him Steve) and sets him on fire.
  • Evil Counterpart: Marburg tells Mike that Mike's position is the same as his twenty years ago. They even look a lot alike.
  • Expy:
    • Al-Samad and its leader bear more than a resemblance to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
    • Halbech, a morally ambiguous defense contractor with government contacts, is an obvious composite of the real-world companies Halliburton and Bechtel.
  • Eye Scream: Scarlet does this to Leland if you make the right choices. Sniper bullet at such a close range that it leaves burns. Thorton himself can do the same thing with his handgun upon choosing to execute Leland.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • Leland's "What?", after he learns that Mike has planted a mine on him, if you betray him at the climax of the Halbech ending.
      Leland: What?!
      (BOOM!)
      Thorton: Terrible last words.
    • "I will end you, Thorton."
    • "Go to Hell." "Not the best I've heard, but..."
  • A Father to His Men: Marburg, to the point that he flies into an incoherent rage and attacks you if you kill his men.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: Combat, tech, and stealth skills, along with the Soldier, Tech Specialist and Agent professions. Subverted in that, as the Operative specialization points out, most veteran field agents don't pigeonhole themselves into one method of solving problems.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The plotline should a Novice Thorton have the Thorton, Inc. ending.
  • Gag Boobs: A few jokes are made at SIE's chest. Apparently she had some work done.
  • Gambit Pileup:
    • There are so many layers of deception that by the end of the game you'll find yourself wondering if there is at least one person who is not involved in something, has an agenda or a double agent. Steven Heck; at least, he has no agenda of his own and isn't part of any of the conspiracies.
    • And that's only if you don't count the Shrug of God from Chris Avellone that implies Heck was the one who sold Halbech all the info and materiel they needed to set up the hit on Sung in the first place, and got Omen Deng the info fingering you as Sung's assassin-to-be.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • A few missions, like the Embassy in Moscow, will sometimes credit you with an entirely different approach in the debriefing. A few of these are major enough to completely change the ending like when said mission in Moscow says you shot US Marines even though you actually fought beside them in the mission. This can be avoided by not ever using the second story "sneaking route" entrance, either leaving or exiting the building. Opening that triggers an event flag that says you sided against the Marines, even when you never fired a shot or were never even seen. And if you paid extra for the sniper rifle delivery to the roof, you'll just have to climb up the ladder from outside the building in order to access it.
    • Also with the early Saudi missions as part of the railroading. Doorways and the like are one way only. If you find a way to back track, you can fall through the floor and need to reset the game.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: With the exception of a brief Escort Mission, whenever an important ally gets into a fight, they are invincible and have deadly aim.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Most of your abilities are justifiably within the range of human limits, such as concentrating really hard so you can snap off a bunch of precision shots in an instant, but the Stealth skillset full-on lets you become invisible for short periods of time. You can abuse this to punch a a small group of people in the throat right in front of one another to take them all down.
    • "Iron Will" increases the players damage resistance for a short time. It also gives him a blue glow and when he gets hit by bullets it sounds as though they hit solid metal. "IRON Will" indeed.
    • One character threatens to shoot at the crates Mike is hiding behind. Said crates are completely bullet proof in gameplay. She may have been bluffing.
    • During a Pacifist Run, players will be irritated to see cutscenes portraying Mike as killing people (such as the ending of Marburg's villa mission.)
  • Gatling Good:
    • To quote one of the Taipei mission debriefings: "During the pursuit, Steven Heck (at Agent Thorton's request) arrived to offer emergency backup. Said backup came in the form of Heck crudely mounting a minigun to a subway car and firing wildly at Chinese secret police officers as his train passed the platform."
    • If you choose to bring down the entirety of Alpha Protocol, one of your final fights is with Yancy, who uses a trio of them — though only one at a time of course — for maximum room coverage.
  • The Ghost: Alexi Dravic
  • Gondor Calls for Aid:
    • The more allies you make, the more help you at the end.
    • Enemies, too. In the case of G22, its leader Albatross will be really, REALLY pissed off at you if you killed Sis, justified self-defense or not, and in preparation for going into Alpha Protocol, Mike can call Albatross. If he's on your side, good for you. If he's not, Mike can goad Albatross into showing up for the final showdown at Alpha Protocol anyway because it's the last chance he'll have to kill you to get revenge for killing Sis.
  • Good Is Not Nice: You can play Thorton as a real jerkass.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Mike is only ever seen with a cigar in the ending where he joins Leland.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: Secretive organization within the United States government also known as Alpha Protocol.
  • Guide Dang It: Trial and error is the only real way to learn how to get the responses you want to your actions. Of course, since the game rewards you for everything, it even has a perk and Achievement for waffling a bunch on what stance you take.
    • How to fight Marburg to the death, as he usually avoids or escapes conflict. The simplest method is to befriend Madison, and then reveal her fate to Parker in an optional conversation. Less simple is finding most of Parker's complete dossier, which is inexplicably hidden in certain email conversations, and then passing it on to Marburg. Most complex of all is goading him into fighting in Rome, which is triggered by a complicated script, apparently involving every conversation you've had in the entire game.
    • How to make it so you're not considered to have fired on the Marines at the embassy in Russia. Talk your way through the front door, and never open the door from the second floor to the roof until the very final part.
    • There's a mission in Taipei where you have to intercept a messenger, but at the end the messenger tricks you into a taking-you-with-me situation where the both of you are about to get hit by a train. And to make it worse, this is in a section of the tracks where there's no alcove, so if you don't perform the right action the both of you will die. There's a couple ways to solve this:
      • One, you can turn around and head back the way you came, finding a door, and then try to pick the lock before the train arrives (although this is insanely hard to pull off in time, because the train is still coming while you are picking the lock).
      • Two, you can run towards the messenger, quickly knock him out, then hit the lever to switch the tracks so the train misses you. This method is much easier.
    • When facing Darcy as a boss in the final mission in Alpha Protocol, he can be extremely hard to beat since he holes up in a guard tower, rarely exposes himself to damage, and keeps spamming grenades at you so you can't stay in cover for too long, but staying out of cover exposes you to Mooks shooting you. So how do you beat him? You need to hold onto at least one EMP Charge until this point, then have it selected as a gadget. Then, use it to disable the lock on the tower the boss isn't hiding in (picking the lock manually takes too long and you'll get shot while doing it). That tower has a sniper rifle in it, and the boss's grenades can't reach you there, so you can kill the boss in about five shots. Just make sure you don't get blown up before or while you climb the ladder, however, since it's only at the top of the tower that the boss can't reach, so it's recommended you enter the tower after Darcy's already thrown grenades somewhere else.
  • Guile Hero: Mike Thorton if you want him to be. It is heavily recommended by the game itself.
  • Guns Akimbo:
    • Submachine guns are always dual-wielded. The point of them is not to be accurate, but to empty the clip. Sis is also fond of a pair of revolvers.
    • Brayko and his twin SMGs, when he's not trying to stab you in the face.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: If you are familiar with guns, try not to snicker at the in-game descriptions of how the gun upgrades work. Definitely a case of Rule of Cool meets Story And Gameplay Segregation.
  • The Gunslinger: Points in the right skills allow the player to be a downright omnicidal mix of all four types.
  • Hacking Minigame: A decoding minigame, a hotwiring minigame, plus a third one with lockpicks.
  • The Handler: Yancy Westridge, several other characters as well. Your handlers actually give you certain bonuses, depending on whether they like or hate you.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Generally averted, but played dead straight with the final level, which throws between three and five bosses at you (depending on your choices throughout the game), plus legions of Mooks, plus one of the few Timed Missions, then caps it off with a Final Boss who doesn't run away, take cover, or disappear when you try to hit him, has low damage reduction, and can't dish it out (or take it, for that matter) in melee.
  • Heroic BSOD: What happens to Michael after Rome. It's worse if you didn't save Madison
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Steven Heck hands down. Just imagine Max from Sam and Max but set in a non-cartoon universe. His introduction is a reference to Jack Bauer.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja:
    • The advanced stealth armors are very shiny...
    • Thorton has the option of skipping stealth altogether and just shooting everyone. Lampshaded by Albatross if you bungle the Embassy mission: "Do you just walk up to every soldier you see and introduce yourself?"
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • By encouraging agents to procure their own source of funding, supplies, and intel, Alpha Protocol ensures that after Thorton goes rogue, he can not only stay under the radar but come back and destroy them.
    • It is possible to set one of these up against Alpha Protocol at the endgame by calling on G22 to attack their facility. Since G22 is the offshoot of G19, a former iteration of Alpha Protocol, that means that you're pitting a former version of AP against itself, built out of the very resources allocated to G19 up until it was dissolved.
    • You can also do this to G22 in Moscow. If you agree to a partnership with Albatross, G22 will sell you all kinds of intel for the mission to get to Surkov at the embassy. If you choose to use SIE as your handler for the mission, however, G22 will storm the embassy and you will have to fight them off...using the intel (including a strategically placed sniper rifle) that they sold you beforehand.
  • How We Got Here: The game opens with Leland interrogating Thorton. It turns out that Thorton let himself get captured.
  • I Can Rule Alone: When Leland hires you, he doesn't exactly check to make sure you'll be a loyal minion.
  • I Gave My Word:
    • Sparing Shaheed has its benefits. He is a man of his word as he says, and doesn't just vanish off to stroke his beard and be villainous. You have to actually agree to let him go, however, as he'll die in the attack if you arrest him.
    • The ending reveals that he's alive and well, and continuing to carry out his attacks.
    • Unless of course you spare him in Saudi, meet up with him just before the final mission, and turn down his offer of help. You'll politely thank him for the intel on Halbech he gave you, listen to his bodyguards run into a pack of landmines you set, and shoot him in the head for his part in the airline attack that kicked off the game.
  • I Minored in Tropology: In the catacombs of Carsulae, Mina jokingly credits her knowledge of bathhouses to her "major" in Ancient Roman Plumbing and a "minor" in Architecture.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Hong Shi looks pretty much like his voice actor, James Hong.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Scarlet Lake, a photojournalist who is known for "covering developments in dangerous places". She's also a bit of a Hot Scoop.
  • Insistent Terminology: Heck is your friend now, that means first name basis buddy pal! Just... don't call him Steve.
  • Ironic Echo: During the last mission, if you let your ally take a shot at Scarlet, who has just shot you to the back—-
    Scarlet: Now there's a picture.
    (After Scarlet is shot just like Mike was not a minute earlier
    Mike: Now there's a picture.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: If you figure out the source of the missiles and hide said knowledge—
    Leland: "I thought I'd underestimated you, but it looks like you're too stupid to figure it out."
    (Cut to the original event)
    Mike: "So they underestimated me and they thought I was too stupid to figure it out!"
  • I Shall Taunt You: Mike can do this to some enemies just to piss them off. For example, talking suave to Marburg is the only way to get him to stick around in Rome to fight and die. If Mike chooses to kill Sis, he can call up Albatross to taunt him about this to get him to assault Alpha Protocol just to kill Mike before he can slip out of his fingers.
  • Israelis with Infrared Missiles: Some of the best weapons in the game are produced by Samael, a fictional Israeli manufacturer likely based on the real-life Raphael.
  • Just for Pun: Mike makes one when talking to Steven, if you select the right option. "Shouldn't you have stabbed him to get the 'point.'"
  • Karma Houdini: Depends on your actions. People who have done some bad things can get shot, or they can get away with it. Marburg is certainly the go-to example here; it's much easier to miss the chance at killing this one then the others. The trick is to push his dislike of you down as far as possible - mock and belittle him as much as possible until he finally attacks you, and then you can kill him. Or else let Madison die, then tell Parker about it and fight Marburg instead of Parker.
  • Karma Meter:
    • There is none to speak of, though the game keeps track of every action you take and during at least one ending a character will recount every bad thing you've done. So if you want to play Michael as an extra-Manipulative Bastard who only seemed like he was doing good right up until he decides to work for the bad guys, you can go for it.
    • True to form, Obsidian have planned for the latter approach and it'll be noted that "nobody could ever understand what's going through [Mike's] head".
  • Kent Brockman News: The INN newscasters, who occasionally report on stories like "the dreaded Nigerian puppy scam" and the shocking new study linking sugar to hyperactivity in children.
  • Kill 'em All: Depending on how you play, the game can end with nearly the entire main cast dead. The only major character you can't kill off is Steven Heck, though you can't eliminate both SIE and Albatross in the same game.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • Steven Heck's preferred method of killification.
    • Also a perk if you use enough fire grenades.
  • Kirk Summation: Michael Thorton delivers an epic one to Conrad Marburg if you choose to let Madison die and give suave responses when talking to Marburg before and during the boss fight. If you have enough negative reputation, Marburg will fight to death.
  • Knife Nut:
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Thorton abandoned by the agency and going rogue could have been quite a twist... it could have. Especially if it wasn't the kind of twist everybody uses these days.
  • Laughably Evil:
    • Konstantin Brayko. He is a rather vicious mob boss, but the guy's bizarre 80s obsession and just how Ax-Crazy he is make him a real entertaining bundle of fun. If you simply read his dossier you look forward to killing him, but if you take some time to talk to him before, that urge really goes away.
    • While Steven Heck is technically an ally of the player and not quite evil, this trope is the main thing keeping him sympathetic at all. Normally a character who's disappointed at being told not to kill anyone would be rather vile if it wasn't someone as entertainingly completely crazy as Heck is.
  • Left Hanging: They never do explain why the NSA listening post in Rome is apparently manned by a civilian who doesn't respond to the passphrase.
  • Let's You and Him Fight:
    • The boss fight in Taipei.
    • In the ending, it's possible for Mike to set this up between Marburg and Parker in two ways: By completing Marburg's dossier and telling him that Parker was the handler responsible for making him go rogue or telling Parker that Marburg killed Madison, his daughter. Either way it ends with Parker dead while Mike gets to fight Marburg.
  • Level-Up at Intimacy 5:
    • Working on your relationships with your Handlers can increase the Handler Bonus you get from them.
    • Inverted in that you get equally useful bonuses if your handler hates you.
  • Likes Older Women: Michael if you romance SIE.
    • If you make Mike's advances overt however, SIE will get bored of you pretty fast.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Michael is the only character who ever changes clothes in the game (with exception to Darcy). In fact, the only time any character is ever seen even removing something, it's SIE during her sex scene with Michael, and Deng before his boss fight.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Not quite to Suikoden levels, but there's a lot of people to meet and/or hunt down.
  • Lost Forever: It is incredibly easy to unintentionally skip over computer terminals, dossiers, equipment, or money unless you search every area very thoroughly. Doors will sometimes close and lock behind you once you pass into a new area, cutting you off from whatever was behind you, so it's a good idea to take a minute to search every location for items. This can be very important at times. For example, if you don't hack a certain computer in "Intercept Surkov at US Embassy" and fill out all of Brayko's dossier, you won't be able to question him about his connections to Surkov and thus expose him as Halbech's original contact and then break that line/recruit Surkov into your own network.
  • Macguffin: The Halbech missiles.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Cutscene!Thorton may as well be invulnerable. Most (if not all) of the bosses fall into this category too, able to survive close to a good half dozen headshots. In a row.
    • And the cutscene in which Mike spares Leland, only to get interrupted by someone. And by "interrupted," I mean "shot through the upper chest with a sniper rifle from about twenty feet away" — which results in a column of Pink Mist erupting from his chest. After a couple of minutes of looking about you're about to get a Non Standard Game Over, Mike's back on his feet and good as new.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Michael, if you pick up on people's behavior (which isn't hard) and how they prefer to be treated — read the dossiers! — can be one of these. Nothing quite like playing someone up so that they really like you, and then smashing their face into a table.
    • This is actually one of the reasons Westridge thinks Mike would be a good agent; when Mike questions if his people skills are really that good, Westridge says it's not that he's charismatic but Mike can read people very well and thus manipulate his/their responses as needed.
  • Master of None: Inexperienced players want to avoid this, especially if not playing with the bonus AP from the Veteran background. A generalist build is doable but very difficult if you don't know what you're doing. On the flipside, completely neglecting the other aspect will end poorly; stealth/technical builds need some investment in combat skills for the unskippable bosses and combat builds need some investment in technical to pass some puzzles.
  • The Men in Black: The CIA agents and Marburg's Deus Vult agents tend to rock this look, though the G22 agents tend to fill in the role as shadowy agents.
  • Metaphorgotten: "Does the Pope shit in the woods?"
  • Mind Screw: Start the game as a "Veteran" and when Mike first picks up his PDA, he'll briefly see, instead of Mina's face, the face of the grubby weird guy running the NSA gelato shop/information server. He'll wonder if hallucinations are a side-effect of the drugs.
  • The Mole: Many, many of the characters are keeping their real loyalties hidden:
    • Alpha Protocol, the whole organization, is basically working for Halbech. The one exception is Mina, who never actually left the NSA and has been spying on Alpha Protocol for them.
    • Scarlet was hired by Halbech to assassinate the President of Taiwan.
    • Omen Deng, high-ranking member of the Chinese Secret Police, is a Fake Defector and Taiwanese double agent.
    • Surkov in Moscow is the real Halbech contact, but he sics you on Brayko. Unless you've been playing smart, you'll never even find out and the final Moscow mission will be closed off.
    • Almost every organization you have to fight in the game has at least one mole who will feed you intel for a price: Deus Vult, the CIA, Al-Samad, the Mafiya, the Triad defectors, even G22 (although their mole isn't actually a member of their organization, it's the guy who installed their autoturrets).
  • More Friends, More Benefits: Played mostly straight. You get the "womanizer" perk for seducing every possible Love Interest in the game, and shopping for equipment and intel is easier if you're buddies with the people who provide you with such things. Plus, it's usually easier to get dossier information from people who like you, which often opens up new options for developing the plot. However, it's not essential; the game is still perfectly winnable if you go through it actively trying to piss off absolutely everyone, and in fact has perks for going out of your way to antagonise 'em all.
  • Multiple Endings: Four of them, with dozens of variations. They are as follows:
    • "Crime Buster": Mike exposes Halbech, causing it to go out of business, but is either unable or unwilling to expose Alpha Protocol, leaving the agency free to reform under another name.
    • "No Compromise, No Mercy": Mike exposes both Halbech and Alpha Protocol leading to the disolution of both organizations.
    • "Rising Star": Mike becomes Leland's dragon and the two of them make it look as though Alpha Protocol was solely responsible for the conspiracy.
    • "Thorton, inc.": Same as above, except Mike betrays Leland and uses his allies to rule the world behind the scenes.
      • Most sub-variants of the four above depend on who is Mike's handler for the final mission and who rides off into the sunset with him. It could be Mina, who will show up by default if you romanced her, or Scarlet if you romanced her but not Mina (and also depending, of course, on whether they lived or died). Steven Heck will pop up if he's been selected as your handler and the criteria for the other two haven't been met; he can save you from being sniped as well. Failing all that, Mike will ride the boat home alone, talking to himself.
  • Necessary Drawback: Most equipment have this. A certain magazine type may increase ammo capacity but penalise stability. Armored joints increase Endurance but make more noise. Stealth armour has good sound dampening but inferior Endurance bonuses to combat armour. Even the stuff that is a straight upgrade over base gear, usually guns manufactured by Hamilton, usually has inferior stats in certain areas compared to other manufacturers' weapons that greatly improve one or two areas in exchange for penalising others.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight: One of the possible bosses is "Championchik", a Dumb Muscle Olympic boxing champion turned bratva who only uses his fists. Gunning him down is the easy way to win, and Mike will say a variation of the line if you go this route.
  • New Game+:
    • If you beat the game with the recruit background you can play through again with the Veteran background. This starts you off with three levels in every skill (with no effect on your future AP), and with better armour and weapons. Also a bit of a Game Breaker: after the initial mission, you have the option of customizing your character, and there's absolutely nothing preventing you from removing AP from the skills you won't use and bumping up the skills you do. You can max out three skills (to the level limits, anyway) before you leave Saudi Arabia. Also a Bragging Rights Reward since beating the game as a Recruit means you've proven that you don't need those extra skill points.
      • Many of the "Veteran" stances indicate that this version of Thorton simply does not have time to deal with rookie crap; he demands a fast-forwarding of the orientation process and his very first line in the game upon waking up is "Where's my gear?" rather than a confused "I can't believe they drugged me!"
  • New Meat: You can also choose to have Mike start off with a Rookie background. Doing so means that you'll not have any AP when you start the game, but you can get special bonuses that are only available to Rookies if you play into your inexperience in the tutorial section. You'll still be underpowered compared to other backgrounds, but its the only way to unlock Veteran.
  • Nice Hat: Quite a few, including Hong Shi's fedora, SIE's beret and Omen Deng's Commissar Cap. Mike can get a beret of his own, or an ushanka during the Russia hub.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: When Alpha Protocol betrays Thorton, they forgot that Alpha Protocol is so secretive that not even Westridge knows where all their safe houses are. Guess where Thorton hides from Alpha Protocol between missions. Additionally, Alpha Protocol by its very nature of encouraging agents to acquire their own information and supply networks made sure that Thorton could stay under the radar and still get supplies and information. In short, Alpha Protocol made sure that Thorton had the resources required to destroy Alpha Protocol.
  • Ninja:
    • If you let Brayko live he later describes you as the offspring of "(expletive) Ronald Reagan and an (expletive) American Ninja."
    • Darcy calls you one of these in an email if you go through an early mission without killing anyone or raising any alarms.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • The game can be pretty brutal... but only if you specialize in one style of gameplay. Skill specialization won't hurt you by itself, however being unable to be flexible and think on your feet will.
    • A no-alarms and no-kill playthrough would be a challenge for Big Boss, though. No-kill at least can be eked out by using the pistol with the (expensive) sedative rounds, plenty of points in martial arts and toughness and some in stealth.
    • Boss fights, doubly so if you're running a fragile build. Marburg will punch the hell out of you if you get close. Or any encountered with a low supply of ammo, not enough points in certain skills, etc. This isn't unique to Alpha Protocol but it does seem to happen a fair amount.
  • Noble Demon: Shaheed comes off as this, more or less. Once he makes a promise, he keeps it, and he's quite smart and forthcoming. If he wasn't running a terrorist organization that blew up a passenger airplane in the beginning it'd be easy to like the guy. At the very least, it's easy to see why he inspires loyalty among his men.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Mike can deliver one of these to Grigori, complete with repeatedly slamming his head against the bar and then beating him over the head with a bottle of vodka.
  • Noodle Incident: No one really knows what Wen Shu did to earn Steven's animosity. Considering that Wen gets the blame when Heck can't find his keys, it's possible that he never did anything at all.
    Steven: That's why I like ya Mike, you're a stand-up guy. Not like Wen. No sir. Not like Wen at all.
  • No Party Given: Averted, twice:
    • U.S. Senator Patrick Darcy (Sean's father) is identified as a Virginia Republican (by the notation "R-VA") in a dossier Michael can receive from Mina.
    • President of Taiwan Ronald Sung is given an explicit party affiliation.
  • No Such Agency:
    • Alpha Protocol officially doesn't exist for the purpose of providing deniable assets. This is good for the U.S. government, but not so much for its agents, who are disavowed if caught. Guess what happens to Mike at the end of the Saudi Arabia arc.
    • It also can bite Leland in the ass: if you choose to leave him hanging for the manipulations he had Alpha Protocol perform, he'll say that he'll be fine, because the government will never allow his involvement with Alpha Protocol to become public. But it doesn't exist, something Mike explicitly points out, explaining that the government can just deny the existence of the program and leave Leland out to dry. Which they do.
  • Not Quite The Right Thing:
    • After Marburg's Sadistic Choice in Rome, pretty much every character in the game treats letting Madison die to defuse the bombs as the more moral choice, but the epilogue reveals that it actually did more to further Halbech's goal of passing tougher anti-terrorism laws. Similarly, saving Sung from assassination leads to China and Taiwan moving closer to war.
    • Though for the Taipei case, no matter what your choice China and Taiwan will move closer to war. It'll just vary in cause. As to Rome, there is a subtle hint that the results of defusing the bombs isn't quite in line with Halbech's goals: they were aiming to institute tougher anti-terrorism laws in the EU. The ending for Madison dying talks about Senator Darcy using Madison's death to push for tougher anti-terrorism laws in the USA.
  • Not So Different: Marburg is a bitter, betrayed Thorton 30 years later. Thorton points this out to Marburg's annoyance - or pleasure, if Thorton has gained his approval.
  • Notice This: The game has golden icons over collectibles and other interactive items such as ladders.
  • Oh, Crap: You get one when Omen Deng reveals that he's actually trying to prevent Sung's assassination, and he thought that you were the killer. Meanwhile, the real assassin...
  • Omnicidal Neutral: A particularly hilarious — although not very subtle — gaming style consists in bulldozing your way through the game playing Mike as a perpetually angry Determinator who antagonizes everyone and keeps executing every single enemy who has the misfortune of being at his mercy, regardless of his/her faction. The only major character who he can't arrange the end of is Steven Heck, though some deaths are mutually exclusive. Considering Heck himself loves violence, he gets off most on Mike's rampage (aside from SIE, who will sometimes hum The Ride of the Valkyries while Mike blasts Marburg's villa.)
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Dear God where do we start? 'SIE', 'Albatross', 'Sis'.
    • Interestingly, if you hack the computer in the locker room at Alpha Protocol after the intro sequence, you can read an e-mail from Westridge to the other agents telling them of the new arrival. He says they are "to refer to the new arrival as Michael Thorton," implying that we don't even know the protagonist's real name.
  • Optional Sexual Encounter: There are four romance-able characters in this game. You get a perk for sleeping with each one and a different perk for having slept with all four. Alternately, you can get other perks for refusing to sleep with some of them individually and for sleeping with nobody. Your choice.
  • Optional Stealth: If the enemy doesn't see you, they don't try to blast your brains out, and if you manage to get right next to an enemy without being detected, you can take them down in one hit. And since The Dev Team Thinks of Everything, a fair amount of dialogue will change if you stealth your way through a level. But it is also perfectly viable to run-and-gun, and you will want some investment in combat skills for the unskippable boss fights.
  • Pacifist Run:
    • You can do it if you want to. Good luck. The game even has a unique metric for tracking your kills: Orphans Created. Kill one guy, and you might create one, two, or three orphans per kill. It is entirely possible to get through the game without killing anyone, but it requires significant investment in tranq rounds (at about $5000 a box), a lot of luck/save scumming with random ammo pickups, or near-exclusive reliance on stealth and hand-to-hand combat. Note that tranquilizing a boss will still result in them being covered in blood when you talk to them, though (note that shooting a boss with normal bullets does not count as a kill: you have to choose to kill them).
    • The game also tracks non-lethal takedowns - in hospital costs!
    • You get perks for having a lot of non-lethal takedowns that make this easier to do as the game goes on. Among other things, you get major boosts to your endurance and your sneaking skills.
    • There are a few non-optional kills, two manned vehicles and one person on foot (the first two at least are not counted in your kill stats). That's not counting ones your character kills in cutscenes no matter how you dealt with them.
  • Plan B: Kill It with Fire. See above.
  • Playing Hard to Get: In a rare male-to-female inversion, the less interested Thorton is in SIE, the more interested she is in him.
  • Power-Up Letdown: The first level stealth armour actually lowers your Sound Dampening rating compared to casual clothes. You need the second level to even get parity, and the third, highest tier in order to exceed what casual clothes offer.
  • Precision F-Strike: While the game certainly does not want for swearing, Mike can engage in an absolutely glorious example of this against Marburg in Rome provided he has the proper intelligence on Marburg and Deus Vult.
    Mike: Does Leland send you out for dry cleaning, too? Maybe shoot your chauffeur on the way? Chief of Security for Halbech - talk about a joke. Yeah, I know all about Deus Vult and that abortion of an op in the Middle East. Poor Agent Marburg believed dead...maybe wishing he was dead. Boo. Fucking. Hoo.
  • The Present Day: The game was set in 2009. Later changed to 2010, probably because the release date was pushed back.
  • Prestige Class: After completing the Saudi Arabia hub, you get to assign Mike his new Specialization. This determines which three skills you get to level all the way to 15, while the rest are stuck at 10 max.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Well, the whole cast really since this is the Spy world, but subverted...in all places...by Steven Heck. He not only knows about Halbech, Alpha Protocol, G22, and every other organization's dirty secrets but ALSO knew that Scarlet was the sniper in Taiwan...which he takes all in total stride and chooses to focus on making probably the longest run on conspiracy theory sentence you'll ever read.
    • What's even weirder is how Steven Heck's conspiracy e-mail isn't as crazy as you would think! While he does add some bits of crazy in there (going on about a one-world government and such), there's a part in it later about banks offering people loans they couldn't pay off, and using that to claim property when they didn't pay up. This eerily reflects many sentiments in real life concerning a recent event in American history where it was thought that banks had offered people loans they couldn't pay off for just that purpose.
  • Psycho for Hire: Heck, SIE, the rest of the VCI.
  • Punch-Packing Pistol: Unlike the other three weapons who are fairly situational (shotguns are short-ranged and noisy, smgs are inaccurate and noisy, assault rifles require aiming time and can only target locations, not characters), the pistol is pretty much always useful (if not as useful as the specialist weapon). It's also the only weapon suited for stealth or nonlethal gameplay and once Chain Shot and AP bullets get involved the other three weapons can pretty much go home because a chain of critted headshots will sweep a room or kill a boss faster than any other weapon in the game.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Mike does this to Leland after the final boss battle.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mike can deliver one of them to several main characters. It is especially violent against Marburg and Mina
  • Regenerating Shield, Static Health: The Shield's called "Endurance" but otherwise fits.
  • Relationship Values
  • The Remnant: It is strongly hinted that G22 is actually the remnant of a previous iteration of Alpha Protocol known as G19.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand:
    • It's a complicated spy drama, this sort of thing should be expected. For example, Alpha Protocol (the organization) is so heavily compartmentalized that no one person who works for it knows everything there is to know about the organization, and this means you could technically be on the run from them and still be able to use some of their hidden safehouses.
    • This is almost certainly the case with G22. In a few files or conversations, you may learn that one of Alpha Protocol's prior incarnations was called "G19" and since Alpha Protocol's hierarchy encourages compartmentalization and splinter groups, they are almost certainly one such off-shoot. Since you can potentially turn one against the other, it definitely becomes a case of Right Hand Versus Left Hand.
    • This trope is invoked directly when Mike introduces himself to Surkov.
      "The right hand and the left hand aren't on speaking terms these days."
    • The entire Operation: True Heirs mission. Both you and Omen Deng are in Taipei to prevent President Sung's assassination, and both of you have been informed that the other is the assassin. You spend so much time fighting each other that the real assassin is able to get to Sung almost literally under your noses.
  • The Rival:
    • Darcy, depending on how you treat him. Otherwise, Mike and Darcy become something akin to Bash Brothers. Which makes the betrayal and subsequent boss fight with him even worse.
    • One of your perks is this, which talks about Marburg.
  • Romance Sidequest
  • Rule of Cool:
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • All the damn time. Save the girl or save a hundred from a museum bombing? Save the Taiwanese president or save hundreds from a riot?
    • And you can't even Take a Third Option except a very few times. For example, in the final mission, when given the choice between rescuing another character and saving the data... you can actually manage to do both. Go for the girl first.. You can also Take a Third Option in Brayko's mansion... but only if you're a Veteran, or have at least 8 points in Technical Aptitude or Stealth.
    • Made worse in Rome by the fact that you don't know if Marburg is pulling a Joker and lying about the respective locations of the things you can choose between. It turns out he's not; both Madison and the bombs are in the positions Marbug says they're in. No switcheroo here. It doesn't really make the choice any less sadistic, though.
  • Say My Name: The official Music Video.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: These are an optional look for Michael.
  • Schrödinger's Gun:
    • No matter what your character's background is that makes him perfect for joining Alpha Protocol. But since you're just the fall guy...
    • Similarly, whichever personality Mike demonstrates in the first couple of missions, that's the reason Mina put her faith in him.
    • Also used so that your choices always lead to the same results. For example, no matter what you choose in the Sadistic Choice in Rome, Marburg will say he expected you to choose the other path.
    • Used in the Rising Star/Thorton Inc. ending. If you choose the Rising Star ending, Thorton handed Leland the information on a data disc. In Thorton Inc., however, Thorton reveals that he actually gave Leland one of his remote mines instead.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!:
    Nasri: "Did you not hear me? I pay you! I pay—"
    Mike: "Westridge; One for extraction."
    • Ironically, you actually get more money by turning Nasri in than by accepting his bribe.
    • In a couple of the endings, Leland's last words will be an offer to bribe you if you choose to kill him.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Depending on your actions you can make Marburg and Scarlett abandon Halbech. Scarlet makes her resignation memorable.
  • Secret Mission Control: In the final mission, if you've done your homework and have a high enough reputation with a certain character, you can have Scarlet replace your handler partway through. This is the only time you can get her handler bonus.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!:
    • The gelato man. You can shoot him when he reaches for a cone. Of course, later, if you screw up, he pulls out what looks like an FAL, and you have to shoot him.
    • Happens again in Moscow with Sis and her locket after you beat her.
  • Shoot the Dog: You can choose to do it over and over again. For example, in Rome if you want to stop the museum bombing, you have to sacrifice Madison.
  • Shoot The Son Of A Bitch: A lot of the people you can shoot have it coming.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Mike Thorton's twitter feed, in addition to providing amusing tongue-in-cheek commentary on training at Alpha Protocol, as well as clues about gameplay features, often references other franchises. Some tweets from October and November of 2009 mention that he's heard Russian terrorists killed civilians in an airport, later noting that one of his superiors described it as "media bullshit."
    • In-game shout-outs include Time-Cube of all things.
    • Name of the yacht that you need to infiltrate in Moscow hub is a hilarious shout out to Adventures of Captain Vrungel
    • Many of other agencies mentioned in the game are, of course, shout outs to both real life and fictitious spy organizations.
    • One of the terrorist organizations operating in Saudi Arabia is the Al-Tair organization.
    • One of the perks/achievements is named "These Are Not The Agents You're Looking For".
    • A very subtle one when Westridge is briefing you when you first arrive at the safehouse in the Middle East. Apparently the computer has an internet connection "that's so fast you'll feel like you're going back in time."
    • The loading screen mentions both John Keats and Dan Simmons.
    • "Uh, I think they just armed the bombs." "Bombs."
    • Having Heck as your handler for the final mission will have him sometimes say "Danger, Mike Thorton, Danger!" in a robotic tone of voice.
    • According to Westridge's dossier, he was involved in an affair with a woman codenamed "Saffron."
    • The emails you get from tapping the NSA and CIA lookout posts in Rome have names appended to them that are references to spy characters from Tom Clancy books: Chet (Nomuri), (John) Clark, and Ding (Chavez).
    • The boss fight with Brayko is one long homage to Tony Montana's cocaine-and-rage-fueled last stand from Scarface (1983).
  • Shown Their Work: Quite a bit of Stephen Heck's rambling is based on either actual events (Acoustic Kitty really happened) or conspiracy theories floating around in Real Life (like the one about the Federal Reserve).
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • You can do it several times. Punching Smug Snake Leland and banging his head against the table is especially awesome - see above.
    • Especially since the above was your last chance to avoid imprisonment or death. Or so Leland thinks.
    • "Dear Steven, please shut the fuck up."
  • Sociopathic Hero: Mike can be played as one.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: The VCI is a faction of these.
  • Spell My Name with an "S":
    • Thorton was often confused with Thornton in previews. There is even a Lampshade Hanging on this in the game.
    • "Darcy sent me this for acing the tech course. He misspelt my name - 'Thornton'..."
  • Spiritual Successor: to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and Deus Ex.
  • Standard FPS Guns: Ready and accounted for!
    • The pistol is your standard pistol, though it is the only weapon compatible with a silencer and non-lethal ammunition, making it ideal for stealth playthroughs. It also has the Chain Shot ability, and if held on a target long enough, the bullet will go exactly where you want it to go with perfect accuracy and insane damage.
    • The shotgun manages to avert Short Range Shotgun, especially if you both upgrade your skill with shotguns and equip weapon mods that reduce scatter. It can also blow people off their feet if you aim it long enough to get a critical hit or use its special ability.
    • Submachineguns fill in the bullet hose role, wielded in pairs and having the advantage of Bottomless Magazines when their special ability is activated. In addition, the guns do more damage per shot as they rack up more hits.
    • Assault rifles serve as an excellent all-around weapon but specialize in being the marksman rifle, having very high accuracy and doing excellent damage on critical hits. If aimed for long enough, the rifle's burst will shoot directly at whatever you're targeting, normally leading to a Critical Hit. The special ability makes you automatically snap to the nearest target.
    • You can't carry a Sniper Rifle on most missions, but a sniper rifle can be purchased and left in certain areas as a dead drop. A couple of missions start out with Mike packing a sniper rifle, including a dedicated Sniping Mission.
    • Rocket launchers are available for a couple of specific boss battles (Shaheed's Stryker and the helicopter in the final mission)
    • Gun turrets can be manned on certain missions, generally after killing their operators and taking over. Other automated turrets can be hacked. A tech specialist Mike can even hack turrets that are normally unhackable using Remote Hack.
  • Statuesque Stunner: SIE is an even 6 feet.
  • Stealth Run: Possible for many missions in the game, but you need to be very patient. Stealth abilities are a means to an end - the end of running up to your opponents silently and choking them unconscious/cutting their throats. There are, however, certain missions which will mention whether or not you managed to completely evade detection and ghost the level, such as the CIA listening post in Rome. It is far easier to use exceptional stealth abilities to sneak around and knock out every guard without being detected, but entirely evading detection is difficult, if not impossible, on some levels.
  • The Stoner: Heck and Brayko.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • In a rare few cases, a properly specc'd Mike can actually get out of the Sadistic Choice.
    • Relatively easy and fun one in Taipei: bug all the servers during the mission to bug G22 servers, and you can bluff your way out of deactivating all of them, thereby getting Albatross to trust you more and getting data off the G22 database.
  • Take That: One of the Halbech Data emails you can find includes a mention of defective "Griffonhide" body armour, a thinly-veiled barb at the problem-plagued Real Life Dragon Skin armour.
    • Another Halbech email doesn't even bother trying to disguise the name of the Crusader mobile artillery platform.
  • Take Your Time: Most of the time, if there's no explicit onscreen timer, you can bum around exploring and waiting for cooldowns to complete in-mission and fly between safehouses as much as you want without penalty, regardless of what implied urgency there is. Prevent Surkov's Escape is one exception; you must do it immediately after the previous mission or miss out on it. It's not clear whether this is a bug or a Defied Trope.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Averted and lampshaded. Westridge points out that the clock is still running during a conversation, which means both your ability timers and your endurance will restore if there's a conversation in the middle of a battle or a level. Unfortunately, conversations rarely crop up in the middle of combat, and you can't actually initiate them yourself either, so the opportunities to make use of this tactic are few at best.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted, and played with. Mike's non-lethal takedowns are usually quite a bit more than this. Some (like the karate chop to the throat) could even be considered a bit too much. Michael himself hangs a lampshade on this trope when you make Madison scared and angry enough to make her attack you.
    Mike: "What are you doing? Hitting someone on the head to knock them out only works in movies."
  • Technical Pacifist: Thorton seems to enjoy making his non-lethal takedowns be extremely painful. Lampshaded by the description on the "Merciful" perk.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Depending on your choices, the final boss is either Yancy Westridge or Henry Leland. The former fights you with a series of miniguns, while the latter decides to use a rocket launcher.
  • Three-Way Sex: "Mike, I have important news. I totally did it. Two chicks. At once. Hells yeah." One of Mike's possible responses is asking if they weighed less than 600 pounds combined.
  • Timed Mission: And it's a short timer, too: you have 30 seconds to kill a guy, pick a lock on a door, and escape before you get hit by a train.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: SIE. Her opinion of you increases if you attack and try to kill her. And afterwards sends you a very friendly and complimentary email about her scars from the battle and how much they hurt and how much she loves you for it.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Michael gets betrayed and has to go rogue.
  • Tranquil Fury: No matter how much Mina hates your guts, she won't show her anger or disgust til the Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • Translation Convention: None of the non-American characters and enemies speak their own languages. In pretty much any background you pick, however, Mike speaks several languages, so he could just be translating on the fly. After all, the entire game, save for the last mission, is Mike telling the story to Leland after it happens while he is being interrogated. Since Michael is proficient in many languages, it is probable that he's just replacing all of the foreign dialog with English so Leland will understand.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Appear in Taipei.
  • Trick Bullet: Each primary weapon has two special ammunition types with unusual effects. For example, assault rifles have armor-piercing ammunition and subsonic ammo for silenced shooting, pistols have Tranquilizer Darts, and shotguns have incendiary shells.
  • Verbal Tic: SIE, dahling.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
  • Villainous Crush: A high approval from one of your enemies can lead to this. If you always play Thorton as an icy cold, robotic professional throughout the whole game, Conrad Marburg will be one of the people who will like and respect you more. Note that Madison insinuates Marburg is gay.
  • Walk It Off: In addition to his normal health bar, Mike also has "endurance" — some combination of bulletproof armor and an iron will — that'll let him endure an infinite amount of bullets and blunt trauma... as long as he can he can take periodic 15-second breaks to let his endurance recharge. Health, on the other hand, does not recharge on its own, so you'll need to find lots and lots of convenient first aid boxes.
  • War for Fun and Profit: What Halbech is trying to achieve.
  • The War on Terror: The reason why Thorton was sent to the Middle East in the first place.
  • We Can Rule Together: Leland uses this tactic on Mike. Mike can actually accept.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the final mission, if you rescue Scarlet and have a high enough reputation to ask her to be your handler, your previous handler will disappear (though Heck will show up again near the end if you have a low reputation with Scarlet but ask her to help anyways.)
  • What the Hell, Hero? / What the Hell, Player?: Kill people or do overt actions, and you will get yelled at by various people for it, most commonly Mina if you're killing civilians or American agents, Albatross if you're being way too loud and obvious, or Madison if you're being a jerk to her. On the other hand, SIE or Steven will gleefully praise you for going on murder sprees.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: During the end credits, one of the INN anchors will update you on what happened in the Middle East, Moscow, Taiwan, and Rome as a result of your choices.
  • Where It All Began: Operation Full Circle.
  • Where the Hell Is Alpha Protocol: Deliberately invoked. No key personnel working for Alpha Protocol know where the "Graybox" base is, no matter how trusted they are. If you want to go the base or leave it, you get sedated for two full days while your body is transported. It's inefficient, but it makes the organization practically mole-proof. Presumably the ones doing the transporting aren't being told the truth about who they're picking up or dropping off, and presumably the very top guys at Alpha Protocol know where the base is, but that's about it. Leland, meanwhile, knows exactly where it is because Halbech built the whole compound. Obviously, the contractors responsible for its construction would know where it was, even if they wouldn't know what it was for.
  • With This Herring: Justified. Since Alpha Protocol doesn't officially exist, they can't give Mike supplies without risking someone tracing the supplies back to them and thus finding out that they exist. It also helps that Mike was supposed to be killed at the conclusion of Operation Desert Spear, so giving him supplies would just be a waste of money.
  • Word Salad Title: All of Steven Heck's names he give to operations in Taipei. Operation Turbo Panther. Operation Latex Turtle. Operation Angry Bees. Operation YYYEEEAAAHHH!!!
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: The news report about the Brayko fight if he lives? One of the funniest lines in the game, delivered deadpan.
  • Xanatos Gambit: By Halbech. Leland notes that no matter what Mike did in Rome or Taipei, the operations ended up as successes for Halbech. Even cutting off their supply in Moscow didn't do much more than slow them down.
  • You Bastard:
    • This game keeps track of how many orphans you create due to the kills you rack up. It gets really sad when you realize that by kill only 15 people you managed to make 80 orphans.
    • And in a case of developer cleverness, who you kill actually influences how many orphans are left. For example, killing Al-Samad terrorists generates a lot of orphans, because Saudis have large numbers of children. Killing VCI, G22, or Alpha Protocol soldiers nets you very few orphans, because those sorts don't generally have families or children. Killing Chinese Secret Police troops nets one orphan per kill, because Chinese are legally restricted to only having one child per couple.
    • The game also keeps track of the medical bills for the mooks you take down non-lethally. You can inflict potentially millions of dollars in broken bones and battered bodies.
    • The writers love doing this in the news reports if you decide to cut deals with Nasri and/or Shaheed. If you let Nasri go instead of busting him, the next news report you see will be about a massacre on a U.S. Army base, with the implication that Nasri supplied the weapons. If you decide not to kill Shaheed, Al-Samad will launch a series of bombings in the West Bank. If you let both Nasri and Shaheed go, the bombings will claim hundreds of lives.
  • You Lose at Zero Trust:
    • Averted totally. You want to have a negative reputation with everyone, including your handlers? Go right ahead. All it means in the long run is that you'll have to fight more of your battles without backup, and if you keep that up long you'll get perks for playing that way to help you keep playing that way.
    • If you want to kill Marburg, you need to bury the needle on that rep meter.

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alternative title(s): Alpha Protocol
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