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APB: Fun and Done

June 22, 2010

For all the fun I had criming it up in San Paro, last night I decided to uninstall the APB client from my hard drive. In spite of this, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself, because I did — every minute of the five hours of game time that came with my free beta key. But while I can certainly appreciate APB for what it is, I don’t think it’s a game I can stick with for the long haul. I know some excellent first impression write ups have already been done by a couple of my fellow bloggers, but I feel I’d be doing this game a great disservice if I didn’t at least attempt to explain why I feel this game isn’t for me.

I stupidly deleted my own APB screenshots when I uninstalled, so here are some stock images!

As much as I wanted to like APB, tried to like APB, at some point I came to realize that maybe I’m just not this game’s target audience and that I should simply surrender to the fact. I know that in my last post about this game I alluded to the idea that this game might not appeal to females, but that’s not what I mean here. After all, you’d sooner find my childhood self playing cops-and-robbers with the neighborhood boys than sitting around a doll house holding a tea party with Barbies. The point is, I can definitely appreciate a good MMOFPS.

But aye, there’s the rub, isn’t it? APB is online and multiplayer, but it lacks many things that I look for when I play MMOs. First and foremost is a reason to commit myself to my character, the story, and the events that unfold in the great big city of San Paro. Unfortunately, this is hard to find when everything is so fast-paced and hectic; one barely has time to step back and take stock of the situation before you’re shooed off by an NPC or your teammates to complete the next timed mission.

AAAAAHHH! Doesn't it ever get quiet around here?!

I just want to point out, however, that this style of play isn’t always a bad thing. My favorite moment in-game was when my criminal found herself chased all over the city by several stubborn enforcers. Outnumbered and struggling to survive, my only choice was to run and elude the other team and hope that help will come soon or that I can catch each of them off guard later and finish them off one by one. If you’re in the mood for this type of stuff, the thrill you get can be very, very satisfying.

But playing fast and loose is only good for me in the short term. While I can deal with things like no classes and no levels, I admit my online gaming tastes do tend to run towards more traditional MMOs and PvE elements. I prefer depth to my progression and meaning to my responsibilities, and try as I might, I couldn’t seem to find that in APB’s turbulent and all-hell-breaks-loose style of gameplay where the emphasis is clearly more focused on faction missions and PvP matchmaking. Like I said, they did not make this game for people like me.

The other thing I’m trying to decide for myself is, is APB an FPS? Sure, play long enough and your character will have access to a plethora of firearms and you’ll definitely get into your fair share of gunfights, but in many ways, this game doesn’t really play like your usual shooter. Now I don’t claim to be an expert at FPSs, but I’ve played enough of them to at least know how best to take someone out while maximizing my own chances of survival at the same time.

Imagine my surprise to discover that even the most rudimentary of tactics — “aim for the head” — does not apply in APB! I could shoot someone six times in the face and it would be the same as me shooting someone six times in the pinky toe. So much for my efforts to get in some headshots. In today’s market where damage-by-location seems to be a staple of all and any shooters out there, this feels like a step backwards to me. While I can see this being beneficial to people who are less skilled, if a casual shooter like myself could find frustration at this, I can only imagine what a hardcore FPS fan would think.

Remember, guys, there's no "I" in "team".

Perhaps it would be best not to label APB as an MMOFPS, and instead call it a team-based action multiplayer online game with guns. To be sure, I get the feeling that the prospects of “winning” in APB has less to do with individual skill and more to do with cooperation between yourself and your fellow players. Teaming up is the way to go, it seems. Not only are you more likely to succeed, the fun-factor also increases greatly when you’re playing in a group.

And finally, I can’t end this post without giving an earnest tip-of-the-hat to APB’s social district where I spent the majority of my time unleashing my inner fashionista and playing around with the craaaazy amount of customization options in the game’s character creation screen. This part of the game is beyond brilliant, and I really can’t stress that enough. APB shines in this area and sets new standards for character customization, and I find this greatly appealing to the artist in me.

In some ways I wish I could justify buying APB just for its avatar creation and clothing design, but obviously I can’t. I had a lot of fun with the PvP shooter elements, but I have to be in a certain mood to truly enjoy it and that style of play is also something I can only take in small doses. With so many new games being developed and released, it’s time to get picky. APB just isn’t want I’m looking for right now, but I’ll be sure to keep my eye on it to see where things go.

15 comments

  1. I feel compelled to explain the no-headshot thing. RTW decided to have no location based damage to prevent the “small-female syndrome.” IE, to get the character customization they wanted they could not have character hits register off the actual model. If they did then there would be a bias towards the smallest model you could make; the short, uber-thin female.

    Personally, as a heavy FPS player (if not an uber one) I really don’t miss the lack of head shots. It’s great in twitch games but as the games run up the tactical scale the less-and-less prevalent head shots really are. Not to mention as one person put it on the official forums; (twitch) skill in an FPS is about putting the reticule on target faster than your opponent. The size of that target is largely immaterial. Skilled players will be able to target center mass faster than unskilled players.

    APB looks to be a decent tactical shooter. IE, one where the choices one makes and preparation one takes leading up to the conflict are as important, if not more so, than the actual combat. It’s no ARMA2 or PR but for a quick, jump-in-and-rumble type of tactical it was surprisingly satisfying. A great compliment to my TF2 twitch and BF2142 tactical. :)


    • Well, see, that’s what I also thought at first…but I did also read on the forums that they had decided to “fix” this potential “small female syndrome” by not only allowing players to stray too far from the “average” so that hit box sizes won’t be too varied across the board. This was quite a while ago though, so I don’t know how much of this was reflected in the final product. Indeed, I did find you can’t make characters that deviate too much from the norm in APB. In any case, you’re right in that there’s still going to be noticeable differences between character sizes, but it just seemed strange to me that they ended up addressing the hitbox issue by suggesting ways to offset it (going as far as to place some restrictions on customization), but at the same time have said nothing to connect it with the issue of no localized damage or even address it.

      For me anyway, I think it’s not so much about being able to get headshots kills (but at least they should do critical damage, heehee), it’s about wanting to not die to shots that hit otherwise non-critical parts of my body. :P I was trying to stay behind a car for cover one time, and my opponent from across the way simply sprayed random shots in my direction. At least it didn’t seem like there was anything tactical about it; a part of my leg was exposed and I can only assume that several shots to the foot killed me dead because I was was crouched and absolutely sure that the rest of my body was nice and hidden. I didn’t know whether to laugh or rage at the time LOL! I can definitely see where you’re coming from, and I agree skill can still come into play…but this sure does put a real damper on realism. :(


    • I dunno about that. My favorite thing to do in FPS like ghost recon games is to grab a sniper rifle and camp somewhere hidden and get head shots all day.

      Perhaps hardcore FPS players run around with a machine gun aiming for center mass but thats not terribly immersive and i stay away from games that encourage the run and respawn style play. There really nothing tactical about that style of play.


      • @MMOC Cover isn’t as straight forward as it seems. If the car was destroyed it provides no cover. If it is owned by an agent not in the current mission (IE, you or your opponents) it provides no cover. Also if your a small female frame your hitbox is larger than your toon and parts of you could be sticking out.

        @Thac0 I agree the run and respawn style of play isn’t too tactical. But the game you described is also on the far end of the twitch-tactical spectrum. APB is more middling, leaning closer to TF2 than BF2142 (the two middle points in my mind). Tactics do play a part. The person who keeps the engagement at their weapon’s range is going to wind. Sniper outside of SMG range, SMG up close and personal to sniper. Terrain plays a large part in all that. Which is why I said decisions leading up to the conflict are as important as the twitch aspect itself.

        I’m not saying the game is without problems (100 in a district is too low for decent matching, districts are too small, mini map could at least always mark where your currently spawned vehicle is, weapons aren’t quite diversified enough, driving is like flying a brick, they need to encourage larger battles since the 20v20 max might rarely be seen, etc) but what they have is a solid start which played quite well given the absolutely horror shows that have come out of the industry the past… well… ever. AO, CO, AoC, AC2 just to name a few. ;)

        Also, MMOC, I’m not saying you should play. Not all games are for everyone. I’m just one of those crotchety people that likes to discuss stuff, lots. :D


      • You know what, that actually explains a lot. One time, I respawned and ran around a corner and ran into an enforcer who had just come in from a firefight and was hiding. He didn’t see me, but I was pretty startled. I saw the red tag above his head and my finger on the mouse triggered a shot a shot in my panic…that final shot was what was needed to kill him apparently, because he died…but I was pretty sure I hadn’t actually hit him. My cursor had been pointed to an empty spot right in front of his chest; it was close, but it was also a clear miss. I had chalked it up to lag and luck at the time, but if it’s possible for your hitbox to be larger than your toon, this would make a lot of sense.

        But if this is the case, then it’s just another one of those things that will make a lot of people frustrated with this game. Cover should be cover, if a toon is visually completely protected behind something, it really makes no sense that it could still be hit. Granted, I was pretty sure the car I was hiding behind did provide cover, otherwise I would have been killed much sooner in the random hail of bullets coming my way…but now it makes me wonder if parts of my invisible hit box had indeed been sticking out, which is something I can’t easily tell for sure and something I feel I shouldn’t have to worry about.

        But oh well, I know some people like to snipe from a distance (like Thac0) and while I can understand the thrill behind that, I personally prefer a play style in shooters that is more about close range combat. In the end I can see how APB’s style would benefit the average player like me, as it serves to level the playing field. But it’s also a double edged sword that can disadvantage those who rely heavily on cover and evasion to avoid getting killed.

        And no worries, Grey, I like discussing stuff too! I read somewhere once that APB feels “genre confused”…that’s sort of like my feeling on it. It’s definitely not an MMORPG, but it doesn’t really feel like a shooter to me either, because of the reasons I mentioned. If I’m being unfair to a game though, I like to know, so I’m grateful for another point of view. Plus, I did say I’m no expert in shooters :P


  2. Nice write-up and thanks for saving me the trouble of having to try out a GTA clone :)


    • It did feel like GTA in many ways but it was mostly visual, at least to me. :P Even though it’s a pass from me for now, I’d say this game is worth at least trying out if you can ever get in on a free trial or something. It’s one of those games you can jump in and get lost in for a few hours, at least until the exhilaration fades away. Now I can start to understand their unique pricing plan.


  3. I had nearly the same experience, and same feelings about APB. I honestly hope that RTW has a hit here, because SO many things about this game are amazing! It is beautifully crafted, with amazing visuals, insane customization tools, and truly fun gameplay. For a short few minutes at a time. I found I just couldn’t get into it, and uninstalled it when I just couldn’t find the motivation to log in.

    There are some things APB does that NEED to find their way into other games. The customization tools in particular. Can you imagine crafting in LotRO that used a design interface like APB for creating armor or weapons? Wow. And the get-in-get-out gameplay is nice for those of us with tight schedules.

    Like I said, I hope it succeeds. APB is a step in the right direction for MMOs in a lot of ways. But it just didn’t click for me; I need more for my character, and more story.


    • Get-in-get-out gameplay, I couldn’t have said it better myself. That part of the game is nice, I have to admit. And no kidding about the customization! It was like my wildest dreams come true.

      If they ever add more to this game down the road, I may check it out again. Somehow, I don’t think they will though…like I said in my post, I know where they’re trying to go with this game and in that they succeeded, and I’m just not their target audience. They’ve sure set the standards for character creation though, blowing even Cryptic out of the water.


  4. I haven’t played this, FPS games have little appeal to me, but is this an FPS in any sense? I may be datying my self, but I think of FPS games as like Doom and Star Wars: Dark Forces (a Doom clone), where you never see yourself as the character, other than maybe a health icon. All the screenshots I’ve seen from APB are more like a third person shooter, much like STO, where you can never zoom in to your character’s Point of View.

    Either way, between the apparent lack of deep story, and the emphasis on PvP, especially what in other games would be considered griefing. This is one I’ll avoid. Thanks for the insightful review.

    On an unrelated note, my inability to get to my own blog from work precludes making comments there. :/


    • I might be remembering wrong, but I think you can zoom in to your character’s point of view in APB. Visually, that puts you more in line with FPS…but it still doesn’t feel like one. It comes down to some of the things I mentioned in my post and in above comments. To be fair though, I don’t think that was Realtime World’s goal to make APB an MMOFPS in the strictest sense, so I applaud their attempts to be more inclusive and bring something different to the table.


      • You can zoom in to the “over-the-shoulder” view; think ME1’s view. Not true first person but effectively similar except you lose 1/3rd your screen to your toon. :)


  5. I have to concur. I tried the game out and discovered it wasn’t what I was looking for in a game. A bit disappointing, but there are too many games out there that I do enjoy to worry about it too long.


    • Yeah, I would rate this game high on game play, but as an online game with a subscription, it has to have lasting appeal too, which is what this game lacked for me.


  6. [...] decided she’s done with APB, at least for the time being. Despite the fact that I am looking forward to APB’s release [...]



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