|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|
Visually, APB holds its own in the current generation. However, the game does seem to run a little sluggish even with a PC well over the recommended system requirements. Whether this is an optimization problem or just a result of having 80 players with hundreds of AI moving around, lowering the settings is certainly helpful and advised. Of course, this could also be impacted by the sheer number of unique styles.
For example, when loading into the social district, the player will notice that all the surrounding players are wearing the exact same thing (blue jeans, with a green t-shirt, and backwards baseball cap). The game must process all the unique characters on the screen after the map is loaded, which obviously takes some time. If you were to compare the graphics to any other game, APB would probably fall short to the likes of Grant Theft Auto 4, but not by too much.
While players can sink hours into the different aspects of the social district, and do so for free, the action districts are another story and may be part of APBs weakness. Completing missions is how players advance their characters and make them more adaptable and powerful. The missions are also the core of the PvP because when players begin a mission, the game automatically matches them against enemy players. And, while there are a large variety of mission types including delivering packages, stealing cars, capturing and holding locations, raiding hideouts, evading police, catching or killing criminalsafter a while players will notice the repetition. With that said, because APB is focused entirely on players interacting with each other, how these missions play out each time can be drastically different. Any issues with seemingly repetitive gameplay, however, could be easily rectified by adding new action districts and mission types.
APBs controls are very easy to grasp. Almost all interaction, whether its with another player, a door, a fence, a car, or an item, is handled using a single key. The rest of the controls are your standard first-person and third-person shooter mix. And, while they are easy to learn, there are glitches that make them frustrating to master. For example, getting into the drivers seat of a vehicle can sometimes be a painstaking task because your crosshair must be directly over the door before you hit the action key. Otherwise, your character may accidentally get into the back seat or not attempt to get in the vehicle at all. In a game where every second wasted could make the difference between getting away or being crushed by an oncoming car, small glitches like that can ruin your experience.
The sound effects are adequate, but I feel some corners were cut. For example, while many of the weapons do sound different, some sound nearly identical, which can be a bit off when one is a small sub machinegun and the other is a light machinegun, Rambo style. It would have also been nice to have different horn sounds for your vehicles, or maybe even customize your vehicles horn completely. Another strange thing youll notice about San Paro is that just about anyone can drive an ambulance or armored truck. For example, there have been countless times when Ive needed a vehicle quickly, opened the door to remove the driver, and noticed that a blonde, teenage girl was driving a city armored truck, or a rather grungy looking man was behind the wheel of an ambulance. Of course, if youre willing to forgive the control glitches, these other, non gameplay-damaging things shouldnt force much more than raised eyebrow or laugh. Then again, the heavy-handed and over-the-top voice acting is sure to do the trick anyway.
Running parallel to the sound effects is the games music, which is entirely under the players control. The game features an already-stocked music library separated into playlists. Players are able to set which playlist they want to play, adjust the volume, and even change settings such as whether it broadcasts their music for other players to hear and whether the music can only be heard when in a vehicle. Better yet is the ability to import your own tracks into the games music library, allowing players to set their own playlists that are perfect for committing crimes or catching criminals in San Paro Adding to this technology is the inclusion of Last.fm, which is used to fill the gap between players music libraries. For example, if you have a track playing that another player doesnt have, Last.fm will search and find a similar (if not the same) track and play it for the other player. While the Last.fm technology does feel a bit unnecessary, especially given that its impact on server connections and lag is unknown, it is an interesting experiment. In the end, defining your own music experience doesnt hurt, and it certainly beats listening to the same repetitive radio stations over and over again like in Grand Theft Auto. Of course, hilarious radio talk shows wouldnt be a bad idea either.
The last thing worth commenting on is the way players will pay for APB. There are two main ways of paying, which is purchasing hours of action district game time or paying a flat, monthly fee of $10 for unlimited play. Players, after purchasing the full game for the usual price, can determine whether they would rather pay $7 for every 20 hours of game time, or $10 a month for unlimited. Purchasing the game also gives players 50 hours of free game time instead of the traditional 30 days free that comes with most games that charge additional, after-purchase fees. While the initial, knee-jerk reaction to purchasing hours of game time was overwhelmingly negative, the decision to offer distinctly different payment methods is a good one. For starters, it allows more casual gamers to keep playing APB without feeling like theyre wasting $10 every month for a game they arent playing that much. However, for the one who can dedicate far more time to playing, the $10 is a small price to pay.
APB is a fairly unique offering by most modern online gaming standards. It definitely shines brightest because of its deep and fun-to-use customization features. On the other hand, its core, shooter-style gameplay doesnt necessarily miss the mark either, with the exception of the few bugs and glitches with the visuals and controls. APB is the first game to allow players to take their Grand Theft Auto habits and experiment with them against a large body of potential victims. If youre looking for some solid shooter fun, character progression, and customization features, APB is probably right for you. And, with the two distinct ways of paying, it doesnt matter if youve got two jobs or youre unemployed.
CCC Freelance Writer