APB Reloaded – Review

Type: Action/MMO Developer:  Gamersfirst Release Date:  Dec 6, 2011 Official Website: http://www.gamersfirst.com/age-gate/?fbid=BhWZnBq0pml Me and APB go way back.  Way back to when the game was just a trailer, suspended in […]

Type: Action/MMO
Developer:  Gamersfirst
Release Date:  Dec 6, 2011
Official Website: http://www.gamersfirst.com/age-gate/?fbid=BhWZnBq0pml

Me and APB go way back.  Way back to when the game was just a trailer, suspended in time with no word on when it was going to get released.  About 3 E3 expositions passed without anything more than a “it’s coming soon!” from developers and producers.  Then it hit.  Like a man stuck on a hot beach without his flippy floppies, I ran for the credit card and ordered the game faster than lightning.

Then, as easily as it came, it went.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I just spent how many weeks playing this game?  How many rage filled hours had I sunk into this imperfect yet oh-so-fun mish mash of driving, shooting, and body painting, only for it to be dead on arrival?  I was mad.

Then it subsided.  I let it go, and went on my merry way in the world of action MMO’s.  My take on the original version of the game, created by the now defunct Realtime Worlds, was that it was an unbelievably fun game, with similarly unbelievable flaws.

But now it’s back.  Back from the dead, resurrected by the twisted cruel necromancer that is Gamersfirst, the masterminds behind the hit free to play MMO’s Warrock and Fallen Earth.  Eager to get back in the saddle of the game that had mesmerized me with pretty visuals and a believable city-scape, I downloaded it and logged on.  How does it fare you ask?  We’ll let me tell you.

First of all, if you’ve never played APB before, it goes a little something like this.  It’s the modern day USA, and the fictional city of San Paro is rife with corruption, crime and everything nasty.  The police are so paralyzed as to what to do about it that the mayor enacts something called the “City Security Act” which basically legalizes vigilantism.

This is where you come in.  You have the choice to become a CSA agent, who works for multi-million dollar security corporations in helping restore order to this chaotic city, or you can become part of its destruction by rolling up a criminal, and getting to know the seedier sides of town first hand.

Which faction you choose opens up a different set of “contacts,” important people inside of the factions that basically give you missions and reward you for returning business.  It also decides what kind of clothing, cars, and guns you’ll be unlocking along the way and you’ll get some goodies that the other side won’t ever be able to get their hands on.

The game takes place in a GTA-esque metropolis that allows free roaming in one of two districts:  The Financial District or the Waterfront District.  Criminals can tool about in their cars, mug civilians, and even smash into store fronts, in order to steal good to sell off.  Doing so nets them a sizeable amount of cash, but be warned: there are repercussions.

Enforcers are tasked with stopping these criminals from getting too rich, so any time an enforcer sees a criminal commit an crime, he can “spot” that criminal and begin a search and destroy mission, requiring the agent to eliminate the criminal by any means necessary, taking the dirty money, and bringing it back to a safe house.

The dynamics between the two factions have always been a favorite part of the game for me, and for the most part they work out well.  But unfortunately, my list of favorite things about this game ends right there.

A majority of the time you won’t be smash and grabbing storefronts or tailing criminals into shady alleyways in order to secure their drug money.  In fact you can play this game to death and never even do that once!  The real meat of the game comes from doing missions, which are random little quests that you and your group get whenever you hit the “Ready” button.

Doing this will thrust your team and a random enemy team into a mission randomly placed within the confines of your district.  In theory, it’s a great use of the large sprawling city that’s set before you, and racing to an objective in the car that you’ve been working on for days before the enemy can get there first is a thrill in itself.  However, it gets frustrating fast.

Why?  Because of the imbalance.  Nearly every mission seems to be criminal-sided, and every other mission that isn’t blatantly on the side of criminals is just a random mess that’s tough for both sides.  Enforcers have to bend over backwards to complete some objectives, like holding a trio of points before the time runs out or having to contend with spawns that are so in favor of the criminals it’s unbelievable.

After death, criminals will literally be respawned on top of the objective they have to defend, while enforcers will have to walk up to three or four hundred meters before they can get back into the action.

A few friends and I have coined the term “Crim Spawns” and we blame many a loss on exactly that.  It got so bad that we quit our enforcer characters altogether, and rolled criminal, simply because we couldn’t take the rage anymore.  We aren’t even that bad to begin with!

There are other imbalances too, especially in the weapons and vehicle department.  Buying weapon modifications for your slotted guns is such a rigid affair that if you don’t buy what everyone else is buying, you’re simply just throwing money away.  There is no room here for weapon customization.

Some vehicles bypass a slowing effect that occurs when a VIP or mission crucial item enters a car, preventing players from unfairly speeding off and leaving the other team to lose without a fight.  Things like this definitely don’t make the game any more fun, which is a shame, considering how easily they can be fixed, but never seem to get addressed.

Matchmaking is a joke.  It was a joke back when Realtime Worlds held the reigns, and it’s a joke now.  Sure, it’s better than it used to be, but not by much.  Missions will constantly throw you against gold level players who have been practicing since day 1, leaving new players to be shredded like cheese.

And don’t even get me started on the hackers.

Too late. APB has a continual hacking problem, one that ebbs and flows like the tide itself.  Some months hackers will be everywhere, and some months they’ll be scarce.  But out of my months of playing this game in its various forms and beta releases, I don’t think I’ve ever run into a period of play time where there wasn’t at least one hacker.  Be warned, because when they hit, they hit hard.

Even the visuals, which at their worst look nothing more than a release title for the Xbox 360, and at its best looks like a vibrant watercolor painting pulsing with energy, are dated beyond repair.  Only compounding this is the fact that the game will eat most computers alive, no matter how many other modern games you can run on very high settings.

Bugs that plague the original release still persist, such as random black screens, rubber banding lag spikes, complete freezing of the game for more than five seconds, and even the inability to hear the radios inside cars all add to the overall frustration.  The game has so much potential, but the developers can’t seem to get a handle on it, no matter how many teams try their luck.

As with all free to play MMO’s today, the game is rife with the constant pressure to get you to buy in-game clothing and weapons for staggeringly high prices.  It’s annoying, unneeded and only adds to the stress.  Of course buying that special, purposely overpowered silenced sub machine gun is entirely optional, but damn if they won’t shove it down your throat with advertisements either way.

But you know what? I still kind of like APB.  The customization is one of the coolest things the game has to offer, and you could spend hours in the social district buying clothes and applying decals to your cars and whatnot.  Some really creative people out there have used the character creator and item customizers to come up with some really awesome stuff.

On top of that, there’s nothing like going head to head against a team of enemies that are your skill level (that aren’t cheating like the dickens, and aren’t exploiting the games many bugs just for a free win) and actually beating them.  It’s kind of a rush, and the experience is that much better with friends.  Trust me.

Overall, the game has its problems.  It has its scumbag players, and has its glaringly obvious balancing issues. But the key to APB is accepting the game for what it is:  Grand Theft Auto in a (somewhat) reliable multiplayer setting, with great customization and a white knuckle combat system.  To this day, I still think it’s one of the best free to play games out there, maybe next to Champions Online, and it’s definitely worth a shot. Especially, considering the entry fee of zero dollars.

If you find yourself on Joker East, hit up Gruber or AlPowell for an invite to the clan.  Let’s crack some skulls together, Steam Addicts style.

Graphics: 6/10
Game Play: 8/10
Replay Value: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

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