E3 2010: All Points Bulletin Hands On
Players: 1+ Player Game | Genre: MMO
Since it’s entering the market of massive online gaming for the PC, Realtime Worlds’ All Points Bulletin gets measured against World of Warcraft a lot. However it’s a comparison the designers are anxious to brush off. APB is not about role playing, and it’s not about wizards or spells. It’s about hitting the streets as criminals or law enforcers, busting some heads and maybe even getting famous while doing it.
After an interview with Jesse Knapp, producer on APB, we got a chance to go hands on with the game and play a live match against fellow E3 attendees. The team I was put on were the Enforcers. Playing as the law didn’t sound appealing to me, an opinion perhaps rooted in the arguments kids have over who has to be the boys in blue when playing ‘cops and robbers’ in the backyard.
It’s a preference the people at Realtime actually prepared for, and were surprised to discover that an even number of beta users chose to be either enforcers or criminals. It’s easy to see why when playing the game, as an enforcer looks like some motley ruffian the government decided to hand a badge, which is actually the truth. My character, a punkish young lady with spiked hair, fishnet stockings and a short skirt, looked just as bad as any outlaw.
The demo began with the enforcers getting a call to go to a mission location. After piling into a van, which each passenger can shoot from, we arrived at our task: a gang symbol spray painted on a wall that had to be redecorated with our own logo. Criminals in the vicinity were quickly alerted to our presence and a battle ensued, which we lost terribly.
The next game type was VIP. If you’ve ever played this variant in another action game, it works the same here. Protect your own VIP, and make every effort to kill the other team’s main man (or woman). Other modes will be in the final build of APB, each with a heavy emphasis on teamwork.
While running around capping crooks, it becomes very clear that APB is first and foremost an action game. Players are able to strafe and zoom in just like any other shooter. Death works in the same convenient fashion, as fallen comrades respawn close to the battle zone so the action keeps going.
The reality of fighting in a living city becomes apparent in different ways. Enforces have the added responsibility of avoiding civilian casualties at the risk of receiving demerit points through their own prestige system. Firing a gun and throwing grenades might be one way of combating the enemy, although users should be keen to use nearby vehicles as disposable battering rams. A sports car can take a respectable amount of damage before exploding and is difficult to target, making them an effective killing tool.
Once a match is finished, groups of players can search for another mission. While we played the same opponents for the duration of the demo, Realtime tells us there won’t be many rematches in the retail build, where up to 80 players will inhabit each city district.
If there was one aspect of APB I didn’t enjoy it would have to be the driving. This was a startling discovery, given the mechanic will surely be a large part of the game. It might be due to my unfamiliarity with gaming on the PC, but having to use the A or D keys to steer, as opposed to using the mouse, did not feel comfortable.
There’s much more to APB when it comes to the social experience, a system tailored for egomaniacal players who want to prove to the entire world that they are indeed the best. That aspect can be heard about in our audio interview.
It certainly is easy to start playing APB and jump right into the action, and that’s what the designers want, but will anyone stay there? Let us hope they haven’t forgotten the depth an online centric game must possess as well, because action gamers aren’t known for sticking with one title for years at a time. APB might not play like an MMORPG, although it will need the same crowd of loyal subscribers to keep going after it launches on the 29th.