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Video Game / Alpha Prime

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"This is a very strange thing all the same, this hubbardium. Do you believe in Glomar, Arnold?"
Paolo Bellini

Alpha Prime is a 2007 PC Sci-Fi First-Person Shooter developed by Czech Republic company Black Element Software, with a script by Sci-Fi author Ondřej Neff.

The game features a hacking system allowing for remote controlling of doors, cameras, pressure valves, loaders, sentry guns, proximity mines, and more, a bullet time system, a vehicle driving segment, physics, and motion captured animation.

The story involves a man named Arnold Weiss traveling to a sealed off mining station to rescue his friend Warren Reynolds. The station was originally set up for mining a valuable mineral called hubbardium, said by superstitious miners to come from a mythical creature named Glomar. While looking for his friend, Arnold meets up with a prospector named Paolo, another ex-employee named Bruce, and the Colonel sent to clean up after the incident that shut down the station. As he gets deeper and deeper in, Arnold discovers that there may be more to this Glomar thing than he originally expected and there may be no one that he can trust.

This game exhibits the following tropes:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: At first it seems like the robots on the station are hostile to everything, even the other workers, for no reason whatsoever, as the humans at least have the excuse that they've been exposed to hubbardium. Later, you learn that the disaster that wrecked Alpha Prime did actually affect the robots when it unleashed hubbardium radiation. This is alluded to in the intro, where there is an ad that talks about how hubbardium is used to make positron brains, implying that the robots essentially went insane for the same reasons the humans did (the radiation got to their brains) and not because the robots had any flaw unique to them.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used only a couple of times, but played straight.
  • Anyone Can Die: Everyone except Livia dies in the end, even the main character.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The enemies aren't always the smartest, but they do use cover and do other complex maneuvers such as diving through windows and firing behind themselves while they run for cover. And while their voice emotes may not always be appropriate, they do communicate an illusion of strategy in their squads.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Paolo's Italian is somewhat butchered, and the subtitles' typos only make this worse. Especially strange since his voice actor is actually Italian.
  • Asteroid Miners: The entire premise of the game. The Company has people mining an asteroid known as Alpha Prime for hubbardium, and you are heading there to rescue your prospector friend.
  • Back from the Dead: Subverted when Paolo appears on a security camera, only for it to turn out to be a trap. Played straight at the end when Arnold is seemingly resurrected by Glomar (or maybe just possessed by it).
  • Big Bad Friend: Arnold's old friend Livia, who turns out to have been more or less setting up both sides from the beginning, and gets away with it... maybe. The ship Arnold wakes up on when possessed/resurrected by Glomar is Livia's, with her inside. The game ends before we can see what happens, but Arnold is... unlikely to be pleased by the course of the events.
  • Bad Boss: After Arnold massacres the entire Company army in order to reach Colonel Olivier, Olivier thanks Arnold for killing all of his men because one of them might have been spying on the Colonel for the Company.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Not quite as bad as some other examples (I'm looking at you, The Master of Unlocking), but the rambling, off-kilter nature of the dialogue makes it pretty clear that the script was translated (perhaps a bit too literally) from another language. And that's just the normal characters. Paolo is in an entire class of his own.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Paolo and some of his off-hand comments, though it still may take some interpretation.
  • Bullet Time: Powered by "refined hubbardium." Unfortunately, the game isn't particularly built for it - your best strategy in a fight is popping in and out of cover, and all the enemies have Hitscan weapons, so getting out of cover long enough to use the bullet time will usually just get you riddled with bullets. In slow motion.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Glomar, mentioned in the intro, becomes the real goal of the characters.
  • Cliffhanger: The ending doesn't exactly resolve everything.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: At the beginning, the utterly drunk Freddie (and later, Paolo) keeps insisting that this prospector's urban legend "Glomar" is a real creature who is the source of hubbardium. While not quite literal, by the end, it's undeniable that Glomar is definitely some kind of real, extraterrestrial force that creates hubbardium out of the rocks surrounding its heart, among other things.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Company Soldiers wear different color armor depending on their weapon specialization; normal soldiers wear blue armor, snipers wear yellow armor, shotgun soldiers wear red armor, etc.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The flamethrower seems to kill at the same speed as any other gun, except it requires you to be very close to your opponents and not in cover.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Pretty much anyone from the Company.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Arnold, all the way. Throughout the game, he deals with crazed killers, a murderous army, and people trying to manipulate him. He puts up with it, but he'll be sure to point out in the most sarcastic way that he's not happy about it.
    • When told he'll need to use a tram system to get to his friend: "Now that's what I call a perfect career. I always wanted to be a train conductor."
    • When Livia requests that Arnold go after Warren and stop Olivier: "Yes, ma'am! Oh, I'll find Warren! I'll save the world! I'll bring you the head of Colonel Olivier wrapped in newspaper! Is that good enough for you baby?
    • In response to Olivier saying he wants to stop the Coral Snake from getting Glomar's Heart and abusing it: "It's a good job we have such a vigilant guardian of the peace here, who won't tolerate this situation, will he?"
    • When Olivier says that if Arnold gets in his way, he will kill him: "Likewise. And I hope you have a nice day as well."
  • Die, Chair, Die!: You can't destroy most objects, but due to the physics system, they will get in your way a lot, especially chairs.
  • Door to Before: Level 7 when you end up back at the basketball court from near the beginning of the game.
  • Downer Ending: It's implied that Bruce is killed, Arnold is betrayed and killed by Livia, and the glowing eyes at the end could mean something as bad as they could something good.
  • Dug Too Deep: This game has a variation where the Company was mining intentionally for the dangerous artifact, and while their lack of knowledge led to a disaster, they still wanted it afterward. The entire plot of the game revolves around the Company's second attempt to get Glomar's Heart, and it ends with them expecting that they had, although the Sequel Hook implies that this probably goes about as well for them as expected.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Glomar. Most people on Alpha Prime have been driven into a murderous frenzy, and those who haven't, like Paolo, mention being able to feel Glomar in the walls at night.
  • Enemy Chatter: The Company soldiers are constantly giving each other orders or announcing their squad's death.
  • Escape Pod: You use one to escape the exploding Artemis in the first level.
  • Everything Is Online: "Anything can be opened from a console when you have a real pro on the job."
  • Evil Army: The Company's marines, who are willing to kill anything on Alpha Prime to cover it up.
  • Exploding Barrels: Small red canisters and waste crates.
  • Faceless Goons: Once you get to the Company soldiers.
  • Fatal MacGuffin: Glomar's Heart is the goal of the villains and the cause of multiple disasters. While not initially there to retrieve the heart himself, the hero gets caught up in the chase. His friend determines that the Heart reacts explosively poorly if you try to seal it away from its environment, leading to the first disaster, and the hero discerns that the Heart's risk to humans is a result of it essentially making true whatever you are thinking when you touch it. The hero uses this against the villain by lying to him about its danger, and exploits it himself to retrieve it safely, although he's immediately betrayed and killed as a result (though the Sequel Hook makes the true nature of his choice ambiguous).
  • Final Boss : Glomar Olivier, who's basically a big gorilla-like mutant with a rocket launcher for an arm.
  • First-Person Shooter: A more old school styled one. You have a Hyperspace Arsenal starting with a pistol and ending with a rocket launcher, you do not have regenerating health, and you can lean, among other things.
  • Funny Foreigner: Paolo. He constantly shifts into Italian, brags about his Roman heritage, and even starts singing an Italian opera at one point.
  • Gatling Good: The main rifle in the game is known as the "Gatling LE" and features six rotary barrels. Subverted in the old tradition of making a weapon rotary just because it looks cool, not because it needs it. Specifically, the main rifle has a low enough rate of fire that multiple barrels are entirely useless.
  • Giant Mook: Company Soldiers armed with flamethrowers or rocket launchers have heavier, noticeably bulkier armor that slows them down and makes them much more durable.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Arnold in the ending.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The first attempt at retrieving Glomar's heart.
  • Gravity Barrier: Justified across the rocky surface of the asteroid.
  • Green Rocks: Hubbardium. If it's refined, it can be used to power things, make alcohol, and slow down time. Unrefined, it can drive someone mad or grant wishes.
  • Hacking Minigame: The ReCon (remote control) more or less averts this, because all you have to do to hack something is point at it and wait.
  • Heal Thyself: Medkits and Health Stations
  • Heroic Mime: Intentionally averted. The developers didn't want you to have any say in who your character was specifically because they wanted to tell their story.
  • Human Popsicle: Arnold and the crew of the Artemis seem to travel this way. This turns up again in the end, where Arnold's "corpse" is being kept in a "cryobox".
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: You carry a hammer, a pistol, a shotgun, a Gatling rifle, a sniper rifle, a flamethrower, a rocket launcher and grenades simultaneously.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Noticeably averted. One of the major factors of difficulty in this game is that no one misses. Although when Bruce points out how unlikely your One-Man Army nature is, he assumes this is happening and calls it suspicious as trained soldiers shouldn't miss that much.
  • Improbable Age: Realistically averted. All the characters (including the hero and the female lead) appear to at least be in their mid 40s, which makes sense considering they're all supposed to be grizzled mining veterans. This is in contrast to several mainstream shooters that generally feature characters that seem unusually young for their current professional rank and informed level of experience (i.e. the first Resident Evil, with the lead STARS members being seasoned ex-Special Force soldiers in their early twenties, or Halo where the main character's commanding officer looks (as Zero Punctuation puts it) like a prepubescent gymnast.)
  • Improvised Weapon: The hammer you originally receive as a tool on an exploding ship, and what a weapon it is (invokedyou can swing it just about as fast as you can click).
  • I Never Told You My Name: Arnold starts to become suspicious of Livia due to this. He points out that it's quite odd that the marine commander knows him by name as soon as he arrives, especially since it's established that the Company does not care about their prospectors.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Both Arnold and Warren had fallen for Livia in the past, and both Paolo and Bruce mention that she's attractive. This becomes somewhat ironic because her model and textures are not as high quality as Arnold's, probably due to her only appearing in person a handful of times in the game, leading to issues like having faint seams on her face.
  • Informed Flaw: In the first level, you come across a cannibalized corpse, and Arnold explains that excessive hubbardium exposure turns people into mindless monsters. However, the insane workers you fight in the game act completely like normal humans (and don't even yell or shout crazy stuff during combat) and can even be seen sitting around lounging, drinking coffee together, or simply tending to their workstations during the "Offices" level. They still shoot you on sight, of course, but the fact that it appears as if the station would continue to be run normally if you didn't interfere, makes this very strange.
  • It's Probably Nothing: Arnold suggests that Coral Snake might not even be real. They are. Although Coral Snake's line in the ending implies that he may have figured it out after all.
  • Kaizo Trap: During the part where you have to defend Warren from the attacking Marines, a bug in the A.I. scripting sometimes causes Warren to shoot at you when he retreats from the room at the end of the fight. He can potentially kill you, especially since you're probably weakened from the difficult fight against the waves of Marines. This has been captured on at least a couple of the major Let's Plays of the game.
  • Kick the Dog: The conversation between Olivier and Paolo, leading to Paolo's death though it's technically one of his men who perpetrates it without being told.
  • Late to the Tragedy: Arnold comes to Alpha Prime directly as a result of what happened before, and what happened before is incredibly important.
  • Left Hanging: The company has since been bought out by Bohemia Interactive, and while they initially stated that they wouldn't stop the individual projects of the companies in the purchase, they removed any reference to Black Element Software in their co-developed game, Carrier Command Gaea Mission, and nothing has been heard from the company since. It seems unlikely at this point that we will ever know what was intended to happen after the Cliffhanger.
  • Literal Genie: Glomar gives you whatever you were thinking when you touch its heart.
  • Locked Door: Most are quickly opened by you or remotely by Bruce unless the game is just using them as decoration.
  • Lovable Coward: Paolo talks big, but plays up his wounds when he and Arnold realize that marines are coming for them. However, in the end, Paolo refuses to give Arnold up or turn over his data and gets killed standing up to the villain. Warren doesn't seem particularly fond of Paolo, but still risks himself to get a wounded, but apparently still sane, Paolo to safety. Arnold doesn't leave him out of the villain's crimes later on.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Notably averted. The entire mining station is completely logical as a real complex, and almost every room can be assumed to have a real world purpose, from the offices, to the living quarters, to the med center, to the rec room, to the tram connecting parts of the complex.
  • Meaningful Name: Glomar. Its urban legend status is similar to the Glomar Response, especially when you discover that Glomar is real, and the Company knows about it.
    • Coral Snake. The codename was chosen for a reason. They have all the typical traits of a character described as a "snake" and they even make a poison metaphor. Perhaps most importantly, there are real life mnemonics for telling certain coral snake species apart from harmless lookalikes, fitting the Coral Snake's role as The Mole.
  • MegaCorp: The Company. They seem to be responsible for a wide range of things in this universe, including mining for a substance that's used in everything from beer to positron brains. They're also corrupt beyond belief, willing to sacrifice the lives of their employees for a chance at a veritable Philosopher's Stone, actively engaged in the eliminating of all witnesses of their conspiracies, able to hire exceptional lawyers and assassins, and they have a private group of marines to enforce their will.
  • Mission Control: Bruce Lawrence is more or less this for the majority of the game.
  • The Mole: Coral Snake, who turns out to be Livia.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Arnold, due to his immunity to hubbardium (which is apparently substituted in place of alcohol for drinks).
  • Nintendo Hard: Even on easy, major segments of the game can get like this due to certain design decisions, like the enemies' inability to miss, and the fact that enemies don't drop all that much ammo. Prepare to replay trouble areas multiple times. And of course, the higher difficulties manage to make it worse. On hard mode, your reward for killing an enemy can be a single bullet.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: Subverted. When called a coward, Paolo recites his proud Roman heritage... and then decides his leg hurts too much.
  • Nominal Importance: Averted multiple times. There's Freddie, the drunk guy in the intro, who exists solely to provide some exposition about Glomar. Then there's Terry and John in the tutorial level. All you ever know about them is that they didn't survive the Artemis flying into a minefield. Even the first mook you kill has a name, Jimmy.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Largely averted. Most areas have rails and other safety measures. The only reason why the place is dangerous is because it's been isolated and mostly abandoned due to a disaster and since fallen into disrepair. The mine at the end deserves particular mention, since the entire thing is actually railed and it's difficult to fall off or knock someone else off. This doesn't stop the game from showing the unfortunate victims of elevator accidents or an exploded gas line though.
  • Offscreen Start Bonus: After escaping the Artemis, you start the level next to your escape pod, with the Alpha Prime facility in front of you. If you turn around, there's an obscured path up a ridge into a small area of the asteroid that contains the corpse of a robot and a Gatling LE. While not a huge bonus, as the Gatling LE is acquired in the level regardless, you'll have a ridiculous advantage over the first few enemies, who are meant to be fought with the pistol you'll find just inside the facility.
  • One Bullet Clips: A perfectly straight example, and a good thing too, as you'll need those bullets, especially on the harder difficulties.
  • One-Man Army: Lampshaded when Bruce suspects you of being Coral Snake. "And don't say they want to kill you. Those boys keep plugging away, but somehow they still can't seem to finish the job. They can't seem to shoot you properly. It's a pure miracle you're still alive. And miracles are always suspicious." Played straight because he's wrong.
  • One-Winged Angel: Notable in that it was the hero's fault. The villain had no idea it would happen.
  • Oxygen Meter: Used for exterior parts of the asteroid. Can be refilled from oxygen dispensers or walking into an airlock.
  • Poirot Speak: Paolo.
    "Warren, si si! Lucky guy! E fortunato quello. This figone always with him-"
    "I prefer Bellini to Tortellini."
  • Protection Mission: Subverted. When you finally meet up with Warren, the game tells you to defend him until he finishes coding. This is one of the hardest segments of the game, with huge waves of enemies pouring into the room at once, covering most of the enemy types. The difficulty does not come from defending Warren, however, because he cannot be killed, and they will not attack him. The difficulty is purely in the fact that you're up against nasty odds.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Many people cite Paolo's Italian accent as a reason the voice acting sucks, except the voice actor, Davide Dominici, is actually Italian (though to be fair, the Italian is somewhat butchered anyway, and it's not the only complaint).
  • Sequel Hook: The game ends with Arnold dead and Livia on the verge of getting Glomar's heart for the Company, but Arnold's eyes open to reveal a glowing hubbardium green.
  • Shout-Out: A sci-fi story with a mineral known as hubbardium?
  • Sleeper Starship: The cryoboxes on the Artemis imply that it can be used this way, but considering it seems like Livia was piloting it the whole time, and the characters are making a trip that obviously can be made multiple times within their lifetime (Livia and Warren had gone to Alpha Prime for his job at some point, Livia had come back to get Arnold, and now she's returning), it doesn't come off as necessary. The brief mention of a teleport to Earth, at some point, imply that there might even be other technologies that makes cryonics superfluous for colonized sections of space.
  • Space Marine: Colonel Olivier is a straightforward, villainous example. He's even Bald of Evil and wears a bandana.
  • Space Mines: The Artemis runs into some at the beginning, forcing you to abandon ship and stranding you on Alpha Prime. Later, when you learn that pretty much everything was part of Livia's plot, it's implied that there may not have been mines at all. This would explain how Livia keeps the Artemis in orbit until the end of the game, and how Arnold and her were conveniently the only ones to survive. If this is true, what actually caused the damage on the ship and killed the rest of the crew is not explained.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: The room before the final boss is a veritable arsenal, far better stocked and accessible than the actual arsenal you visited twice throughout the game.
  • Take Your Time: The game insists you need to hurry for some objectives such as rescuing people, but time never seems to matter.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The nature of the Sequel Hook. A rare inversion where it's the hero who's revealed to (sorta) still be kicking and creating doubt as to whether the villains will be able to hold on to their total victory.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The level with the buggy is the only level that isn't a straight first-person shooter. Controlling the loader with the ReCon could be considered one too, since it's about using a vehicle to move crates.
  • Using You All Along: Coral Snake's plan. The entire time, Livia just wanted to get back to Alpha Prime to get Glomar's heart to the Company. The protagonist thinks she is on his side, and the antagonist is also trying to get the heart for the company. Whoever gets to the heart and kills the other makes the heart available to her and the Company.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: Standard implementation, although it's not as necessary when introduced from tutorial-like hints.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: You descend into a mine with glowing hubbardium growing more and more prevalent.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The miners driven mad by hubbardium exposure. Sure, they shoot on sight, but in the office level, you can catch them milling around their cubicles like nothing is wrong. Are they really beyond help?
  • Wreaking Havok: The game is very proud of its physics engine, although it never uses it for any major puzzles.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: There is only one appearance for each enemy type.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: This is played with when Warren is captured by Olivier. Bruce can't believe that he would give the villain what he wanted in exchange for a way off the station, because the marines were specifically sent to kill all witnesses. Arnold says not to doubt him, and sure enough, it was just a ploy so he could get close to the biodetector and sabotage it, creating a feedback impulse intended to take the villains down with him.