As I stated last night in my blog, I’m not very good at Realtime Worlds’ persistent online shooter All Points Bulletin. But the concept of an ever-present battle between stylish cops and robbers is solid enough that I’m not sure I care. While our full review will be coming later on, I have been able to spend several hours in game already as an Enforcer and I wanted to at least report my impressions thus far. I’ve yet to really dive into the customization aspect of the game, and I’ve not yet picked up my guns as a criminal, but I’ve spent a good chunk of time running around San Paro as an enforcer, so far I find myself oddly compelled to keep logging in despite no real sense of why I should.
Let me explain.
There’s really a lot going on at all times in APB. Whether you pick the enforcer or the criminal side, there’s always people milling about the game’s action districts creating or trying to subdue havoc, but none of it really seems to have a real significant purpose outside of earning your character money. There’s a lot of progression to be made in the game for your individual character, so everything you do ties into advancing your status among the other enforcers and criminals of the city.
It’s basically all about the bragging rights. But aside from stopping crime in one case, or evading capture in another, there’s no permanence to your actions. And in a game that’s all about the war between criminals and the law I can’t help but feel Realtime Worlds is missing out on some truly engaging mechanics: namely a controllable points throughout the city that players and clans war over constantly. It’s perfectly ripe for that type of gameplay and yet none exists at this early stage. I have read however that such a feature is not far off, with the implementation of new districts with different rule-sets incoming, so hopefully that will rid me of this nagging feeling.
Other than this one rather standout issue (your mileage may vary on whether it’s important to you or not), so far my time in San Pero has been a blast. After creating my first character (a process that can be as deep or as simple as you’d like thanks to the extremely robust tools at your disposal), I quickly realized that the real fun of APB will be finding a Clan and grouping with other people throughout the game’s ongoing content delivery system. As you go throughout the game and pledge yourself to different NPC contacts, said contacts will set you out on missions. As an enforcer sometimes they’ll be relatively simple errands of disarming car bombs, and other times you’ll be set out to stop a crime in progress depending on what criminal players are doing in your area.
While for these PvP missions your character will be automatically partied up with other members of your faction, the better (and probably safer) bet is to find a clan that jives with your play-style and group with them when you’re online. The action is more fun in groups, and I would imagine even more so when you’re with players you’ve had a chance to get to know and work out some sense of teamwork with. An additional bonus is that for players who suck as bad as I do, you might not feel quite so feeble if you surround yourself with folks who will help you mature and better your skills as a player. Because rest assured, skill is the name of the game in APB.
There are no special skills, no highlighting the target and clicking a hotkey. It’s a shooter to the core. You’ll need to use cover and evasion tactics, keep an eye on your ammo and the how many bullets you have in your clip, and maybe even toss some grenades about when you have the money to buy them. Aside from general player skill the only thing that gives individual players an edge will be the weapons in the game, which can be unlocked through completing missions, gaining the trust of contacts, leveling your character, and earning enough money. It was clear to see that players who got some good time in over the weekend head start have the early advantage over the newbies like myself in terms of firepower. But that’s the kind of thing that will likely level itself out as the game ages, and as I begin to suck less I hope.
So far my time in APB has been pretty pleasant. It’s a real different breed of MMO. It’s not really like anything out there, and fans of GTAIV’s online component will probably like what Realtime Worlds has to offer. I’ve still got lots to learn about the game myself. I need to give the content creation tools a solid look-see, and I want to try my hand as a criminal as well as find myself a solid clan to roll with. But what’s telling after a handful of hours is that despite my general ineptitude in competitive shooters, I still feel compelled to keep playing.
Even the bad players can make progress, however slower it may be than the successful players, and I never felt like I was without something to be doing in the game. The missions I’ve had a chance to try so far have been repetitive in nature, but never in execution due to the PvP aspect of each one. The goals may be the same, but the outcome and unfolding is always unique. It’s definitely not a game for fans of PvE content in their games, as almost everything is PvP-driven. Even if you’re not always out fighting other players on a mission, there’s always the chance that the game will send out a criminal to stop you on a mission, or vice versa. Our full review will come later, but so far APB seems like a promising shooter. The only key will be just how far the rabbit hole goes.