Electronic ArtsDeveloped By:
Persistent Online ActionPlayers:
M (Mature)Release Date:
June 29, 2010Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now!Written by:
Anthony CaraJuly 24, 2010
- If Dante’s Inferno has taught us anything, it’s that EA knows how to market mediocre games. At E3 I witnessed hot punkish looking models peddling what was being heralded as a “Grand Theft Auto MMO,” but the reality of the title is barely “Saint’s Row” meets “Counter-Strike” at best. And of course, like the lovely ladies of the evening often seen walking about in such games, you have to pay for this hourly!
APB has very little to offer gamers to justify even the 50 dollar price tag, let alone additional hours of game play. Still, I will admit that it does have a kind of appeal to it that can keep you hooked for countless hours as you blast your days away in a desperate attempt to advance further in this hellish and hip urban shoot’em up.
The experience begins as you boot up the game and head right into the character customization screen. Your first choice is of paramount importance: are you going to be a punk, or are you going to be a white hat? Either way, you are going to be badass and hip-looking – so you don’t need to worry about having to be a cheesy holier-than-thou “Paragon” like you do in some games… The character creation screen offers a decent enough variety in terms of shape, size, and color but I would advise against using the quick options since you can’t see your toon update in real time like you can with the advanced options. Once you finish up, you are thrust right into the vicious cesspool known as…The Tutorial District! This harsh, unforgiving hell hole forces you to go various places and hit “F.” Surely the real game consists of more than this?
Of course it does! In the real game, you get to go from place to place hitting “F” and trying desperately to shoot people. Once you complete the tutorial (or skip it altogether) you are given the chance to warp to one of the “Action Districts.” At this point, the game turns into a Grand Theft Auto clone with people trying to get in your way. You head to your first “Contact” – basically a quest giver- and pledge your allegiance. Once pledged, you will be offered an endless stream of random missions which you can accept or reject as you see fit. The missions are obscenely shallow and dull. They all involve going here, picking up that, going there, and at some point pressing F. At any time during your mission, an opponent can be dispatched against you (or you will jump into a mission already in bloody progress). To complete most missions you can either kill your opponents to death or simply achieve your objectives. Either way, it’s not going to be pretty.
The game offers up some great random PVP action, but no more so than Modern Warfare 2, MAG, Team Fortress, or any other shooter game that you don’t have to pay for hourly. When one pays for a game in such a fashion, there are certain expectations about the depth of the experience. In all honesty, the game feels like any other shooter game but with a “fresh” urban atmosphere and the chance to occasionally steal a car. Each mission you are sent on is basically a death match, capture the flag, or king of the hill style game lasting just a few minutes. The maps are less than gargantuan and they take place in small isolated areas. In other words, you can have a death match in the seedy ghetto brick area, the docks, or the factory rooftops. Taking this into consideration, games with several maps (like Modern Warfare 2) actually offer up far more variety and depth in terms of battlefield choice.
The game also features a lot of car chases and delivery missions, but they don’t work as well as they do in the Grand Theft Auto style games. Cars are destroyed after a few random crashes or after taking a few clips from any weapon. There is no logic or realism in the destruction – shoot the windshield enough times and the car will burst in a flaming blaze of glory faster than you can say “Terrible Speed Racer Episode.” Okay actually that’s not true, sometimes when a car is on fire it seems to take FOREVER for it to burst if you stop shooting them! Aside from the horrible drivability of these vehicles (partially due to lag), this game mechanic is further complicated by a myriad of roadblocks. I understand the need for these- after all, where are the epic shootouts going to happen if cars can access every area in the game? Still, it gets pretty ridiculous and sometimes it just feels easier to run where you need to go –even when it’s over 200M away.
As you continue to progress through these missions- win, lose or draw- you level up in rank, contact standing, organization standing, and wealth. As you rise up in the ranks you gain access to some positively fantastic weaponry. Weapons, that will no doubt allow you to shred through any lower ranked players who aren’t able to obtain them. Is anyone else starting to sense a problem here?
Aside from weapons, you can buy various amounts of character customization. From clothing and accessories to vehicles, graffitti and kill tones, APB strives to give players ultimate choice. This may actually be the game’s strongest area. The kill tones heard upon death or mission completion are delightful and can make death either totally worth it or painful and sad. In the hundreds of times I’ve been killed, I’ve heard the opening theme to The Office, the chorus to Gangster’s Paradise, the Super Mario death tone, and more all in glorious 8-bit midi sound. I believe in my first mission I was actually killed and Rick rolled simultaneously… how 2008. These enjoyable customizable bits can all be purchased for in game cash or for real life hard earned money! The use of RTW points allows players to pay online for currency that can be redeemed in game for nearly everything available. A wealthy and patient enough player could eventually level the playing field with some greatly overpowered merchandise. In a somewhat revolutionary move, you can also sell things in game for RTW points – too bad you can’t cash out or this could really become a career for some people!
The game’s visual style is decent enough. On max settings it looks pretty much on par with lower end current generation games, but nothing really stands out. The destructible environments are a bit lacking, bullet holes come and go, fire looks a bit puffy and the buildings are adequately detailed featuring random advertisements and typical texture maps. The sound design is good enough, but tends to glitch at times. The music effects are pretty impressive. While exploring the town you can hear music playing from other cars and when you leave your vehicle while it is playing a song, you hear a muffled version from the outside. Actually, that was the only really impressive thing about the audio. The bullets and explosions are nothing special and while driving about town you may notice random static and distortion while crashing into things and speeding over people.
All things considered, the game has a chance to be relatively decent, but it is sadly plagued by numerous game-breaking issues. The most critical of these are balance, lag, and rampant hacking – the arch nemeses of all MMO games.
The greatest imbalance comes from equipment/rank and irresponsible matchmaking. Players who pre-ordered the game were given insanely powerful guns. Combine that with the fact they have been playing the game longer than you and suddenly you realize you aren’t going to stand a chance in San Paro. I quite literally spent the first 5 hours of the game being one-shotted by every opponent I faced. I admit, I’m not great at FPS games but this was ridiculous even for me. I eventually noticed that I was being torn apart by insanely upgraded high-ranking players. I was rank 7 or 8, he was rank 254. I had a basic rifle that dealt about zero damage, he had…hell I have no idea what it was but it blew me to bits. I don’t care how skilled you are, anyone who tries to pickup this game now is going to be brutally punished – and more often than not the punishment comes at the hands of highly unskilled players who have stuck it out long enough to obtain some killer merchandise. This isn’t all just sour grapes; I could honestly tell the difference between losing a contest of skill, and losing a “mine’s bigger than yours” contest. Usually, if I was paired against a player of equal rank and weaponry, I would get a few kills and complete my mission! I guess being matched against people of far superior rank has the advantage or honing your skills quickly (assuming you don’t put your fist through your monitor first).
The next issue of imbalance is inevitable for any online game featuring factions with different abilities (especially any games with the word “craft”). I spent a lot of time as an Enforcer but without pre-ordering I didn’t have any nifty guns. After endless hours getting creamed by Criminals up on the roof and dealing with the difficulty of being a model citizen and NOT running people over (or falling from high places oddly enough) I decided to turn to a life of crime. My Criminal self seemed to rake in the dough a lot quicker, but in my first trial run against the wrong Enforcer…something horrible happened. I tried to unload my SMG clip into this fellow but quickly found myself on bended knee, as if proposing. Just then, the Enforcer came around behind me and proceeded to violate my innocence in a way I never thought possible. I was under arrest! The frustration felt at this moment was positively infuriating – anyone who has ever been “stun-locked” in an MMORPG should know exactly what I’m talking about. Such is the wrath of the NL9. Legend says this was once a weapon open to all, but in beta testing I guess they came to the ingenious conclusion that only one side should have an ultimate game-breaking weapon. Makes perfect sense right?
And now, the coup de grace: the hack/lag. Why do I associate the two? Hackers are using these wonderful tools called Aimbots. Using an aimbot basically works like this, you see a player, and they are dead. Bullets automatically zip straight to their head no matter what. If they are jumping, strafing, or using better weapons, it really doesn’t matter. You win. End of story and brilliantly frustrating. So to combat this, they developed a purely impotent program called “Punkbuster” and implemented it in the most recent patch. Punkbuster primarily works by infecting the servers with horrific game-crippling lag while still allowing players to use all of their hacks. In other words, it’s perfect.
Finally, there is the issue of the price plan. When I first laid eyes on the game, I was at E3 and had just spent the day looking at various free to play MMO games coming straight out of Korea. My first reaction was that APB was a similar game where players paid nothing to play and then put in some real cash to add customized bits to their avatar. The pricing plan turned out to be far different than I could have imagined. After your initial 50 hours are up, you can buy 20 more for 7 US dollars or you can pay 10 for an unlimited month. Even though I’ve just invested many hours of my life into this game, I was never fully converted from my initial impression. No matter how you look at it, the game has a distinctly “free” quality to it. But with its severe balancing issues, complete lack of depth, horrific lag, and hackers running about unchecked, I’m not sure even being free could save this game.6/
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