APB: All Points Bulletin
The streets of San Paro are running red with the blood of the just and the guilty alike, and we've assigned reviewer Kyle Horner to the middle of the madness to bring us his impressions of Realtime Worlds' ambitious open-world MMO.
It's hard to get a read on All Points Bulletin because it tries to appeal to three very specific types of gamers: customization lovers, online shooter fans, and open world crime games (think GTA and Saints Row). I'd hate to be the person in charge of All Points Bulletin's marketing campaign.
The game takes place in San Paro, a city torn asunder by rampant criminal activity. Men and women from all walks of life have taken up arms to fight against the criminals and thus, we have All Points Bulletin in a nutshell. When you create a character, one of your earliest choices will be selecting whether you want to be an Enforcer or a Criminal. There are slight differences in gameplay -- such as Enforcers being penalized for running over pedestrians, whereas Criminals are rewarded -- but more or less both sides play the same. Of course, being able to arrest Criminals as an Enforcer is pretty cool, especially since arrests are tracked separately, give higher money rewards, and cause criminals to wait longer for a respawn.
There are two "District" types in APB. Districts are zones, and each one can hold about 100 players. Social Districts are devoid of combat and serve as hubs for customization and, well, socializing -- even between factions. Action Districts are the only other kind, and from the name you already know that's where the missions, driving and shooting all take place.
There's a whole lot to absorb, so in an effort to make things easier I've devised a bullet point list of the good and bad, along with a third list which tracks some of the elements I'm unsure of at this point in my playthrough. I've spent around 20 hours within the Action District, and far more in the Social Districts. What can I say? I love designing decals. Right now, I'm level 5, although that doesn't really mean much unless you're the type of APB player who spends all their time in the Action District.
- Players can customize their character's body with a seemingly endless variety of choices, including intricate tattoos that can be placed anywhere on their avatar's skin.
- Players can also design clothing and cars with up to 100 layers of decals.
- Custom songs and "death tones" (heard by enemies when you kill them, or win a mission) are made in a surprisingly solid music creator. It even has advanced features for audiophiles.
- APB's business model is incredibly flexible. It supports both a $9.99 subscription and the purchase of play-hours piecemeal. Your hours only diminish in Action Districts, so customization is always a free activity. Also, any time you buy is permanent and will not expire.
- RTW points are purchased with real money, making retail "points cards" a possibility for younger players or those who wish to avoid using credit/debit cards online.
- You can sell custom creations (like cars or decal designs) in the in-game auction house for either game currency or RTW points.
- The soundtrack features a great sense of variety.
- Visually, the game is very pretty. You will need up to date hardware to run the game at high settings, however.
- When the combat works -- that is to say, when lag is minimal and you've gotten skilled at handling yourself in-game -- it can be a huge amount of fun.
- The game's launch was incredibly smooth, which means a good future for server stability.