Ever since Grand Theft Auto turned 3D and set us loose as gun toting gangster wannabes in huge city environments people have been asking - when can we do this multiplayer? When it eventually came the multiplayer option in GTA IV was something of a disappointment. Now the forthcoming title All Points Bulletin from Real Time Worlds is looking to bring MMO gaming to the streets with a cops and robbers face off which is sure to leave plenty of bullet holes, chalk outlines and blood stains in its wake.
The game has been in development for a number of years already and the release date is still a mystery but rest assured it is on the way. Real Time Worlds are still taking on staff to complete it and although the CEO, Dave Jones, showed footage of the game back at GDC in 2008 it is likely to be at least another year before the game is available. Jones worked on the original GTA game before leaving DMA Design (now Rockstar North) to found Real Time Worlds and he has enjoyed a fair bit of success with Crackdown. He describes APB as the culmination of everything he set out to do with GTA and Crackdown and although the proposed release has slipped the money has continued to pour in. The game has been developed using the Unreal Engine 3 and APB looks set to be a huge MMO on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The premise is simple enough and the action will take place in a modern day US city with criminals and law enforcement agents facing off against each other. Criminals will be able to team up and embark on missions such as jacking an armoured security van or robbing a convenience store. When they begin their nefarious activities an alert (All Points Bulletin) is dispatched to a group of cops and they try to foil the criminal enterprise.
The developers are not fans of grinding and so according to reports the focus will be firmly on player versus player with big rewards for success and punishments for failure. Carrying out a successful robbery will leave players with loot to spend on new gear and clothing. If the cops manage to make some arrests they will earn a similar reward. Progression in the game will be based on the skill level of the player rather than a reward for putting in countless hours grinding their way through thousands of poor quality AI.
Characters and Music
The individual characters have a high degree of customization as you might expect. The set up allows you to choose a gender and craft a unique set of facial features as well as selecting skin tone, height, build, eye colour; the detail is astounding. Once the basic model is chosen you can still personalize them further through your earnings in game. This extends beyond the latest clothing fashions to haircuts, tattoos and all manner of accessories. Players will be able to create unique designs to give their avatars a genuine identity. Over time the best players will be clearly delineated by their style. The ability to design your own unique tattoos will require some artistic talent and you can imagine in game tattoo artists with skills being in great demand.
The world works as an open sandbox environment which you can cruise around and the radio station in game will utilize the music on your own computer or console to reduce the need for bandwidth to transfer music files. It will actually hook into Last FM and play whatever the closest track you have is. This system will work great provided you have a decent music collection.
The limited footage that has been released reveals a realistic looking world which is clearly recognizable as an American city. There are various kinds of vehicles and gangsters and enforcers. The final standard and just how populated the city environment will be remains to be seen.
The idea behind the game-play is to create co-operative missions which allow for complex planning. Jones referenced Counter Strike when explaining the concept and it is not difficult to envision the awesome possibility of teaming up with mates, assigning roles and carrying out the perfect bank job. The skill matching system which will send enforcers out to stop you could select a team of similarly skilled cops or it could send fewer players out to stop you but of a higher skill level.
There is no doubt APB could be huge and it is a completely untapped MMO genre. When you consider the success of the GTA series it is somewhat surprising that City of Heroes is probably the closest anyone has come to producing this type of game. The focus on skill, the real world back drop and the in depth co-operative game-play make this instantly attractive. It has a genuine mass market appeal and could easily pull in millions of gamers if it is done right. Lets hope its worth the wait.