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Welcome To San Paro
Realtime Worlds is seeking to change the online action game model similar to the way Star Vault sought to alter the landscape of RPG realism with their less-than-spectacular Mortal Online. The good news is that APB is a far better game than Mortal Online, but when it comes to actual gameplay and functionality there’s much that’s left to be desired.
Take note that All Points Bulletin definitely sets a new trend for both action games and online gaming and there’s bound to be a string of copy-cats in the years to come (hopefully). However, gamers shouldn't be mistaken in thinking that what APB does accomplish correctly should be praised more than the faults it carries with it.
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There are no other games out there across any platform doing what All Points Bulletin is boasting. This is a great thing because gamers will get something truly original out of this title but it all comes at the expense of gameplay.
Still, APB puts together a mean mixture of conceptual elements that sees players choosing either the side of an Enforcer (cops) or a Criminal (a criminal). The game pits players against other players in what’s called action districts, where missions must be carried out that usually includes teaming with or going against another player or a group of players. It’s like Grand Theft Auto’s single-player experience transformed to accommodate multiple players.
What’s more is that the game is all about player-created content: tattoos, logos, car designs, face paint, and even custom music themes created with an in-game music tracker. All of the cool decorations and whatnot for characters and vehicles can be created by the player.
The added ability to share just about everything created in the game with other players in the game – including the ability to have others listen to whatever soundtrack you’re listening to – gives the game a true sense of community driven interactivity.
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Gameplay - Part 1
Where the concept holds firm with what Realtime Worlds sought to achieve with player-generated content and customization, everything structurally feels weak when it comes to the gameplay. First and foremost the on-foot running around, communication and navigation system is amazing. Running through town, hopping fences, scaling buildings and chasing other players is done with ease and works well.
Unfortunately, once vehicles come into the picture the game’s performance hits huge snags. Lag pops up every few seconds when driving around, and trying to control the faster cars nearly becomes impossible as it feels like the game is busting out of its own network structure. For gamers with a T1 or higher connection and a dual graphics-card system it shouldn’t be much of a problem when it comes to gameplay performance but that really does cut out majority of the PC gamers out there.
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Gameplay - Part 2
What’s more is that aside from the shoddy vehicle mechanics there’s another huge gameplay problem: the shooting. Player’s don’t have health bars…everything health-related is handled with the screen darkening or getting bloody and if it fills up, you’re dead. This probably seemed like a cool idea on the concept table but in execution it means you either run-and-gun to no end, or hope you get your target. Otherwise you end up in endless shootouts where every few seconds your life or your opponent’s life recharges and the cycle repeats. It’s not a good setup for an online action game at all and hopefully in a future update the game will change this around so that it utilizes a health-pack system instead.
Because of the lack of a real health system it also means that someone who is camping a vital questing spot can do so without ever worrying about having to restock life or reposition themselves. Just about everyone camps on the final mission segments where an area or item has to be captured because if you take a few hits, no prob just wait a few seconds and you’re good to go again. This setup completely diminishes tactical gunplay and ultimately dumbs down any sort of strategic element the game could have managed when it comes to shootouts. I didn't think it was possible but it's actually a downgrade going from A.V.A or Operation 7's gun mechanics to APB.
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Sadly, there’s more disappointment in store whether you were expecting it or not. The quest setup in APB should have been one of the game’s strong points. Questing should have been a highlight; it’s an open-world there should be plenty to do….right? Wrong.
For some odd reason the missions are extremely repetitive and oftentimes, boring. As a Criminal things are actually worse than as an Enforcer, mainly because things get extremely repetitive as a Criminal: you ram a building and steal an item and then bring back to a location. You graffiti a logo somewhere before the cops arrive. You steal a car and bring it to a location. You kill someone. You rob someone. You rinse and repeat all of the above. I didn’t think being an anarchical maniac would be so boring and…repetitive.
As an Enforcer things are a bit more intense only because you have to watch what you do. As a Criminal you get points for mugging, robbing and generally being chaotic. As an Enforcer it’s just the opposite. You lose points for running people over, for taking someone’s car or for causing mayhem in San Paro. It adds a meager but somewhat entertaining value to the stale and cyclical missions that pretty much sees players doing the same thing over and over again.
The only highlight of the missions is that as you level-up, earn more gear, respect and vehicles, the missions get a little bit harder and involve more players from both the Enforcers and the Criminals. It’s also nice that when things get out of hand it’s possible to call in for backup, which results in a player or two coming to your aid. This helps stave off a little bit of the boredom factor that appears after repeating the same mission four times in a single hour.
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Graphics and Sound
The game really does require a headset to play effectively and the in-game voice service works wonders. It’s all proximity based so it requires being within hearing distance to actually hear what other players are saying. Nevertheless, it’s seamless and is ideal for communicating, especially during intense missions.
The soundtrack is also a varied selection of eclectic music suited to the taste of just about any action-adventure gamer. Of course, what would a pseudo-open world game be without custom soundtracks? Yep, APB lets gamers import their own tunes to rock out to while either on-foot or in a car. Speaking of vehicles and sound…all of the crashes, bumps, shunts and gunfire sound excellent and are conveyed very well.
Visually, the game looks good, too. I know that’s a general description of the visuals but keep in mind that if you played Crackdown on the Xbox 360 you’re not going to get anything too far off in APB…in fact, I’m of the opinion that All Points Bulletin actually looks a little better than RTW’s first open-world outing. The decals, car tuning options, tattoos, clothing attire and character details are of really high quality and it’s going to be tough for other games in the genre to follow-up on how much APB offers when it comes to visual quality and customization depth.
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While Realtime Worlds promised a game that would be heavily motivated by player-created content and have an open-world structure unlike anything else out there I can say that they only half-delivered. Yes, all the custom features for character originality and car modding is executed superbly and everything one might expect from the game when it comes to making an original character whether on the Criminal or Enforcer side is completely in tow, however the rest of the game suffers for it dearly.
The combat is the prime culprit of bringing the fun-factors down gravely and the performance drop that ensues when using certain vehicles is just unacceptable. I imagine that if you meet the recommended requirements the game should work properly at all times, but that’s not really the case with All Points Bulletin.
The action districts are also quite small for this game to aim for the “open world” effect. In fact, the maps are only marginally bigger than the main city areas of CrimeCraft. And anyone who played THQ and Vogster Entertainment's CrimeCraft knows just how small that game really felt.
Still, if you don’t mind shoddy gameplay mechanics and tons of customization features then you’ll probably enjoy APB. If you’re part of the group of gamers looking for a serious open-world action game the best of the bunch in the online arena is still Icarus Studios’ Fallen Earth. For a good single-player romp, you do better grabbing Crackdown 2.
For more action games and online shooters be sure to check out the complete action game directory right here at Bright Hub.