APB Hands-On

Becoming a celebrity criminal is hard work as we found out in Real Time Worlds' cops-and-robbers shooter APB.

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APB promises to do for virtual citizens what reality TV has done for washed-up celebrities and singers of questionable talent: make them famous. It's part open-world action game and part massively multiplayer online game, and you take on the role of a criminal mastermind or dedicated law enforcer and attempt to make a name for yourself in a virtual city populated with up to 99 other players. If you succeed, statues will be built in your image, your gang colours will be plastered over billboards, and the mere mention of your name will strike fear into the hearts of the police force and criminal underworld.

The world of APB is broken up into three districts: Social, Financial, and Waterfront. The Financial and Waterfront districts are action zones, where you can take on different missions and start wreaking havoc in the city. Each area has a distinct gameplay style, with Financial offering modern street-level action and Waterfront offering more rooftop-based action. However, before you jump into either action zone you need to create a character in the Social district. There are an insane number of options available, and everything from the size and weight of your character to custom tattoos can be changed. Once you've created a character, you can go on to customise clothing, vehicles, and even the kind of music that follows you around the city. A Photoshop-like drawing tool allows you to create decals, which can be applied to people, cars, or objects around the city, giving you and your gang a unique identifier. Anything that you create can be sold in the online marketplace to other players, giving you the chance to make some money to buy weapons and giving the less artistically inclined the opportunity to look good while roaming the city. You can check out more on the customisation tools in our preview from the Game Developers Conference.

Matchmaking in APB is different to most lobby-based action games. The character you create lives on a server populated with up to 100,000 players, with each of those players split across several cities of 100 players each. When you join a game, you're grouped with 99 others and placed in a random city. The attributes for your character remain constant no matter which city you're in. For example, if you've gained level-five notoriety, each of the 100,000 players will know about it. However, once you've chosen your character class, you can't change it on that server. Therefore, if you suddenly wish to switch to a criminal from an enforcer or vice versa, you need to start a new character on a different server.

An extensive image editor allows you to create custom decals for your gang.

Playing the game for the first time can be a daunting experience, as we found during our play test. As soon as we stepped out into the Financial district, we were almost run over by a horde of criminals racing past us with guns blazing, followed by a pursuing enforcer squad. You're guaranteed to run into other players completing missions or committing crimes, giving the impression that you're part of a living, breathing city. However, though you can see the other players, you can interact with others only if they're in a mission with you. Other players are identified by grey name tags, so you can't go around ruining everyone's fun by shooting them. There are plans to introduce chaos zones, which will allow hardcore players to do this, but they will not be in the game at launch.

Missions differ depending on your character class. As a criminal, you can choose not to take on missions directly and instead roam the city mugging people and blowing stuff up. This won't net you very much money, but it will increase your threat level. The higher your threat level, the more recognised you are around the city. Reaching a threat level of five makes you the APB equivalent of America's Most Wanted. A large reward is offered for your capture, and all enforcers in the city are alerted to your presence. This threat level remains until you are caught, so even if you leave the game, all the enforcers on the server know of your reputation.

Go ahead…make my day.

If you choose not to free-roam, you can take on missions from one of the many AI-controlled characters scattered across the city. While you're able to take on some missions alone, most can be completed only in a group. You can join up with random players in the city or set up friends lists and clans if you prefer to team up with chums. The first mission we played had us defending a criminal safe house in the city. Our first task was to steal a car and transport it to the safe house. Hijacking cars works in a similar way to Grand Theft Auto: you walk up to the car you want to steal, hit a button, and your character yanks out the driver. Once you have a car, your teammates can ride with you and hang out of the windows to shoot pursuing enforcers or passers-by. Car handling is very forgiving, with an arcade-like feel that makes it easy to drive around the city. Our destination was a small building in the centre of the city that contained a coloured area we had to defend. Enforcers rapidly began to show up, raining down bullets on our team. We split up to defend the various entrances to the building, trying to pick off the opposition with some well-placed shots. The number of enforcers summoned to your position is dynamically chosen. If you are a highly rated criminal or have a high threat level, more officers will be sent to deal with you. Interestingly for a third-person shooter, there is no cover system, so we had to rely on crouching behind objects like dumpsters and walls in order to avoid fire. There is also no focused aim, though this doesn't affect headshots, as currently the game does not have location-specific damage.

The second mission we tried involved ram-raiding a building. We had to steal a car and repeatedly drive it headfirst into a building that was being defended by a group of enforcers. Once we picked up the package, we had to bring it to another location marked on the map. This was a frantic mission, and the pursuing enforcers made it incredibly difficult to transport the package. As well as shooting at us from their vehicle, they were constantly trying to ram us off the road. Other officers positioned themselves along the road and attempted to destroy us with grenades. The beauty of the game is that there are no right or wrong ways to play a mission, and they are made more interesting by the unpredictability of human players.

As an enforcer, many of the missions you undertake are simply the opposite of the criminal missions. For example, instead of defending a safe house, you will be asked to storm it and take out the criminals. If the criminals are ram-raiding a building, you will have to defend it. Though upholding the law may seem like the less interesting of the two classes, enforcers have the added ability to arrest people as well as simply shoot them. To arrest a criminal, we first had to purchase a nonlethal weapon. These were available from various contacts throughout the city and from Joker Ammunition vending machines. Not all weapons are available at the start of the game, and many of the beefier ones are available only once you've reached a certain rating. Others may be available only from contacts, though they will also withhold weapons unless you undertake a certain number of missions from them. Weapons can also be gifted to you from other players and can be collected from mail terminals. Terminals also allow you to receive messages from friends and contacts across the city.

The nonlethal weapon we chose was a beanbag gun, which had quite a long range and was great for taking down criminals at a distance. The gun allows you to put down criminals for a small period of time. You can use this time to shoot them and finish them off or to arrest them. If you don't do anything, they no longer remain stunned and can rejoin the fight. If you're quick enough to get behind the criminals while they're stunned, you can arrest them. This takes them out of the action for 15 seconds before they respawn at a different location. Though this may seem like a small amount of time, as a criminal it feels like much longer as you sit out and watch your teammates fight on their own. However, other criminals can free arrested teammates if they can get to them in time.

APB gives you a vast open-world city to wreak havoc in.

Completing missions rewards you with rating points, which unlock new items and weapons. Along with threat level, your rating ties directly in to the celebrity system in the game. You are awarded celebrity status for being the highest-rated player, for having the highest threat level, or based on gameplay-related achievements such as the most ram raids undertaken or the most arrests carried out. Reaching celebrity status allows you to build statues of your character across the city or have your face plastered across Most Wanted posters and billboards. Clans can also be featured on billboards, along with gang colours and decals.

APB is currently in private beta, though there are plans for an open beta in the near future. Beta players have been inventing their own "meta games," which are not officially part of the mission structure but have been set by the community. One example we were shown involved the enforcers attempting to take a screenshot of each of the high-level criminals in the game after arresting them, and then posting the screenshots on community forums. Real Time Worlds told us that many features will be added after the game's release, such as motorbikes and sniper rifles, along with additional districts. They also told us there is a narrative behind the action involving the city's mayor, but they did not reveal any other details. APB is due for release in late June on the PC, with an Xbox 360 version to follow at a later date.

Discussion

53 comments
sabas10
sabas10

C'mon people, don't be so negative. I bet 90% of you guys haven't even played this game! (nor it's bèta, nor it's demo) You can pay for hours (so you can play as long as you want. You pay for the time you play. Sounds fair), or, for the junkies, you can pay monthly (if you play more then 20 hours a month, this will be a lot cheaper!) The prizes are lower then WOW (wich is a completely different MMO, btw), expansions will be added all the time, and there are many options for clans and mission-groups. And if you add the superb creators for cars, avatars and music, this game is really gonna rock. I've askes many people on the bèta server if they liked the game. 43 people said yes. 2 said no. These two also said they don't like action games. There is nothing wrong with the game. And, SURPRISE: IT'S 100% LAG FREE THANKS TO EA'S SUPERB SERVERS!

R_Cue
R_Cue

One time purchase? I doubt it, we are talking about EA games. Im sure they have alredy sold their grandmas in that company.

MoreThot
MoreThot

This game will be as big as Fallen Earth was... in other words, only a certain group of people will play it. Just wait for the Star Wars: The Old Republic to come out if you want a MMO that will be worth paying to play. How can you go wrong with Bioware? :)

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

i've wanted a game like this forever.. it'll just depend on how good it ends up being and what the price structure is like... i don't have much time for gaming anymore (since ironically im working on games) so i don't think it would be worth a monthly fee for me when ill only get to play a few hours a week, if its just a one time purchase im going for it

cbag123
cbag123

I'm NOT paying monthly (or hourly) for a game like this. Paying hourly is only the future of gaming if people decide to give in and pay to the price gouging. The content of the game doesn't justify the price at all. I'm going to wait for Star Wars MMO to come out and play GTA if I want free multiplayer.

Sidrat2004
Sidrat2004

detectivepbert - what do you mean enough people online, you're limited to playing with or vs (depending on your own mood or outlook) at any one time, sure they may be different 99 people (if you work shifts or don't mind doing an alarm call session for randomized time-zone encounters), but really why bother? This isn't an MMO - it's a split world where your story only effects the other 99 souls (or characters depending on how easy it is to dual-box) per session. Is it me or are MMO's getting smaller than single player games? Right now I feel like logging in to Eve online, just so I can say hello to anyone in a random chat channel ask what region and time zone they're in and realize that 50K+ characters are active(-ish!) and sharing the same universe as me.

detectivepbert
detectivepbert

This game looks awesome given that enough people are online playing it to truly make it massively multiplayer. Probably it will not generate the following that WoW has. i would definitely have had this for PC by now if my machine was anywhere close to being able to play a game like thisl. Probably lots of people are in my situation which may be why they decided to port this to 360 -- which probably isn't that hard from PC.

Sniper
Sniper

APB looks like a joyless, bland, online version of Saints Row. It seems like the developers focus on their business model, and APB is merely the generic means to that end.

St0Ne4Ge
St0Ne4Ge

mongoose90 i think you have the 100 per city thing a bit misunderstood, while it is 100 per city this is just like an action map and the world you will be playing with consists of 100,000 people. So when you start the game you pick a world and the 100k people in that world are the people you will be playing with the entire game. Then those 100k people are split up between districts containing 100 people which you can change district whenever you like. I know what you mean about being familiar with players and some mmo's are just too big which makes everybody nobody, but APB does this very well since i have seen many clans and individuals around i remember and got to know many people. It works really well and does give you the oportunity to become well known in your world, something that other mmo's don't have.

modifyd
modifyd

this is the first game thats going to bring me back to CPU Gaming...plus having one of my songs in the game makes it an added favorite

mongoose90
mongoose90

Besides being action-oriented (which I'm happily noticing seems to be the universal trend in MMOs), open-world, PvP-centric, and sandboxed, I really, really like how they have scaled down the player population to 100 per city. I think that is the crucial ingredient for allowing each player to be a unique and familiar member of a community. You just can't have that with 100k players, but with 100, I think, you can. Unfortunately, I don't like the setting, but that's entirely preference. They have all the game design mechanics I've been thirsting for.

_AxisofEvil_
_AxisofEvil_

lol no focused aim....ok NOW its an mmo only makes sense that you hit dead on the head and u can only hope that its recognized as a "critical" headshot :P ...just great LOL

TheGreyArea
TheGreyArea

no focused aim or cover sounds a little strange for a game of this obvious detail... but apart from that, I am really, REALLY looking forward to seeing how this pans out. Time to go find-out where the public beta applications page is.

modifyd
modifyd

Definitley Got to get it ...I have a song that will be featured in the game..as well if you go to APB.com my song is being featured under the WORLD tab.... subscribe @ youtube.com/modifyd

Lach0121
Lach0121

people, final fantasy 14 is on pc and ps3, apb is on pc and 360.. personally im really intrigued by apb, seems like it could be a lot of fun, though i will look at it a lot more after it launches.

Johny_47
Johny_47

I've never played an open world MMO before, I might give this one a go when it's out, should be fun.

Adema83
Adema83

Yeh not loving this game atm v-boring and repetative, and feels like it's using the quake engine not the UT3 engine. Need's a huge ammout of polish and refining. Also the zones are small, no where near a big as they appear..

scorpgul
scorpgul

@Welshmun LMFAO so I am an asylum seeker now for speaking the truth? L2 lead an argument u b*llend and ye I have a job and I am more than happy with the money. U gotta get laid more often looks like u really need it

cdarwin1844
cdarwin1844

I'd love to see a game like this with decent vehicle physics to make vehicle chases/interaction more fun. One player could be the driver and have a steering wheel (i.e. Logitech G27 type controller) setup while the others in the team handled the shooting. Realistic physics for the vehicles would also make the shooting more fun as you would actually have to slow down to turn and control the vehicle rather than bounce off walls at full throttle. I can only dream...

leeengland
leeengland

I hope they DONT do a console version i would like grpahics that arent 4 years out of date please

krelmmaster
krelmmaster

"virtual city populated with up to 99 other players" Fail

Welshmun
Welshmun

@Scorpgul .get a job you asylum seeker, you dirty smelly bum

escapethyfate
escapethyfate

@scorpgul... Welshmun's just being a dirkhead ... :/ but yeah the game really dosent need high specs... Pentium 4 2.5 Ghz or equivalent.... 2GB RAM (3GB for Vista64 / Windows 7 64).... nVidia GeForce 7800 - 256MB or equivalent.... 20GB Hard disk space... Most recent PCs have atleast that much... :P

natehamm
natehamm

currently the game was very unbalanced from when i got to try it at a freinds house no one was aiming just spray and pray with a smg all other guns here ineffective

scorpgul
scorpgul

@Welshmun not everyone can pay £1500 every year for a nerd gaming rig better things out there to spend money on and no ones moaning ppl just surprised that this is coming out on xbox and not ps3

neomoglin
neomoglin

I think this game looks great but I'm not sure who to be?

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

no its not the same 99 people. the people who report on this game don't even get their information straight, they report in a clumsy and unclear way.

Welshmun
Welshmun

stop moaning about a ps3 version and get a decent computer u cheap b@stards

alexcore88
alexcore88

@scorpgul - me too! PS3 version please!

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

so your stuck with 100,000 people unless u change your profile on the game, then your stuck with a different 100,000 people

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

@galerian86 no, you are stuck with 100,000 people. u go in different cities every match but it remembers your progress from the last match. 100 out of the 100,000 people in your server get randomly selected into different cities each time they want to play a match, it remembers everyone's progress and so loads that into the match before it starts.

galerian86
galerian86

Are we stuck with the same 99 people forever?

scorpgul
scorpgul

really hope a PS3 version comes out

it009x9281
it009x9281

I really hope this wont be a pay to play game

St0Ne4Ge
St0Ne4Ge

Once they add hit location damage this game will be great, RTW will support the game post-release and you don't have to pay every month, cant wait.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

The character creation sounds lovely but have they thought enough about key gameplay? As of yet, no location specific damage. The pay-off for an arrest sounds a bit weak too. A cover system would be great too.

mos182
mos182

Can't believe this is on 360 and not PS3 as well. :(

Pete5506
Pete5506

Not sure on this yet, I want to see more

werruraz
werruraz

Meh, been playing SAMP ( San Andreas Multiplayer) Mod for the PC for years, theres also Multi Theft Auto... GTA 3 Vice City San Andreas Can play all of them online, but APB sounds pritty good with the customization and gang tags and colours, i may check this out.

sicklilfreak
sicklilfreak

@Bazackward All you do is pvp, every match is against other players.

Bazackward
Bazackward

Did I read this right? "Other players are identified by grey name tags, so you can't go around ruining everyone's fun by shooting them. There are plans to introduce chaos zones, which will allow hardcore players to do this, but they will not be in the game at launch." No PVP? That's pretty lame imo.

maverick_76
maverick_76

Seems really cool but we will see if this is better than GTA.

AlphaWolF_J
AlphaWolF_J

For years i always said the a GTA mmo would be amazing but still rockstar are draggin there heels So ireally hope this game steals there thunder. I also think the real winner in this game will be FREEDOM freedom to create you own look, decals artwork music game content thats where this game will really stay stong unlike most mmos where you have to get enough xp to craft certian stuff or xp to be better in combat ..here its all baout genuine skill and artistic talent somthing that no mmo has done b4 on this kind of level ... this games potential seems limitless if the develepors keep an eye on what the players are doing and take it on board ..my fave word (customization)

superspeed04
superspeed04

@ bamul did you even read the APB FAQ?? here is a nice little segment - "APB won't require a subscription commitment, nor will it rely on traditional micro-transaction offerings."

Jallen4dictator
Jallen4dictator

@MooncalfReviews. I bet if Satan approached you now, you would take that back :P

Col-Neil
Col-Neil

It looks like fun and i cant wait to see the kinds of customization options

weapon93
weapon93

This game is one of the most expensive games ever made. It will be huge and amazing. GTA online with unending costom options. This is why I got a gaming PC.

Bamul
Bamul

Meh, I was waiting for this game only to find out on their new website that they will charge you with monthly payments. That takes this 'amazing' game off my list. :roll: