I wanted to kick it Cops and Robbers MMO style.
Every kid loves playing Cops and Robbers: the thrill of the chase, the shootouts, the excitement of breaking the rules versus the satisfaction of bringing lawbreakers to justice. This is exactly what Realtime Worlds aim to convey in APB.
As we mentioned in our Hands On Preview, this isn’t a typical MMO. What APB has tried to create is a Persistant Online Shooter (POS), a gunfire-soaked city where gangs of rival players can duke it out indefinitely. To what end, you ask? Well, that’s sort of where it all starts to unravel.
Let’s not beat around the bush: APB is a fine looking game. The soaring vistas and city streets look marvellous and the game’s inherently customisable nature means that you’ll soon see how truly unique the characters and vehicles can look.
Each player avatar can be crafted into a finely tuned being, complete with custom clothing, tattoos and vehicles to match. Want a T-shirt branded to your own design, or custom decals on your “Pussy Wagon”? You can easily fabricate them with the in-game toolkits, or compose little ditties that sound on an opponent’s PC when you kill them. Realtime Worlds has poured a huge amount of effort into making this an easy and enjoyable part of the game, giving you a personal touch that will be experienced by anyone who meets you on the server.
However, unless you’re an obese, salmon-pink suited, green-haired mohican, it’s unlikely anyone will notice or remember you during the all-too-brief encounters with the other players, most of which will be carried out from the business ends of high calibre firearms or with colliding vehicles. When you do occasionally pass an interesting car or person, they’ll usually be in the midst of their own mission and won’t stand around for your perusal. There is a Playstation Home-like combat-free social district, where you can buy new gear, make designs and show off your ‘pimped ride’, but it’s just not enough.
The issues with APB fall in the game concept. Because it is a POS and not a regular MMO, there are none of the usual enticements for playing on. The few approachable non-player characters are glorified gunshops. The missions are very limited in nature and design, most involving simply hauling-ass across town to some arbitrary point, pressing ‘F’, rinsing and repeating. This would be fine if there weren’t real issue with the combat and the vehicles.
Driving is simply painful. Every car handles like a dervish, and only handbrake turning seems to work, which means at any speed you’ve arced across the nearest pavement flattening pedestrians at every turn: not good news if you’re an enforcer. Criminally, even plugging an Xbox controller in won’t help, as APB won’t let you assign the controls properly.
Combat-wise it’s a mixed bag, with some spectacular street battles playing out, but it’s far too easy to die and the guns are woefully inaccurate. Any enemies you encounter in these missions are opposing faction players, so often there are mismatches in skill and it’ll be a cakewalk or an unfair slaughter-fest.
So you’re left with a pretty but vacuous shooter, where the main principles don’t quite work and the social aspects lack any structure that would make the customisability worthwhile. It’s true that planned updates to the game will almost certainly address the technical issues, but until then there is really no way to recommend APB.