APB Updated Impressions

GamesCom offered the first chance to see All Points Bulletin being played live, and from what we saw, this MMO crime sim is looking very promising.

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Long shrouded in secrecy, APB has recently been making appearances everywhere, from high-profile events like E3 to smaller industry conferences such as Brighton Develop. The game is reaching its final stages of development, and developer Realtime Worlds celebrated that fact with the first live demo today at GamesCom in Cologne. A hugely ambitious project, APB is an online massively multiplayer open-world action game that pits the lawmakers against the lawbreakers in a huge urban war.

The GamesCom demo focussed on the enforcer team, whose job it is to keep the peace in the world of APB. The demo started with a short introduction to the world, with two people playing the game locally joining forces with people in remote locations. They all got into a police car--one of the 30 vehicles that will be featured in the game. EJ Moreland, the lead designer, highlighted how the bodykits for the cars will be completely customisable, allowing law enforcement to be just as fashionable as the tattooed criminals we've seen in videos to date.

After the enforcers got a crew of four people together, they headed for a rendezvous with an informant. Once you've met an informant in APB, he'll issue you missions remotely, and if you're in a gang, these missions will filter out to all of the members automatically. The enforcement team then proceeded to follow the orders they had been given--using a battering ram to knock down a door, grabbing a briefcase, and delivering it somewhere else, for example.

The combat in APB looks to be a lot of fun, thanks mainly to the strategy involved. One of the players we saw was using a rifle, but the second opted to use a nonlethal shotgun. The shotgun wasn't as powerful as the rifle, especially from far away, but it did allow him to incapacitate enemies and then go up and arrest them. The benefit of this is that it takes criminals longer to respawn if they're arrested rather than killed--15 seconds rather than eight, according to Moreland. There will be 30 weapons in the full game too, with some of the weapons accessible only once you've reached a certain player rating.

The demo also gave us a chance to see certain features in the game for the first time. Players are able to create their own death music, which then plays whenever you kill anyone in the game. There's also an interesting feature whereby people close to you in the world will hear whatever you're saying, so you can't assume your commands are limited just to your team.

The demo also proved a perfect opportunity to let Realtime Worlds spill the beans on other new features that will appear in the finished game. You'll be able to create 10 different characters on one account in APB, although this could be changed before release according to demand. The team is already thinking of what it calls "horizontal expansions" to the game--special districts infested with zombies, for example, or a Mad Max-style driving area. They're even toying around with the idea of a golden briefcase--a rare loot drop of $10,000 to $20,000 that's highlighted for everyone on the map, and the first person to get it to a designated area wins the lot.

APB is on the home stretch in terms of development, and Realtime Worlds is promising an open beta "very soon." That said, it's an ambitious massively multiplayer online game, so there's plenty of testing needed before it's released in Q1 2010. The game is currently slated for release on the PC only, but it's clear that the team has its eyes set on the consoles as well. Stay tuned for more information as we get it.

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