APB: review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Realtime Worlds
  • Developer: Realtime Worlds
  • Players: Massively Multiplayer
  • Site: www.apb.com/

APB (All Points Bulletin) is the hotly anticipated MMO from Dundee based developers Realtime Worlds – best known for Crackdown on Xbox 360 – and the brainchild of creative director Dave Jones. Jones is known in the industry as one of the founding members of Rockstar North and co-creator of the Grand Theft Auto series. It’s unsurprising perhaps then, that on first viewing people feel a niggling urge to describe APB as ‘GTA Online’. But there are further influences that are evident in the design of APB that may describe better how the game actually plays. Jones himself claims Counter-Strike as a major influence and it’s easy to see where he’s coming from, with small tactical objective based missions forming the core of the experience.

Gathering together these disparate influences into one game and then basing it in an online world, you get a gaming experience that is unlike any other. The basic structure of the game sees you choose between a Criminal and an Enforcer, then facing off against the opposing faction in a wide variety of different mission types, across two districts of the fictional city of San Paro. As well as fighting there are ample opportunities for personal customisation from creating your character, designing tattoos and customising clothing, to pimping out your ride. The customisation in APB (as you may already have seen) is excellent. Simple to use yet very powerful tools for creation and design are on offer, allowing you to create or copy intricate symbols, songs or graffiti sprays, in the process of creating a unique identity for your character. If you lack those skills in design and your symbols look like you’ve shoved a couple of decals together in the vain hope they might look cool (unlike us here at Critical Gamer obviously, we’re all design geniuses *cough*), there are other ways to procure yourself designs from more talented players through the game’s auction system. Despite the game being very young, there is already a wealth of talent on display, with people striving to make a name for themselves through creating their own clothing brands, or churning out ‘death-themes’ -small snippets of music your opponents hear when you’ve killed them.

Exciting design tools and unique player crafted equipment are excellent ideas and well implemented, but they alone make a game not. For APB to succeed, the action and driving parts of the game too need to be satisfying, varied and balanced enough to hold the paying players’ interest in the long term. This is where the game stumbles slightly. Combat to the newcomer can seem clunky and relatively old fashioned. Modern third person action games nearly always employ a cover system; APB forces you to do that part yourself, crouching behind cars or walls and leaning manually. For a game that calls Counter-Strike an influence, it may also seem like an odd decision that head-shots play no part in the game, but in truth they would only serve to make the game frustrating due to the sometimes random nature of the spawn system. Combat then is about situational awareness, weapon selection and tactical play in groups. Make no mistake, APB is not a game for the solo player, soloing is a frustrating and slow paced experience; and while the option is there, you’re better off avoiding it. APB really comes alive when you group up with other players and take advantage of the integrated Vo-ip system to communicate and work together towards your objectives. At this point things become progressively more hectic as the action flits around across a district, with the two opposing teams dashing towards objectives, destroying each other’s vehicles and melting each other’s faces with the varied selection of weaponry.

Differences between the two factions are mostly a matter of taste. Criminals have a more hectic time of it, with bounties being placed on them for Enforcers to try and claim, meaning even between the normal mission based play they’re never truly safe. Enforcers have access to less than lethal weaponry which allows them to subdue then arrest criminals – a risky strategy in team play, but it pays dividends of increased rewards and unlocks some of the better equipment in the game for those with the necessary skills to be successful at it. Both factions have access to different vehicles. The Enforcers get an exclusive Jericho muscle car, while the criminals get the Porsche-esque Bishada. Car handling is initially vexing, especially for GTA veterans, and you may find yourself crashing constantly when you wrest control of one of the faster cars. But persevere and you’ll find it worth your while, pulling off expertly timed handbrake turns during high speed chases to impress your allies as you come to terms with the nuance of control.

APB comes across as a game that is more than the sum of its parts. The combat may be somewhat old fashioned in its execution, but when it’s coupled with the dynamic cities and fast paced team-play, as well as its revelatory customisation, it’s difficult not to like. The game does have a degree of repetition and grinding elements as you work your way up through the ranks of the faction specific organisations. But there is a hell of a lot of potential in the title and even as it plays at the moment, there are few games that can get the adrenaline pumping in the same manner. Speeding across the city, music blasting out your car and swerving into the middle of a pitched fire-fight as your passenger hangs out the window taking pot-shots at your foe is just as good as it sounds. There’s work yet to be done on the title and we hope for a patching system as progressive and ambitious as the rest of the game, rather than just churning out extra content. If Realtime Worlds can do that, APB could develop into a game that surpasses its wildly popular and long-serving influences. For now though, there are criminals doing mean things to puppies and it’s up to us here at Critical Gamer to head forth once more and dish out some 44. calibre justice.


8/10

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Written by Michael J

Michael is a self proclaimed PC gaming fanatic and is equally at home with all genres, bar platformers and puzzle games. Except Bejeweled, he's awesome at that. Seriously, he is totally like second on his Facebook Bejeweled leaderboard. And they said he'd never amount to anything...

One comment

  1. AND /

    this review is perfect, harsh on the few things that needs fixing (and probably will). And it praises the excelent features of the game.

    oh well i’m off to go do some mean things to puppies, before being charged by a group of enforcers… (something that always end with me yelling like crazy, drawing my nade and rushing the enemy as they flee from “that dude, who’s gonna blow up”)

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