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Alpha Protocol (Any %) (Single Segment)

Verifier Responses

Quote from NMS:
It will probably be obvious that I'm NMS and I was running this game at the same time as the runner. I can't take credit for everything Softman25 thanks me for. His earlier streamed runs as well as TheLongShotLegend's run and information I found on the game wiki and other sites were very helpful in my planning. But I was involved in planning this run. I can't currently record this game with playable performance, but I may come back to it when I have a new computer.

I'm going to nitpick a bit. That doesn't mean this is a terrible run. This game is full of lag, randomness, glitchiness, and frustrating mechanics that make it tricky to speedrun even on Easy difficulty. It's a pretty cool game when played normally though.

Notes about dialog: There are way too many dialog choices in this game to thoroughly test them all and see how long they take. You could try each option for each choice, but in some cases the results of a dialog choice depend on which choices you've made earlier in the conversation, or earlier in the game, or your reputation with a character. Fortunately, most of them don't matter too much because the resulting dialog can be fast-forwarded at about five times normal playback speed. Also, choices made in cutscenes very rarely have much effect on the gameplay out of cutscenes. I've timed or done side-by-side comparisons for many of the options that result in unskippable dialog or have obvious effects later, but that's a small fraction of the total.

Massive wall of things I noticed while watching:

Character creation: The Veteran class is obviously the best, but is sort of an NG+. To unlock it you need to win as Recruit, which is the worst class. The others are basically equivalent and probably don't need to be separate categories. He picks Tech Specialist, which saves a trip to the Clearinghouse for EMPs and equipping the shotgun and pistol. But it means starting with a super inaccurate shotgun and stealthier but slightly less defensive armor. We'll see if that matters.

Graybox: Very good and lucky with the unaimed pistol fire. Getting meleed by that one guy is hard to avoid. The bypass and lockpick were good. The hack was a bit unlucky. He gets the Suave perk, which may not be useful. The others are pretty marginal too though. I discovered that you don't need to run all the way to the locker after this run was done. It would save several seconds (during the last interrogation with Leland) to say "Duty" when Westridge asks why you volunteered.

Bug al-Samad Airfield: Shotgun seems to be working so far. A bit of safety, but well played. There's an alternate route from the second to last hangar to the tower that might be slightly faster, but not by much. Chain Shot on the elite in the tower is the only fast reliable strat.

Find Nasri the Arms Dealer: I don't think it's too dangerous to just run down the middle of the big room full of weapons. Starting to see the massive spread on this shotgun come back to bite the runner as he completely misses or does minimal damage with several shots. Martial Arts make for an OK backup plan, even with a bit of glitchiness. Nice Chain Shot on the last two guards. Who the heck is shooting during the cutscene?

Intercept Shaheed and Recover Missiles: "Intercept" and "recover" being euphemisms for "assassinate" and "destroy", respectively. I would just go out the main hangar opening rather than the small door on the right. Clearing out the guards on the stairs was a good idea. Nice door bash. And they didn't sound the alarm in the plane graveyard. Maybe the quieter armor helps with that? I find the left route easier than unlocking the gate, but they're about the same time in the absence of enemy interference. He doesn't use damage to clear his vision for the lieutenant, but he's close enough to use the critical hit indicator to check his aim, so that's OK. Stryker fight was fine. It's possible to fire the missiles a bit faster, but you're more likely to miss.

Specialization and mission order: He didn't know about Operative and picked Spy for faster Pistols advancement. With Operative, it's possible to get Brilliance and Expert Chain Shot (5 shots) before the first boss even without jumping between hubs much, but it makes skill points very tight. Switching hubs costs a few seconds, but if you're going to invest significant points in Toughness or Martial Arts, it might be better to jump around and delay all the bosses until you're higher level. I think the theoretically optimal route is Taipei for Contact Steven Heck, then all of Rome, all of Moscow, then the rest of Taipei. I understand wanting to get Moscow out of the way, but I think it's easier and faster with a few more skill points.

Contact Grigori the Informant: On the other hand, this mission is actually a bit faster if you do it before doing much in other hubs. There's an extra (pointless) decision node, but he talks less about what you've done before getting to the point.

Assault Lazo's Yacht and Retrieve Data: Maybe the quieter armor ironically makes it harder to get a stealth takedown, as he doesn't approach the doorway to investigate? Getting out of the lower level could have been rough, but it turns out fine. I really like having Room Sweep there. Regardless of whether you kill or spare Sis and what conversation options you choose, the dialog with Albatross afterwards has a long unskippable section. I think overall this is the fastest way. I think downloading money from emails is unnecessary if you sell the golden assault rifle and don't buy about a dozen more EMPs than are really needed.

Intercept Surkov at US Embassy: Doesn't crash the game. Skips the conversation with the Marine. So far, so good. Gets stuck on a corner, then blocked and meleed on the way to Surkov. Takes it safe beating up and shotgunning all the guys in the first couple rooms on the third floor, then Chain Shots the rest on the way to the control room. Can't really blame him there. It's a ton of guys in close quarters. Checkpoint resets to refresh skills and alter enemy patterns. I'm not sure how that will affect the timing and category (more on that later). Doesn't take the shortcut to the stairwell. But he makes it through. More beating people up at the end. Misses a bit with Chain Shot. Having Expert Chain Shot and Brilliance here (and not missing) would let you end this section very quickly. But his method is not too bad. Any Moscow Embassy run with no deaths is a good run, basically.

Taipei Safehouse: I was a little worried there, but he gets the skip.

Assault Brayko's Mansion: The first dialog choice doesn't really do anything as far as I know. Despite what Mike and Mina say in the dialog, you don't have to kill anyone in the arcade. But he does it reasonably fast, then weaves around the enemies to make it into the bedroom. The second choice is the one that matters. Clearing the guys around Albatross can be done with one Chain Shot, but you have to run to the right position and hope they don't move out of line of sight from there. Makes it into Brayko's room with basically no trouble. Brayko would be a lot faster with Expert Chain Shot and Brilliance. But the runner handles him pretty well given the skills he has (it's hard to melee fight a guy who's so competent with knives). Apparently he does enough damage during the cocaine stage that Brayko skips from the balcony back to the floor stage? And Chain Shot finishes him off as soon as it comes off cooldown, so the Suave perk actually helped here.

Identify Jibril Al-Bara at Chateau: I like to line up the first shot during the intro so I can fire immediately. Otherwise, good shooting in the first two stages. He struggles a bit with al-Barra and almost identifies him before getting the shot off (which would cost some time). But no failed stages. Given the awkwardness of the sniper rifle in this game, that's not a given.

Investigate Marburg's Villa: No trouble in the bust room, but a bit more than expected in some other places. Overall it's pretty fast and he makes it through alive.

Investigate Ruins Transmission: Good running through. Knowing the spawn order at the end and using pistol spam and Chain Shot makes it go very smoothly.

Investigate Delivery at Warehouse: The cutscene is a bit longer if you've done Moscow. But the mission is well played. I think the low rep "conversation" with Madison (where she clobbers you with a blunt object and then drops a shock trap on you) might be a couple seconds faster than this version, but this one gets you a very nice faster endurance recharge perk.

Intercept Marburg at the Museum of Art: Sounds the alarm, but the extra elites don't give him any trouble. The checkpoint reset saves a ton of time here. Marburg goes well. I think he may actually have been finished off by a regular pistol shot after the Chain Shot. It's good to know it's not just me that Chain Shot isn't quite enough damage. It also suggests the effects of difficulty scaling only kick in at certain breakpoints, and don't take effect early in the game. Thanks to the absurd number of suave responses used, Marburg stands and fights. If you had enough cooldown reduction perks, it might be possible to avoid using brilliance for the second part of the fight. But it might require having negative rep with Mina, which is probably not worth it. Anyway, Brilliance is used and Marburg is killed, skiping a 20 second cutscene in the final mission. It takes longer here though, so the net savings is probably 5-10 seconds. I've heard that you need to kill Marburg to join Halbech, but that's incorrect, although it might make the required rep with Leland lower.

Investigate Warehouse District Data Trail: If you do Contact Steven Heck right after Saudi, then right after that is a good time to stock up on EMPs for the rest of the game and also buy the intel for this mission, which saves maybe 10-15 seconds of running to plant bugs. Some obvious minor mistakes, plus he gets meleed due to the shotgun spread going completely around a guy at short range. I think the Chain Shot is unnecessary.

Retrieve NSB Data from Grand Hotel: I don't know if I'd say the time it took for Mike to say "Is it a pony?" was wasted exactly, but... it could have been skipped. There's probably a way to get to the Mina rep you want without having to change ammo twice. Skipping the front door would have been good. Otherwise well played.

Intercept Assassination Plans: The first parts were very smooth. Fewer enemies than usual were trying to use the ladders and blocking the runner from using them. Later it got a bit laggy and also he took a detour that required climbing an extra ladder for a few seconds.

Stop Omen Deng at Memorial Rally: I feel like clearing the gate with a more aggressive shotgun-based strategy is faster and not really risker, given that the runner was almost shot to death anyway. But the two CSPs you have to kill don't always cooperate with that plan. Otherwise pretty good. What's with all the CSPs who act like he's invisible and offer him takedowns? First use of Jump Kick. Not a bad place for it I guess. Spamming pistol between Chain Shots and having to reload was a bit silly, but still fast.

Alpha Protocol Safehouse: I think this is the fastest version of the conversation with Mina that I've seen. It's maybe a couple seconds faster than the high rep version where she admits she declared you rogue and you tell her to get out. That's thanks to the "chai latte" line, which I don't know how to get. Maybe your rep has to be higher than some level, but not so high that she comes to meet you in person? Anyway, the differences are small if you pick the right options, so it's probably fastest just to use lethal force against civilians in Taipei wherever it saves time and live with whichever version you get.

Infiltrate Alpha Protocol: Punching Leland gets you out of the last interrogation faster, but joining Halbech saves time in the end. How much depends on where timing stops, but it's pretty significant. Dodging the Marines on the way to the elevator was nice. Chain Shot in the truck bay is a bit of a safety strat, but it adds a lot of safety, so I can't complain too much. Mostly solid rushing past guys with the shotgun and melee. I've actually been killed by Parker, embarrassingly enough. I'm not convinced that steel core rounds really increase damage, at least with Chain Shot. I think maybe they increase the accuracy of normal fire though? But Darcy goes down in one burst, which is good. The missed shots against the helicopter are unfortunate, but two rocket hits to the weak spots and some pistol fire still brings it down much faster than if you didn't know about the weak spots. And he makes not dying on that fight look easy, which it's not if you leave the Marines alive. Westridge not going down in one Chain Shot is normal in my experience, but apparently he's done it. Possibly it's difficulty scaling due to investing too many points? If you watch frame by frame, you can see he hits with all six shots from his first Chain Shot, and two from the second, but he rushed that one and had to finish him off with a crit.

General summary: No unnecessary missions were done. In cases where there are choices, the fastest missions were chosen. Mission order wasn't totally optimal, but achieved the major time savers (spiked cocaine for Brayko and Albatross dead for Warehouse District Data Trail), while minimizing hub changes. Routes through levels were fine except for a couple places. Skill choices were effective. However, the order in which they were leveled up could have been better. Particularly, higher levels of Pistols and Technical Aptitude would have helped significantly in Moscow. I also think some points in Shotguns can be worthwhile. However, this would have come at the cost of Toughness and Martial Arts, making survival more difficult and other parts slightly slower. Gameplay was generally solid considering the lag, inaccurate guns, and random AI behavior. There were a few obvious mistakes, but they didn't cost huge amounts of time. There were no deaths. Dialog choices seemed fine except for one. As a rough estimate, this run is about 45 minutes faster than the last submission (which was as the Veteran). The runner estimates it could be improved by 1.5 minutes. That seems a bit low to me, but it's a good indication of how far the game has come.

A/V quality is excellent. I saw part of this run streamed live and I'm pretty sure it's legit.

Verdict: Accept

The ability to fast-forward is gained at 0:00:32. "Character control" is gained at 0:00:38. I would have said to time until the last results screen is dismissed (at 1:45:28), but the runner clearly expected timing to end when the last dialog choice is locked in at 1:44:37. You still have the ability to fast-forward most or all of the cutscene until the results screen, depending on earlier decisions, but he doesn't use it. There are a lot of load screens and mid-level loads (indicated by the screen freezing except for a spinning icon) to be factored out. Personally, I suspect that some of them are fixed length "fake loads" put in to allow time to display messages and level locations before the action starts, but I guess they still need to be cut. There might be 5-10 minutes of load screens. Another issue is the checkpoint resets. The game notifies you when it saves, but sometimes it lies and often the message is delayed by other messages. So I'm guessing that puts the onus on the runner to determine when the save actually occurs and open the menu immediately. If I'm right, time spent in the menu and loading screen wouldn't be counted, but time between the "actual" checkpoint and when the runner opens the menu would. Depending on how it's timed, it might theoretically be worth reloading after many checkpoints, because your sprint meter starts to recharge during the "load time". But this run only uses it twice, in places where it has more straightforward benefits. I'm also not sure whether using a "load last checkpoint" feature necessarily makes this a run "with resets".

^uh, yeah, what he said


Not much else to say that hasn't already been said.


Decision: Accept

Congratulations to Frank 'Softman25' Black!
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Edit history:
Softman25: 2013-02-15 06:32:22 pm
Well, thanks to all the verifiers, I will edit this post later and attempt to respond to anything NMS said that I feel needs clarification. (I just got up. Smiley )

EDIT: Alright, I'll just go down the list of things said and attempt to clarify anything that would make little/no sense without playing the game.

Intercept Shaheed and Recover Missiles: Setting off the alarm in the graveyard seems to be based on allowing bad guys to run away towards the alarm box. In practice however, I find that just killing as many people as you can seems to improve odds...but not really guarantee anything...

Mission order: The only improvement I can see here is going straight to Taipai to "meet" Heck, then going to Moscow. Going to Rome first saves approximately 6-7 seconds, however makes the (dreaded) Embassy mission harder due to scaling. I go to Moscow first therefore to increase consistency. If this game was to become insanely optimized then I would be forced to do Rome first simply for the 6-7 seconds.

Assault Lazo's Yacht and Retrieve Data: I've been theorizing that maybe if you fired your gun to make him investigate, then stuck around the corner to try strike may net a takedown...but I haven't tried it.

Identify Jibril Al-Bara at Chateau: As said in my notes and NMS's the rifle is incredibly slippery. It's better off in the lower zoom levels, but for that last shot, it's just too far to do on the second gotta go max zoom.

Investigate Warehouse District Data Trail: The chain shot here being unnecessary is probably right, but as mentioned in notes, that gunner on the chopper just scares me. If doing more attempts, I'd probably skip out on it though.

Stop Omen Deng at Memorial Rally: The primary reason I use the safer strategy here is because to use an aggressive strat, you have to pretty much open yourself up to the turrets, which just rips you to pieces. Maybe on a judgement call, if the dudes there who you have to kill try to rush you, thereby putting you out of range of the turrets the shotty could work, but the Chain Shot works pretty much just as well. Also, that pistol spam at the end was totally unintentional! Tongue

General Notes: I forget whether I said this in my notes so I'll say it here, the strats for this mix safety with speed. In a 1:45 run with knackers to the wall action throughout, it's pretty heartbreaking to lose a run in the last section. (Which I'm pretty sure I've done before - the helicopter in Graybox blew me to smithereens.) Down the track I may improve this time, however I'm not all that fussed at the moment. I would agree now that 1.5 minutes is pretty generous. It's probably more like 2.5-3.5 with perfect strats and (near) perfect execution. But hell, we'll see.

Another quick shoutout to the verifiers, cheers!