Review / APB (PC)

San Paro, a lawless land of questionable hootenanny where you’ll have a hard time reconciling the world in which you live. If you can swallow the fact that a city would allow such nonsensical anarchy to ensue within its borders, APB can at times be a very hectic shooter with heavy focus on group PvP. However, we’re still desperately trying to find where the MMO part fits in.

If you’ve kept up with APB prior to release you would know that it’s supposed to be a quasi-GTA style game expanded into an MMO complete with dual factions. Unfortunately, the reality is that the game ends up being mostly a GTA clone but missing important story elements and with a bit of multiplayer bolted to the proverbial quarter panels.

Talking about the character creation and related customization options would be beating a dead horse at this point. It’s been covered extensively all over the place, including here. Yes it’s good, down right awesome, but this alone doesn’t constitute a game. There’s a reason why most of APB‘s media revolved around these features, because beyond that there isn’t much to cheer about.

As it is right now, APB‘s game mechanics end up being more or less an arms race. New players versus veterans are a sure fire battle in futility as 9 times out of 10 the veteran player with the significantly larger gun will tear you to shreds. While skill does play a factor in the outcome of gun battles, the guy with the more powerful weapon ultimately comes out on top more often than not.

Being pigeon holed into shooting via the 3rd person perspective is also a struggle for those that are more comfortable playing such games in the 1st person. Having the option of both would be an effective way for players to have choice in the way of attempting some sort of balance within the game.

That being said, the game really shines during the group battles. There is something very satisfying about jumping in a car and racing to a mission and hoping to hell you can complete it without being interrupted by the rival crew and the flip-side of that is equally as awesome.

Driving in is fun, but then again that’s to be expected. It takes a bit to get used to the mild instability some cars have, but once you get used to drifting around corners, San Paro’s citizens stop getting flung across the map and costing you that precious prestige.

The world in which all this madness takes place feels less like an MMO and more like a controlled multiplayer map though. To call it an MMO is almost an insult to other MMOs. The zones far are too small and the player population is so tightly controlled that it never feels massive in any sense of the word, and the 80-player limit causes the game to feel a lot smaller than it really ought to be.

The world itself can be beautiful at times as the engine is pushing a ludicrous amount of triangles and textures at us, but a majority of the time the city looks like a collection of generic, everything. Ubiquitous arrangements of concrete and asphalt, repetitive car models and thinly veiled atmosphere create a static and predictable game space. The social zone is a tad bit better, but serves only as a hub to upgrade yourself and interact with other players. The meat of the game takes place in the two other zones – Waterfront and Financial Districts – and for the most part, both are very unsatisfying.

The questing system is equally generic as you’ll find yourself doing the same types of missions over and over again while routinely spamming your F key to active key events in the quests. The group quests are slightly more satisfying only because of the above mentioned PvP play that comes with it. Racing against a rival group removes the monotony that the solo quests have a hard time avoiding.

To talk about APB‘s story would be a challenge for the ages as there doesn’t appear to be any. Aside from the introduction – the one that’s hard to imagine happening in any realistic world – there isn’t much telling you why things are the way they are. They just are.

As it stands right now APB is like an M&M without the chocolate. The luster on the outside is pretty and alluring, but it’s completely void beyond that exterior. It’s not all bad though as I believe that my opinion of the game would change if they simply labeled the game as a multiplayer shooter and not an MMO. The group missions and bounty mechanics offer insight into the potential of APB and more mechanics and features need to be tailored around the idea of groups and group battles. However I would have a hard time parting away with my money every month to pay for APB in its current state. Between the restricted player numbers and lack of content outside the character customization, it’s simply not currently worth the price admission.

+ Character customization is bar-none
+ Group missions are where this game shines
+ GTA style driving is a blast

– Lacks substance on almost all fronts
– Graphics are often generic
– Lacks any massive feeling despite being an MMO game