APB Hands-On Preview

By Darryl Kaye on June 1, 2010, 12:47PM EDT

APB has been in development for quite a long time, it was actually supposed to come out in 2005 for the Xbox 360 and PC. However, when Realtime Worlds fully acquired the licence for the project, they decided that it wasn't really going in the direction they wanted and have spent the last five years getting the game to where they feel it should be. There have been some radical changes between now and then, but Dave Jones is confident that the finished product is going to fill a void in the MMO space.

While many MMOs feature a large lavish world where characters can interact, APB is much more focused around smaller hubs, whereby interaction can be increased. There are three main places for interaction, the social arena and two live arenas, where missions and combat can be undertaken. In the social arena, players can meet up with clan members, customise their car, outfit and look and interact with the marketplace. This is actually one of the big selling points of APB, as there's so much creative freedom. As long as real-world copyrights aren't infringed in a negative light, players can pretty much do whatever they want. The staff at Realtime Worlds have already been amazed at the level of creativity that's been displayed by the community in the closed beta and when the game launches, the sky really is the limit.

Each of the live areas will have multiple instances, because they have a player cap. By launch, they're hoping that around 100 players will be present in each instance, which along with the NPCs and vehicles, will make the arenas feel like they're alive. When simply driving around the city, even when not in a mission, there is stuff going on all the time "“ players can easily witness events that are going on elsewhere and while they can't interact, it still helps with immersing the player.

Action is third-person and players can carry two guns. There are only 20-30 base weapons; however, as with everything else in the game, they are fully customisable. As players progress in the game, they will be able to unlock much more powerful weapons, like a rocket launcher. The mechanics don't necessarily feel that tight though, but after adapting to the different weapons and learning a bit more about the environments, this can be overcome relatively easily. Grenades can also be held, but the way they are thrown feels a bit awkward.

The driving, another big part of the game, also feels like it could do with some refinement. Again, the controls don't necessarily feel tight and while it is possible to get used to it, to essentially counteract it, gamers shouldn't really have to do that "“ it should be better to start with. They are more than capable of getting gamers from A to B though, and this is crucial for almost all of the missions in APB, as most of them involve multiple objectives, and the team that gets there first obviously has an advantage.

There are various mission types, which include defending a position, capturing a position, retrieving objectives and taking them to a certain location and bounty missions. It might not seem like a great deal of variety, but the beauty of APB is how each of the missions feel different. Even when playing as a solo operative, bringing in fellow players can sometimes be imperative to win, as the game will not necessarily make a 1 vs 1 scenario. Conflicts can escalate up to 20 vs 20, if players decide to 'Call for Back-Up'

APB certainly offers something unlike any other MMOs out there, and it really promotes the community feel. There's a ton of customisation available, and while the gameplay might not be the best around, when playing with friends it is easier to overlook this. With expansion plans on the horizon too, it looks like Realtime Worlds are really willing to listen to their community in order to make a game that truly satisfies the customer.

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