ETA: Wow, so apparently *alot* of you are looking for APB reviews right now. Good. I added some screenies for you and will write more detailed impressions later this week. For the new people, welcome to my internet home…
The nice thing about reviewing APB from the open beta is that you all know exactly how long I played the game for, and that I got the same amount of time as everyone else. And, better than that, APB has conceded that this is the amount of time you need, as a player, to draw some conclusions about the game. Because if they thought you needed more than that, they would have handed out more in the open beta. So as usualy, here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (though I’m going to do them out of order this time to reflect my experiences). The tl;dr version: APB is a fun game that strikes a unique balance between MMO and RPG that led me to give it a thumbs up.
My first night in APB was absolutely terrible. The editor, while very detailed and capable, takes some getting used too. Since each mouse button serves a different function, I sometimes found myself trying to zoom out to look at the full body and instead gaining a quick forty pounds or so, all because I mixed the left and right button function up. Also, while extremely detailed in some places, its extremely limited in others. The “quick random” body, for example, will not auto update the current model. Like what you see but want it in a different skin color? Tough twinkies! You have to switch to the detail editor and craft that change by hand. I was also disappointed by the initial lack of options in the social district. If you are thinking you will have any flexibility in the initial look of your character beyond body type, think again. Variety comes only with experience in this game (which, on a side note, makes the preorder gifts that much more attractive, especially considering your starting bread box…err, car).
On the game side, the tutorial is…a complete waste of time. It taught me to push the F key when I wanted to activate something. It neglected to tell me how to find the options page, how to zoom when shooting, how to sprint, how to change key bindings, what keys did what, how to interact with kiosks, how to repair my car, how to steal goods/mug people/make arrests…well, the list goes on. It does though, give you a nice starting arena to get a feel for the game but…it needs to be so much more. So then, when you get the real game itself, and the game suggests that you let it find a group for you and not to go solo, you will be tempted, like me, to tell it to shove off, I’m better off on my own thank you very much. And you’d be wrong…just like I was. Do not solo in this game. Trust me on this. You will end up dead in a frustrating and repeated manner.
On the bright side, the pick up groups you will get are good. The game is a shooter at its mechanical heart of course, and shooters don’t seem to attract the same number of goofs that standar MMORPG’s do. And if you do have a deadweight in your group – drop em and move on. The game is fluid enough that it won’t make a difference. There is something very awesome about the wolfpack mentality of the missions, either trying to stop criminals or disrupt police operations. And the death penalty – the standard ten second time out from your childhood – is bearable. Especially since they will respawn you just outside the current conflict with a minimum of fuss to get back in the action. Weapon variety is standard but gives a nice twist to tactics. Perhaps the best tactical edge will come from getting to know the city itself. Knowing where you can hop a fence, climb a ladder, or run through a store to cut off a fleeing enemy or get ahead in a chase is invaluable. And the city is marvelously interactive and alive. Ever play a game and want to be able to wander in and out of the buildings and stuff? Well virtually every location in the city has a way through, over, or around it. You’ll be suprised at the number of stores you can run through, alleys you can cut down, and roofs you can climb over – or hide on. To be honest, its just plain – fun. It brings the shooter to a new place, and for me that was good. I guess you could technically call the majority of missions timed team deathmatches – but they sure don’t feel or play like it.
And those social district options? Well once you have some hours under your belt they really open up for you. The variety of cars and clothes is stunning. And while the variety of guns and vehicles pales a bit in comparison, its still a good size, especially when you consider how many different customization options you have with those two areas between ammo types, upgrades, paint schemes, tune ups, etc. In fact, the game rewards you for playing in those area kiosks. Play with your car, design decals, change the license plate, put a new set of lights on it, and don’t be surprised to see a notation that you are now a level 2 “Tuner” and then squeel in delight as new options have unlocked and – wait for it – money has been desposited in your account. Yeah. You get rewarded for being creative. For crafting in a sense. Because you can turn around and “manufacture” your modded cars and clothes on the market. I kid you not. Some genious in the open beta had modded a General Lee Dukes of Hazard car and a version of the A Team van in the marketplace. Awesome. Just plain awesome. And, unlike any other game out there except – oddly enough – EVE, you can sell your online creations for the RealTime points to pay for your sub. Its like mini-plexing on a daily basis, if you are an EVE vet.
I could tell you about how awesome it is that one of the kiosk/crafting/social areas is a music maker to create your own personal theme song, but I’m not sure I can convert the awesome into words.
The bottom line is that APB brings a great balance of RPG into the MMO. In some ways, its more RPG than some of the standard fantasy fare that’s out there. And given the emphasis on personal reputation and creativity and such, don’t be suprised if a mission creator gets added to the game at some point, because it is well set up for such a thing to happen.
Raving aside, it does have some glitches and bugs. I encountered some horrendous lag once, which coincided with sound glitches. But that was not the norm, and I didn’t see any jumping or game indications of people being out of sync outside of my one experience. Almsot all of the previews don’t load, and I swear the decal creator/designer gets confused and befuddled sometimes.
There are some balance issues as well. Since matches are based more off of Notoriety/Reputation level than the are your Rating (“level” loosely speaking) you can get some mismatches in terms of weaponry. However, they never seemed to be game breakers. In one combat, our main opponent (a 5 star rep “VIP” as they call them when they max rep) had a *very* nice automatic rifle that was stitching us good. But with some nice coordination, we were able to bait him out several times and neutralize his advantage in arms with good tactics. And, whether you like this or not may be a taste thing, even the most blatant of direct hits on the enemy will not usually kill them off at once. I haven’t seen any one-shotting, at least not with weapons. Now, if your opponent runs you over in a car, or you are standing next to a vehicle that you grenade…well, that’s another story. But no worries about stepping out from around a corner and getting no-scoped by an ace shooter. It just doesn’t seem to happen. I liked that, but I realize that hard core shooter types may not like that.
Really the biggest issue right now is the car chases. There is so little variation between the speed of the vehicles that it is hard to catch up to a fleeing opponent. You absolutely must get someone shotgun with you to shoot up the opposition vehicle, or its probably a lost cause. One the other hand, what this does is essentially allow a survival tactic for assassination missions and makes them that much more difficult and valuable. In any other mission, they can run around if they want too, but it will mean failing their mission as well, which is a victory for you. Oh and as it stands now – being an enforcer and running over people drops your reputation. Well since that is a good way to match yourself up against lower ranked players, expect that mechanic to eventually be fully exploited and then changed.
The dressing rooms could also use a little tweaking. Twice in the beta, I clicked the wrong place on an item in the store and purchased the item rather than previewing it. That’s not going to be fun as things get more expensive.
And finally, I put this here rather than bad because to me its not a bad thing, but I do understand the gripe. While the social district is pretty wide open, combat districts are zoned and limited to 100 players each. I’m fine with it, but other people think that means the game only rates as an MO rather than MMO. YMMV.
I’m actually going to be buying APB. The subscription structure is nice I think, and a concession on their part that this is not a full MMORPG. With that concession though, I’m going to applaud them for the amount of RP that they facilitate in the game and the amount of creativity that they have placed in the players hands. Overall I think its a nice little game with some interesting touches. Kudos to the devs for putting it all together.