APB: Reloaded Previewed at GDC 2011

I admit, when APB was canceled by Realtime Worlds, I was disappointed. I wouldn't say the game was a must-play to any extent, but I did have enough fun with it that I was sorry to see it go. I did have some major gripes about it, though, as did the rest of the community.

So, when GamersFirst announced that they had acquired the rights to the game and would be bringing it back with APB: Reloaded, my first instinct was one of caution. It frankly wasn't fun to step into the streets and get gunned down in seconds by players who were 50 levels higher than you. It was frustrating to chase someone down on the streets, filling them full of lead from your gun, hitting them 50 or 60 times without their health going down much, if at all; and then having them turn around and kill you with a single shot. These things were not cool, and I was praying that GamersFirst would address those issues.

Well, they have. That, and more, as I saw at GDC this year.

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The first thing I noticed with my hands on with the new iteration of the game was how much vehicle handling had improved. In the old version of the game it was a bit tricky to control your car without it skidding everywhere or even toppling over. And while this may still be the case with some of the top end cars, most of the cars are much easier to control now. Additionally the player starting car is a very solid vehicle that will not roll easily. Its control is grounded and responsive and its speed and acceleration are potent. This is all good stuff as it's counter intuitive to give players the hardest experience they'll get in game right at the beginning.

Similarly the newbie weapons have had their power increased. This was in attempt to bridge some of that gap which would allow players who had lived in the game to instantly kill any new player that appeared. Along these lines the damage calculation has been modified which allow more damage in smaller more concentrated bursts. The longer the spray of fire, the less accurate it will be, and the less damage it will do. This allows for more tactical play. All weapons now have a 100m range which allows an even battlefield when players face-off with eachother. Should players stay within that 100m range their accuracy is 100%. Should they exceed the range their accuracy begins to decrease, making it possible to exceed the range but it will take skill and timing to do well from beyond 100m.

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Character progression is much more easy to understand now. Players will be able to view roles without any hidden unlockable arbitrary achievements. In addition, as players use a pistol, for example, their gunslinger role will increase and eventually unlock a pistol with a customization slot. All roles work the same way--comprehensive and logical with a slotted weapon reward.

So what about the free-to-play model? GamersFirst is adopting a mixed subscription and free-to-play approach for APB: Reloaded. Premium members will of course get full access to all features. Free players will be locked to specific character models, roles, and limited vehicle customization. They will be able to only add 25 layers to their vehicle customization whereas premium members will have 100 layers to work with for decals, symbols, typeface and the like.  The music studio will be free, but GamersFirst is considering adding some optional instruments in the store.

One of the more exciting changes to the game is the integration of vehicle races. That's right; there will now be actual racing in the game, complete with potential unlocking of off-road racing. This seemed like a fairly obvious feature but was never included in the original title. GamersFirst is going all out to include it in Reloaded and offer several race events for players to participate in. The races will first be simple time trials, but head-to-head will be added a bit later.

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Witnessing has changed too. In the old game if a criminal was caught in a crime they would be hunted down by the enforcers. It was a pretty lop-sided battle. In the new system for every crime a criminal is seen doing, their heat will increase. Once they reach a certain heat level, they will be able to go on a special mission to capture some loot and bring it back to a fence. However, at this point enforcers will see the criminals with loot, and it will be their mission to take the loot from them and bring it back to their precinct as evidence. Conversely, when an enforcer has loot they can be hunted by criminals to take that loot and bring it back to a fence. It's a much more balanced system that will bring meaningful PvP to both sides.

The worry of severe outmatched gameplay will be much less of a worry in Reloaded. There are 3 "servers" or instances where players will automatically be placed. One for beginners, one for intermediate players, and one for advanced. So no more will you see level 99s farming level 2s. Hoorah!

Finally, for the really really cool part. If you have played the game before, you will have a chance to restore your character on Reloaded. Your progress and vehicles will not be restored, but you can restore your character name, appearance, symbols, costumes and music. This is a huge boon for many of us who have spent many hours on character customization before the game had been canceled.

Everything about APB: Reloaded has me excited to log in again. All of my old gripes have been addressed and new cool things are being added. This certainly is shaping up to be the APB that should have launched and GamersFirst seems to have a proper grasp on what players want in APB.

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