|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Real Time Worlds||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 29, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: MMO||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
Real Time Worlds' All Points Bulletin (APB) is a third-person action shooter that combines the chaos of large, FPS-style games, with the deeper character and design customizations often found in the modern MMORPG. While the title has been called many things throughout its development, the full version is finally out and has gamers praising and hating it for the same reasons. Pile on top a myriad of payment choices for continuous play, and APB becomes a hot topic of debate.
The setting of APB is the city of San Paro, a place that makes Los Angeles more closely resemble the green of Tolkien's Shire. Essentially, San Paro's crime has spiraled out of control, which prompted the mayor to enact the City Security Act, a piece of legislation that allowed citizens to join the Enforcers, a police group inspired by vigilantism. Conversely, the ordinary criminals, in an effort to stand against the increase in city security, have banded together to wreak even more havoc on the city. From the start, players will choose which faction they would like to play. After that, a bulk of the gameplay is similar. Both factions have access to the same weapons, equipment items, and customization options as they progress, with a few minor differences. For example, while the weapons are exactly the same for both factions, there are some clothing options that are exclusive to one faction, such as the badges for the Enforcers.
APB's game world is split into three major maps, two of which are called "action" districts and one that is the "social" district. The action districts are where the shooting takes place. Players log in to these areas to complete objectives and make progress with their characters. The social district is where players go to purchase clothes and cars, customize their appearances and clothing, and simply relax. While in the social district, Enforcers and Criminals remain civil and maintain a cease fire. This is also the district that displays statues for players who are top of the ladders in specific areas, such as most kills.
While most city-hubs in games tend to be boring and barren, APB's social district is mostly active, and it owes this to its integrated customization tools. Spending time designing clothes, cars, symbols, and music themes is just plain fun thanks to the level of detail. Add on the fact that the items a player creates can be sold at the auction house for both in-game money or RTW points, which can then be used to purchase game time, and you've got a successful crafting system.
The two action districts, which are referred to as the Financial and Waterfront districts, are large, GTA-style maps that feature NPC pedestrians and traffic, as well as faction NPCs who hand out missions. Each faction has two, competing sub-factions for whom players can choose to do missions. Despite the fact that these sub-factions see each other as competition, players aren't able to engage fellow factions members based on which sub-faction they are currently pledged to. Furthermore, pledging to a sub-faction can be terminated and changed at any time between missions. The inclusion of these sub-factions appears to be a design choice that forces players to specialize in a particular set of weapons and equipment, since progression through each unlocks different items. Choosing one faction might lead you to unlocking an assault rifle, while pledging to another might lead to an upgraded shotgun. In the end, players will eventually progress through both sub-factions and unlock all weapons and equipments, but doing so will take time, and knowing which set of gear you'd rather have first is important. While it isn't the most effective way of creating specialization, considering most games use devices such as character classes, it gets the job done.
Without a doubt, APB's customization is its most impressive feature. Not only is there a plethora of options for clothing, accessories, equipment, weapons, cars, and characters, but nearly all of it is further customizable down to size, placement, color, and details. For example, you can purchase the same model car but design it completely differently from another person, all within the game's own design editors. Furthermore, the design editors themselves are sophisticated, but easy to use, allowing just about anyone to jump in and create something truly unique. With all the games that have been released and claimed to have deep customization resulting in no two characters being identical, APB is the most successful.
Character customization is probably the most familiar of the tools players will experience. All the major features of the best MMORPGs are present, such as height, weight, chin height, nose width, age, freckles, and skin tone. And, while the hairstyles are preset options the player will choose from, there are plenty available and they can be customized further by adjusting the length of the hair in the front, back, sides, etc. Tattoos are certainly the most robust feature of the character customization, as it resembles the other tools the most. APB allows for players to create symbols and decals, such as tattoos, and then snap them to an existing layer, such as the character's skin or piece of clothing. At first, customizing the small details can take some getting used to, but once mastered it allows for character customization that is not only unique, but fun to do again and again.