Having played the beta I was dead set against buying APB, but doh… I’m just so bloody weak when it comes to new MMOs. Just a couple of days ago I was saying no way was I touching it (the game, not whatever you’re thinking, you sicko), but then as everywhere I went some bugger was talking about how they were going to try APB, I changed my mind and decided I’d get it just to reserve my name and see if it had actually improved since beta. Now that I’ve got a fair few hours game time under my belt, I figured I’d post a preliminary review. BTW sorry for the lack of screenies, I’m away from my home PC and can’t sort them out now.
I warn you now; I’m going to be comparing this with GTA 4 a lot. I know this is an MMO and GTA isn’t but APB is basically an attempt at making GTA online, so the comparison is fair. When you play APB you will naturally start comparing it with GTA.
APB has improved hugely from when I played it before. It runs very well at high settings on my sorta medium level PC rig and other than regular crashes (a new MMO frequently crashing? Surely not?), I’ve had no technical problems with it. Lag hasn’t been an issue at all, at least not in any obvious sense, there are some things I’ll talk about later that throw a little doubt on this. The only really poor thing regarding performance is the loading times are incredibly bad.
Visuals, audio and atmosphere
The graphics are not exceptional, but they’re consistently of a decent quality and the graphic/art design is good across the board. The city design is a little uninspired and dry feeling in places, but very cool in others, it’s quite a mixed bag. It does seem a little too clean cut, perhaps a touch robotic and while it’s one of the better MMO cities you’ll find, it still hasn’t quite reached the level of being “alive” that I’d hoped for. I can't actually think of any MMO cities that are better mind you.
The audio is pretty solid, I’m really liking the media player in the cars, particularly after importing my own mp3 collection, but other than the music I feel that the general city sounds are a bit lacking.
Unfortunately this means the atmosphere is just not to the same standard as GTA 4. It’s not terribly far off and had I not played GTA I would probably be singing it’s praises, but where pretty much anything Rockstar make these days oozes class, this really feels like a slightly cheaper copy without all the bells and whistles.
This is where APB goes all split personality on us and I find myself mourning what could have been. Gameplay is both pure brilliance and utter shite, all at the same time. When you’re in a group, driving like crazy while your mates are hanging out of the car windows exchanging gunfire with the Enforcer (players that are like police) chasing you… It’s very, very cool. Even without it being full PvP (you can only attack people involved in your mission), at any point in APB full on carnage can erupt as a mission starts when you’re reported for a crime or if you’re an enforcer, criminals try to take you down. It can be gloriously chaotic.
However there are serious problems. The missions themselves are incredibly dull, repetitive and lacking any life or sense of drama. This is a lot to do with how poorly they’re presented and how very samey they all are. The fighting players bit is fun, but this also has some big problems and it doesn’t make up for how sterile the missions feel. So what are the aforementioned big problems when fighting players? Levels, gear and possibly(?) lag.
On numerous occasions I’ve had much higher level enforcers hunting me down, which would be fine, if they couldn’t one shot me so easily when I can’t in return. Many times I unloaded half a clip from a Magnum pistol at close range into an enemies head and then he just turns round spraying and praying with his higher level gear and I insta-die. This gets very frustrating, very fast. Yet I’m not entirely sure if the gear or actually something to do with some kind of well hidden lag effecting the targeting system (which is manual FPS style btw), as there were a couple of times where I got nailed in similar fashion by people using crappier gear. Regardless of the root cause, targeting is dodgy and after a while it really starts to irritate.
Character progression is the usual grinding out missions, gaining reputation and then being able to unlock access to new items and weapons. Unfortunately, the grinding is slooooow and the end results have so far been uninspiring.
For me now that the combat is annoying and the missions are really boring, even if the driving and car chases are fun, I’m just not finding myself particularly wanting to play. It feels like the game doesn’t have any purpose or direction, it’s a grind for grinds sake.
I do think that APB has massive potential, but I can’t recommend it as a purchase right now. I'm annoyed with myself for being so weak (again) and buying a MMO just for the sake of it. If you buy this now there is a good chance you’ll get a couple of hours of “OMG this is great”, swiftly followed by “uhm... bored now”. I would instead recommend buying GTA 4, even without MMO style multiplayer, it’s just plain better.