Posted Mon, Jun 13, 2011 by Sardu
When I met with COO/CTO of Reloaded Productions, Bjorn Book-Larsson, at E3 2011 to discuss the upcoming launch of APB Reloaded I started off by sharing a quick anecdote from the original launch of All Points Bulletin last summer. Fresh out of the tutorial district, the Ten Ton Hammer editors formed a criminal posse and set out to cause some mayhem around the Financial District. Shortly thereafter we were automatically placed in our first missions against enforcer teams, and a comedy of errors quickly ensued.
We immediately realized that our starter vehicles weren’t up to the task of providing proper transport to our mission objecties. For starters, they only seated 2 of our 4 team members so we’d have to split the team to get anywhere. Secondly, they were just too slow and the opposing team beat us to mission objectives every single time. So it became apparent from the word go that we’d have to borrow vehicles from the district’s wealthier NPC inhabitants to even stand a chance.
The real fun, however, kicked in the moment we arrived at objectives. Here we were armed with the basic pistols and rifles that all players fresh out of the tutorial start off with only to discover we were going up against a team armed to the teeth with rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and a wide assortment of grenades.
Needless to say, our first matches were downright frustrating, and we weren’t alone in thinking the matchmaking system needed a major overhaul.
While the matchmaking system, shooter gameplay, advancement systems, and slim selection of gameplay types weren’t the root cause of APB’s rapid-fire inclusion on the shelf I’ve lovingly turned into an MMOG graveyard here in my office, for APB Reloaded to have any kind of impact for the game’s rebirth, they would still need to be addressed.
In his report from E3 last week in Reloading… Jeff gave our readers a quick rundown of the games we’ve nominated for our Best of E3 2011 awards. APB Reloaded is easily one of the most deserving nominees on the list in a category we’ve dubbed “Best Respawn”. Mind you, our awards nomination process was pretty intense, involving everything from inter-dimensional travel to some moments that would have made Fight Club enthusiast proud, so each nominee greatly deserves its inclusion on the list.
However, APB Reloaded is one of the truly standout titles from the event and absolutely worth a second look if you’d perhaps experienced your own comedy of errors such as the one described above, or maybe you weren’t sold on other important aspects of the game in its previous incarnation.
Having spent the past few weeks playing on the beta servers, I can honestly say that the game has improved in all the ways that count. To give you some idea of what that means, here’s a quick rundown of some of the most significant changes in the current beta build, as well as some notes on areas that Reloaded is actively working to address before the official launch in August.
The original APB used a pretty odd algorithm to determine who you’d go up against during missions. This system has been vastly improved so that you should only be facing off against players of a similar skill level. To take this one step further, the game will suggest specific districts for you to join, again based on the concept of keeping players of similar skill levels in the same district. That way, when you opt to run missions you won’t have to worry about getting steamrolled constantly and can progress at a meaningful pace.
Perhaps one of my favorite changes to matchmaking is that you can now tell the game whether or not you’re ready to run missions. In other words, the mission system is essentially opt-in which is a vast improvement. So just because you have a high threat level, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be pulled into missions regardless of being out of ammo and on your way to resupply.
This affords you the opportunity to browse available unlocks from your contacts, check your mail, mug locals for extra cash, or even socialize a bit more easily while in the action districts without constantly getting placed in missions that you may or may not be prepared for.
Sounds great so far, right? But what about the shooter gameplay? I’m glad you asked.
The basic shooter gameplay has also been greatly improved. Instead of weapon drift while aiming, each weapon now has a fitting amount of recoil making for tighter control across the board. This may seem like a small change, but during my time playing Reloaded I've noticed a significant boost in my overall accuracy since I’m not constantly fighting against my own weapons.
A smaller, but very welcome cosmetic change has also been made to the animations when shooting from the windows of vehicles. Previously you’d see your character contort in all sorts of bizarre positions when panning around to shoot in different directions. While it was pretty humorous to watch, it also got pretty annoying, so while a small fix it’s greatly welcomed.
Another thing I was informed is currently being worked on is the graphics for missed shots. Due to the sheer volume of gunfire happening in a district at any given time, missed shots are given a lower rendering priority out of necessity. The downside is that it gives the appearance of your opponents effectively one-shotting you since you don’t have the visual feedback of how many shots they took that didn’t hit their mark. This may seem like a small thing, but it's one that I personally can't wait to see addressed moving forward.