PAX East 2010 - Hands-On with All Points Bulletin

At PAX East 2010, we spent some time with Realtime Worlds' social media & community manager Chris Collins who gave us an over

East 2010, we spent some time
with Realtime Worlds'
social media & community manager Chris Collins who gave us an
overview of not only the types of href="">gameplay
players can expect when href="">All
Points Bulletin
this summer, but also some of the
many different ways href="">character
customization has been taken to
all new extremes. If you haven't already done so, I
thoroughly suggest that you check out both of our exclusive video
interviews with Chris. For those of you who already have, you may be
saying to yourself, "the game looks fantastic and the
customization sounds awesome, but is the game actually any
fun to play?" To help answer this question for our readers, I
spent a fair amount of time blowing cars up, tracking down criminals
and generally causing havoc at the playable demo stations set up at the
APB booth throughout the weekend.

The booth itself featured a
total of 8 demo stations - 4 with
criminal characters and 4 set up as enforcers – and was
generally packed with gamers eager to see the game in action. The demo
stations were also logged into the live beta servers, and based on my
experiences I'd say that the game is already looking highly
polished and stable. Mind you I'm not sure what the exact
specs were on the demo systems, but the entire time I played I
didn’t really experience any noticeable lag or drops in frame
rate, two things that can easily make or break a PvP shooter.

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The first thing that stood out
for me is that two of the more standard
MMOG UI elements are nowhere to be seen in APB. First, there are no
health bars on-screen to show you how much damage you or your opponents
are taking. Instead, when you begin to receive damage the edge of your
screen will begin pulsing red, growing stronger the more damage you
take. What this does is it allows you to keep your attention focused on
your target rather than an HP bar, which is important considering the
dynamic and often hectic nature of the open world PvP. The downside
here is that you also have no way of determining how much damage
you're doing to your target, so at some points it seemed as though I
could empty an entire clip into someone who would turn around and take
me down with a single shotgun blast, all the while giving me no
indication as to why I didn't seem to be causing any damage to them.

The other notable omission from
the UI is any form of XP bar.
That's not to say that characters don't progress in
APB, it's simply handled in a different way than you may be
used to if you come into the game from a fantasy MMOG background.
Instead of gaining levels, players advance by unlocking new
items for their character to use. These can range from the purely
cosmetic like a new pair of shoes, to better weapons or even new

If you consider that a level
based MMOG assumes a liner, upward
progression, I suppose the best way to describe progression in APB is
to say that it expands outwards rather than upwards. Each new weapon or
vehicle you unlock essentially gives you more options for how you play
the game.

Gameplay itself consists of a
series of dynamic mission scenarios
rather than being completely open world PvP. In
other words, while PvP battles can break out anywhere and at any time
in the massive
city districts, it's not a free-for-all. Instead, missions will
be offered that you can either accept or ignore, but there are
occasions when you'll be pulled into combat scenarios simply
based on how you've chosen to interact with your surroundings. For
example, as a criminal you may be out stealing cars or
running over pedestrians which will eventually get you noticed, at
which point an enforcer player may be dispatched to take you down.

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The missions themselves boil
down to a series of more task oriented
objectives. One might ask you to break into a nearby vehicle while
another might have you spraying gang logos on the sides of marked
buildings. Completion of these objectives will help you advance the
mission through various stages, but you can often complete the mission
simply by killing or arresting
your opponent a set number of times. It's an interesting way
to give some semblance of structure to the PvP in the game, but at the
same time it seems like there are too few different types of mission
objectives which would no doubt lead to feeling a bit like getting
asked to go out and kill 20 bears over and over again.

Thankfully the combat in APB
makes up for the overall lack of
meaningful mission objectives. If you're a fan of third person
shooters, then the game provides plenty of dynamic PvP gameplay which,
paired with the various item unlocks available, gives APB a much
stronger metagame than had Realtime Worlds opted to go the route of
instanced maps like capture the flag or what have you.

Solo play is indeed an option,
but I got the sense that to get the most
out of APB players are going to want to play the game socially in
pre-formed groups whenever possible. Since the system will try and pair
you up against players of roughly equal skill level when missions are
offered, I would imagine a solid group would help insure that the game
never gets stale and will feel much more dynamic over time. This also
greatly increases your options for how to handle mission objectives as
each player in your group can bring a different weapon or even vehicle
setup to the party.

Overall, APB is looking in good
shape for launch this summer. The game
is stable, polished and the PvP is generally fun and dynamic enough
that it shouldn't get stale for players anytime soon. Mission
objectives do tend to feel somewhat superficial, but at the end of the
day all they're really there for is to provide some semblance
of structure to PvP. Gameplay also varies slightly for criminals and
enforcers which may or may not lead to some long forum rants about
balance (the enforcer's non-lethal weapons and arrest
mechanic can get extremely frustrating as a criminal player) but I
would expect that those are the types of things currently being worked
out in the closed beta.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our APB: Reloaded Game Page.

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