RealTime Worlds' APB was one of the most highly anticipated games of last year, but it launched with so many problems that it was shut down shortly after launch (and took its creator with it). Since then, GamersFirst, previously known as K2 Networks, has picked up the game's assets and has been preparing the game for a relaunch with completely new content and significant changes to compensate for the original game's well-documented issues. The new game, APB: Reloaded, is one of the games on display at the 2011 Game Developers Conference, and we sat down to watch a hands-off demonstration of it that focused primarily on what's being changed and improved.
GamersFirst is taking an all-inclusive approach that specifically addresses all the problems of the original APB while adding brand-new content that should add a lot more variety to the game. For starters, the starting car that all players receive has been completely replaced with something much sportier and easier to drive (despite its poor top speed, this spunky little coupe's handling is among the best in the game). Minor annoyances, like the way your character could sometimes overlap the targeting reticle, have been removed, and inefficient graphical issues (such as the way vending machines had individually rendered panels, and the way making a turn while driving would require the game to both make your character model turn, and then make your vehicle turn) have been done away with. Also, all guns will do more damage--therefore, even beginner players should have more of a chance against veteran players who will be heavily armed--but rather than being flat-out more powerful, they will instead be more specialized in Reloaded.
As a matter of fact, all the game's cars and guns have been reclassified into specific groups as part of GamersFirst's push to make APB more organized, and to make character progression make more sense. For starters, weapons specifically determine your character's "role." Making a precise grenade toss that blows an enemy sky-high will give you experience in the grenadier role, and once you gain enough experience to advance to the next level in that weapon type, you'll unlock a new tier of slotted weapons in that class that can be upgraded. In addition, the "contact" system, which lets you gain favor with key characters in the game, has been revamped to a level-based system in which gaining enough favor with any given character will eventually gain you a level in favor, which will unlock a new tier of non-upgradable weapons you can use.
While the studio is meticulously logging community feedback and doing its best to address the original game's problems, it's also taking the game into new directions that seem to make a lot of sense, given the game's modern-day, urban setting. For example, the mission system is being revamped (several of the less-interesting missions from the original game are being removed entirely and replaced with brand-new quests).
Both criminal and enforcer characters will now have a "heat" level measured by a Grand Theft Auto-style five-star system, which increases your character's notoriety--a system that comes into play in Reloaded's new "turf wars" event system, which will periodically spawn loot that criminal characters can grab in a heist and then sell off to a fence for serious cash. The more loot your criminal character snatches at any given time, the higher your heat level gets, and the higher heat level you have, the bigger the score you can snag, and the bigger the purse you'll get for it. However, if you get nabbed by an enforcer, that enforcer character can confiscate your ill-gotten gains and convert the loot to "evidence" at the local precinct. At some point, the series of petty crimes will erupt into an all-out assault where one faction will lead an attack on the enemy's base, and if the attacking team can successfully destroy the defending team's base in the area, the losing team will be without a source of income for a half-hour or so.
In addition, brand-new gameplay systems are being added, such as racing gameplay, which lets you bring your character to one of 11 different racing courses, at which your characters can win upgradable autos of their own. In addition, you can try your hand at being a disc jockey and mix your own music that you can then broadcast to your teammates in the surrounding area. GamersFirst even plans to let players put on their own DJ battles, where two different musicians can give competing performances in the same area, and any players within earshot can vote on who will win the music battle. (This last feature probably won't make it into the game until after launch, though.)
Oh, one more thing--APB: Reloaded is becoming a free-to-play game with microtransactions. The current plan is to let players purchase items that are similar to but different from items they'd normally get in the world from quests--items that aren't necessarily more powerful, but may have different properties. For instance, a standard shotgun you find in the world might fire a huge spray of pellets that don't do that much damage individually, while a for-pay version of the same shotgun will deal the same amount of damage but will have a narrower spray range, making it more useful at a distance, but actually weaker at close range. In addition, all players will be able to use the powerful customization tools from the original game, but the in-game shop will give nonpaying players access to slightly fewer customization options and will give players who pay in for extra customization many more options.
APB: Reloaded is fixing a lot of the original game's issues. It's also adding a lot of new content that makes a lot of sense. The game just recently went into closed beta and is planned to launch this year.