APB Reloaded Open Beta Preview

APB established itself a game of cat and mouse, of cops and robbers, and of good and evil, and GamersFirst sought to make good on that promise. Were they able to turn Realtime Worlds' customizable rags into gameplay riches?

All Points Bulletin: Reloaded, or APB, is all about pure carnage. You run people over, you blow heads off, you punch people and take their money, and you troll the user base as much as humanly possible in the process.

In that respect, APB is the pure essence of the internet. But APB is also a game of cat and mouse, of cops and robbers, and of good and evil. ItÂ’s not so much an MMORPG as it is a persistent world of Grand Theft Auto. Does it work? It truly depends on your love of the formula and your friends.

Cautions

For an MMO, this game is harsh. People swear very vividly in several languages and you pummel civilians. If the kids want to play a game, I would suggest Maple Story, the polar opposite of this bloodsport.

Gameplay

There's also a third faction.  You don't want to mess with these guys.

There are two obvious sides to the game, in the Enforcers and Criminals.  They seek to thwart each other at every turn, and that comes into play quickly once you step outside of the newbie zone where you get accustomed to the mission-based gameplay of APB.

Whether you roll as one or as many, you simply queue up and youÂ’ll be randomly assigned a task.  This ranges from busting criminals, securing lost merchandise, tagging dumpsters, or even planting bombs.  At some point during the mission though, youÂ’ll be matched up against an opposing team.  TheyÂ’ll know your objective and have their own objective in mind for the key item or simply seek to defend the area.  All of this is seamless once youÂ’ve entered a ‘districtÂ’, which corresponds to one of the three main types of servers, holding 100 or more people at any given time.

HereÂ’s where this goes from Grand Theft Auto into Beverly Hills Cop.  GamersFirst rightfully shifted the focus from APB's ample customization to gameplay, but unforunately preserved certain fatal flaws from the original release. At the top of the list (and something that, thankfully, GamersFirst is still tuning, according to the latest dev blog), the matchmaking is still seemingly random and will put you in mismatched fights, either from an odds perspective or against a team of extremely high level players.  Combine this with an array of predictable spawn points, often times in sight of a guarded objective, and youÂ’ll have bullets in the head before you even make it to a car.  Once an objective is in the hands of the enemy, taking it back is far harder than it should be.  Good luck assaulting people on high ground in cover.

You don't see passenger mounts in WoW giving you the ability to lean out and dispense lead.  Make your friend drive and kill people with style!

Even though the gameplay can get downright unfair and silly, the physics of the game always lead to a good time.  Cars will fly off each other like ramps, people fly vans off rooftops and in front of objectives that players need to reach.  Players will occasionally slide for miles when hit by a car, and generally the world is just absurd when you have momentum and mass on your side.  That canÂ’t prevent the game from getting stale with the same old formula nonstop, but it greatly amplifies the fun of making a band of friends and cruising the town.  Three people hanging out of the side windows of cars hailing everyone with gunfire is simply badass and belongs in every game—regardless of genre.

Graphics

APB still looks alright by todayÂ’s standards. There are some frustrating UI issues at higher resolutions, such as icons for objectives being the size of sugar ants. The array of cars and the textures that they have could use some work as well. Even at high standards, youÂ’ll be looking at the peak of maybe the PS2 era of graphics. Just like CrimeCraft though, the super stylized loading scenes and art that peppers the game are top notch.

Sound

One of the unexpected high points of the game, APB has some licensed tracks and some good music in-between. When youÂ’re pummeling civilians for quick cash, they respond with a wide variety of quips and four letter words, some in different languages. The only low point is the weapons, which sound a little on the weak side.

Multiplayer Aspects

For the love of God, play this with friends.  ThereÂ’s built-in voice chat, and communication is key to getting to objectives first and fortifying them or escaping with the goods before your opposition can arrive.  There is the ability to auto-form public groups and queue for missions, but since spawn times are upwards of 20 seconds, each death is crippling both to the pace and to the success of the mission.

Why the hell canÂ’t I run any opposing player over?  If theyÂ’re the opposition, they should be fair game.  I understand this would be harmful to the mission-based gameplay the game is going for, but holy crap you can mess with people that are against other teams.  You can drive cars in front of them, you can shoot right next to them to distract them, and you can even jump in front of their line of fire.  But since you canÂ’t harm players outside of your targets/assigned opponents on most servers, you can very easily be trolled.  Or you can do the trolling yourself if you see someone that beat you down in a previous encounter.

Breaking into a car is easier said than done.  You'll have to provide cover for your cohorts while they're vulnerable.

Value & Lasting Appeal

ThereÂ’s honestly not a lot in the cash shop. YouÂ’ve got an assortment of cosmetics, some rentable weapons and a few permanent ones, and a few choice vehicles. All of these are optional and that means the content of the game is full from the start. Sure you can go Premium and get a bonus to your XP and cash rates, but if you're the sort to pick up APB, smash some goons, and put down every so often, thereÂ’s no reason to subscribe... at least that we've seen yet.

As for lasting appeal: how much fun do you get out of run and gun action? How much fun do you get running over civilians and flying at strange angles off buildings and into each other? It might cause you to burst out laughing at first, but this genre has been slain in terms of ‘fresh appeal’. So the duration you’ll have this game installed is perfectly correlated with how many friends you have playing with you. If you’re alone, you’ll be done in a week, if you’ve got a whole gang, you might be playing this for months. But couldn’t the same be said for every game?

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Feels much better as a F2P game than a subscription one
  • The only MMO that bugs and physics errors actually make you laugh instead of rage
  • I wish I could steal mounts in other games. Stealing cars in this game spoils me so much.

Cons

  • Matchmaking is still awful and sometimes pits you against people that are almost done with their missions already!
  • Repetitive as hell, which might be a positive to some for this type of game
  • Heavily reliant on you making it fun rather than the game itself being fun.

Conclusion

All Points Bulletin: Reloaded seems like it's a little too late to the party.  This genre was great fun, but those of us who lived it up doing crazy stuff and killing each other already got all of that out of our system in the last 10 years of Grand Theft Auto.  You can get a kick out of this with a group of buddies still, and thereÂ’s zero upfront fee to give it a go and keep it around, but if youÂ’re the kind that flies solo a lot, you might want to look elsewhere for adrenaline packed fun.

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