Review in Progress: APB

We hit the streets of San Paro in this pre-review peek at APB.

I wouldn't want to live in the city of San Paro. Packs of pierced and tattooed criminals speed about the streets, chased by equally adrenaline-filled peacekeepers desperately trying to rid the city of its delinquents. Fortunately, this crime-filled metropolis is fictional, so my current tour of duty there isn't life threatening, though it can be a bit harrowing from time to time. Welcome to APB, developer Realtime Worlds' first foray into the (sort of) massively multiplayer market. The game was just released this week, and I've been cavorting about as a ginger-Mohawked enforcer, bringing criminals to justice while admiring my sweet leather jacket as I hang out car windows like a streetwise vigilante. It's too early to tell whether APB deserves the key to the city or whether it should suffer in skid row, but in advance of the review, I thought I would give you a quick look into my life as an enforcer.

The APB notification lets you know when another group has been assigned as the opposition.

Perhaps APB's greatest selling point is the amount of customization on offer. Initial character creation is robust, but it's after you get in the game that this aspect starts to boggle your mind. Here's one game in which you can make sure your character looks nothing like anyone else. Using a Forza-style editor, you can use basic geometric shapes and decals to modify not just the vehicles that you buy, but also your clothing. As you gain favor with your various contacts in the world, you unlock more decals (and of course, new weapons and clothing as well). But you aren't just personalizing your looks: You can also use a simple in-game sequencer to create tunes that your victims hear upon defeat. I haven't made any fancy clothing just yet, though I did purchase a sweet "Assassin's Jacket" some player made with a familiar logo on it. (If you know who Altair and Ezio are, you know what I'm talking about!) I've spent more time in the midi sequencer and created a fun, short, and slightly discordant version of a tune from Ms. Pac-Man for my kill tune.

As for the gameplay, many of APB's ups and downs are obvious within a few hours. You perform missions for your various contacts to gain favor with them and unlock new goodies, which generally involves grouping up with other players and performing mundane tasks while shooting up the rival players assigned to opposing tasks. The game makes it easy to hook up with others, assigning players to groups automatically unless you choose to turn that option off and run about with players of your own choosing. You might get about 10 players on opposing teams on some occasions, though more frequently, there may be four of you. Missions are easy to take: The group leader receives constant mission invitations no matter where he is in San Paro, and when he accepts one, the team rolls out. The game will (hopefully) then match your team up with a competing team--enforcers versus criminals.

One of my favorite moments thus far has been killing a dude named DonCorleone. I capped the Don!

The massively multiplayer aspect applies to the world at large but not to the action. There are firefights going on all around, but I can't shoot up criminals willy-nilly--only members of the assigned opposition, unless there's a bounty on someone's head. It's certainly an interesting dichotomy: large-scale environments with all small-scale shootouts. Some traditional online shooters like MAG, Modern Warfare 2, and Bad Company 2 feature action on a much larger scale, so don't go into APB expecting massive battles. Nevertheless, it's undeniably cool to hang out of a passenger's side window, shooting up the rival team's vehicle as it pursues my team's van, hoping to murder our VIP. It's less cool to be the driver, only because the vehicles, at least at this stage, aren't much fun to drive. They either feel like heavy boxes on wheels or like you're speeding around on streets made of banana peels. Luckily, as with weapons, you earn upgrades for your own vehicles, which you can spawn at designated points throughout San Paro. I'm interested to see how vehicles improve as I earn these upgrades.

I'm also interested to see how the action improves once I gain access to some awesome weapons. You may find yourself up against some pretty tough rivals, using your puny early weapons to shoot up guys with upgraded gear. It can be frustrating to unload a ton of bullets in someone, only to get taken down in a few shots. Things are a lot more fun when teams are on level footing, but there's no guarantee that you'll have a fair fight when you first start. At least the game keeps you moving from one mission to the next, so you won't lack things to do. They do seem to always be the same things, however, and I'm looking forward to seeing if APB develops a greater sense of forward momentum. There's not a lot of story or world/character development, so the game relies on the promise of better weapons and customization options to keep you invested.

Hangin' out the passenger's side of my best friend's ride…

I haven't run into a lot of lag, which is fortunate, but I have encountered some craziness in the launch week. Busted animations and texture pop-in haven't affected the gameplay, but they can still be distracting. On the other hand, certain bugs, like capture spots located inside level geometry, can keep you from finishing missions. Another glitch allows you to unlock countless stuff if you stay logged in to a clothing customization terminal. (Now you know why dozens of unresponsive players are all huddled around those machines in the social district!) However, I haven't had any logging difficulties, and lag spikes have been rare for me, so there is some sugar to sweeten the lemonade.

Look out for a review of APB in the next week or two. In the meanwhile, if you'd like to party it up in San Paro with me, send me a private message on GameSpot; I'm on the La Rocha server!

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Want the latest news about APB?

APB

APB

Follow

Discussion

26 comments
Arther-la-Blunt
Arther-la-Blunt

This review is taking for ever! I'm guessing GS is going to give it a fair shake. IMO, Kevin should have to "work" the weekend to get this done.

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

I like the review format. Makes a lot of sense for an MMO's.

MasterTheHero
MasterTheHero

@Kevin-V Dear Kevin, we should totally play before your tour of duty at APB is over. Of course, if you're not on the Zombie server then never mind, but I would gladly hook you up with weapons and gear. I'm expecting the game to get a few dings, because it can be VERY frustrating but it's still a very fun game in the end. (P.S.) The driving just takes some getting used to, it's definitely one of those things that you need to practice. Once you get the hang of it, driving is exhilarating!

theprecipice
theprecipice

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

KroniKolizon
KroniKolizon

It looks like a gta clone, is it any fun because gta4 wasn't...it had its moments but gets boring quick.

COWZ14
COWZ14

Is this game still coming out on Xbox?

dark_rage864
dark_rage864

tbh this game should of got delayed maybe to november or next year as it feels really unfinished. Most of the gameplay mechanics will get improved on but you would expect them either patches or even expansion packs.

TheGreyArea
TheGreyArea

I'm in two minds about this so far. My reckoning is that it can't be worse than Saints Row 2? And I'm - CURRENTLY - having a LOT of fun playing that again (co-op). I'm going to wait for a couple of level headed reviews. But if I'm going to do this, I want to do it soon. I don't want to be buzzing around maps getting SLAUGHTERED by guys who've spent the last month or so levelling-up

Phar_cyde
Phar_cyde

I cannot kill any one! why why why can't I kill any one I shot them but the can kill me in a few hits! it's ridiculous.

THA-TODD-BEAST
THA-TODD-BEAST

Another "action" MMO fails. CrimeCraft, Global Agenda, and to an extent Champions Online. These developers simply can't get it right, and I wonder if they ever will. Chalk up yet another failed attempt with so much potential behind it. Maybe next time.

MasonChaos
MasonChaos

This game has no balance at all. If it had a decently reasonable match making system it would be fun... but it insists on placing myself (level 10) and 3 other low level players again 3 levels 100+ player with modded players, modded guns, modded cars and more experience. This game is also bad if you internet connection is bad. Only a portion of your shots register causing for very frustrating shootouts where you die because of poor hit detection.

ziproy
ziproy

I love the game. Hate the fact that it's micro-transaction based but im hooked

sergio_afonso
sergio_afonso

Beta tested. I loved it! Waiting to buy it soon!!

NeilVaage
NeilVaage

Having a blast with APB (EU - Patriot - Neil) myself. There are times I get frustrated and it almost seems obvious that some opposition is cheating by using some sort of aim hacks (100% aim when you run and jump around up and down from buildings in this game doesn't really make sense with a MP5). The launch has been extremely stable here in the EU, and I haven't encountered any of the bugs mentioned here. There are on rare occations a texture-popin on the spawned car as I spawn it the first time I log in, but overall I am not experiencing any type of graphical issues. The game is pretty much giving me the same feel I get from playing the GTA games (without a story-driven element). It's a pretty big sandbox to play around in. Me and some clan members are when tired of the gunplay doing in example street races or parkour runs from one destination to another using the group markers (right click on the [M]ap). Alot of fun, but I believe I will eventually slow down to playing it casually like I do in the GTA games. At some point it gets "boring", so I take a break, but I always tend to come back for some more action. Now it's in a Massively Online environment, wich makes it all the more fun.

mcspaddin
mcspaddin

a lot of the cars are off, and as noted in some of the player reviews people tend to steal whatever is there ( or commandeer) honestly the best thing you can do is find a vehicle type you are comfortable with (for me it was the four door truck) buy it, customize it, and keep it with you at all times. Also if you learn where useable vehicle spawns are even if your car blows up you cant steal one simply to go to your nearest spawn location.... this helps the driving mechanics a lot

bornej
bornej

I have about 20 hours into this game and have had some really good times so far. I, like Pete, am also looking forward to see how it scores.

DanGleeSack
DanGleeSack

i honestly havnt seen the driving problem that u guys discribe its does all depend on the car your in though as to how stable and agile it is the turns sometimes seem alittle wide but you can correct it I have played a good amount of racing games so that probably helps me The matchmaking has been fine for me. Even with my starter gun if you use smart tactics and dont just run in you can kill people pretty easily. This game has so much potential i hope the devs will come through with new stuff otherwise it will be dead soon. If they add more varitity and interaction in the mission objectives, customisible houses, NPCs that will fight and PVE missions it will be great. The pricing idea is good because you can pay by hours at a time or unlimited for a month.

Zipper761882
Zipper761882

I just don't care much for this game so far. After spending hours and hours in the editor on my character I was absolutely in love with the game. Then I actually played the game. Ugh. I have no idea what they were going for with the driving physics but the vehicles are horrible. The missions are way too much of the same thing. I went back to the editor after like 6 hours lol. I will play till my time that comes with the game is up but I can't see myself purchasing more.

Stunty17
Stunty17

What excites me about this game is playing with my friends in a group and running around doing missions together shooting up people as we go, or goin on one of the servers where its free for all basically (i forget the name of it) and ride around shooting everyone. I see this as a third person codmw, the only reason you get codmw is for the online, you just want to kill people and get upgrades and new weapons, you dont care about the story you just want that experience

Pete5506
Pete5506

I cant wait to see the score, I've been having a good time with it

kibleses
kibleses

I don't think he talked enough about the frustration of the terrible matchmaking. It seems that it is more common to be flung against a group of much higher level/lower level enemies than it does to fight someone around your level. My threat level 7 character usually has to fight it out with threat level 12-15 enemies. "Frustrating" doesn't summarize my feelings the majority of the time.

JLCrogue
JLCrogue

I can handle the repetitive missions, because I'm used to playing the same shooters over and over again on the same maps, with the same weapons and with the same objectives. What really bothers me are the controls, especially the driving. It feels like you're driving on ice and sometimes my car is constantly sliding back and forth down the street.

Neo_Sarevok
Neo_Sarevok

@ holandes-voador Yea I think I'll wait on the game until they add more variety. It looks like a fun game, but I have to wonder if I'm better off saving my money for Kane and Lynche 2, which has a similar appeal to it, minus the cars. At least with Kane and Lynche 2, the online is free, minus XBL costs.

Elk
Elk

I played it a few times a month or so ago and I didn't come back with a good feeling. It felt like GTA mixed with the Matrix Online. I was set to totally dismiss it but since I heard that there are no monthly fees it's easier to justify. I can't see it taking off though, perhaps that's because I still think of the 80s arcade machine and nothing could live up to that.

holandes-voador
holandes-voador

The lack of variety seems to be the main thing wrong with APB, at least that appears to be the case. In concept the game sounded fine, but the more time I spend with it (which, granted, wasn't much) the less I like it.