Archive for June 22nd, 2010

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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.