APB: Reloaded: Still Running on Empty
By Michael Sagoe (Mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
It’s time to once again visit the mean streets of San Paro for a live and reloaded look at the infamous All Points Bulletin. APB: Reloaded is a GamersFirst re-release of the original APB, originally created by the now defunct developer “Realtime Worlds”. What the original APB promised was a completely online, GTA style action game filled with instance third person shooter and driving mechanics along with fun faction on faction competition with criminals against enforcers.
Unfortunately, what all players got was laggy driving mechanics, unbalanced gunplay and a truckload of empty promises. Now the game has been revived as a free-to-play title. It’s time to see if all the tweaks to this refurbished machine will finally turn this APB into the high action online game we’ve all been hoping for.
Player customization and user created content was one of the crowning features of the original APB, and it’s all still intact for APB: R, as character customization has hundreds of options at your disposal. Even with initial character creation, you can create your criminal or enforcer to be as realistic or as unbelievable as possible. Only downside is that no new customization options have been added since the original APB, as well as the fact that many customizable items need to be unlocked before use.
Along with character creation, players have the same degree of freedom with pattern creation, car designs and music themes. All these options are available for free and with very small limitations, allowing all players to express themselves and show some truly creative things…
Gameplay wise: There are a number of different passive skills, equipment and weapon tweaks you can earn or purchase with in-game money from the auction house. Depending on your play style, these small tweaks can make a world of difference.
The game uses familiar third person shooter controls for both shooting and driving: WASD keys control character movement and steering, Spacebar performs small jumps and handbraking, F key allows you to interact with various objects around the environment, and several other functions. Controls feel responsive, but can also feel sticky at times when performing actions such as spraying and carjacking.
The previous APB suffered from laggy driving mechanics and unbalanced gunplay. APB:Reloaded’s driving mechanics are generally lag free, so now you can get a real feel for the handling of each vehicle. The shooting mechanics have been changed, now having proper hitscan detection and tweaked recoil, but weapon balance is still questionable. Player models do not have any hitboxes, so shooting a player in the head will be the same as shooting them in the foot. Weapons are all tweaked to fit their expected roles, but with most of the action taking place in open environments, mid and close range weapons can feel useless at time. Those that are expecting shooting mechanics that reward skillful headshots will be disappointed, and every gun-on-gun confrontation will feel like a Mexican standoff.
Gameplay and Features
APB:Reloaded’s gameplay will give players an experience that can be fun, but for the most part it can be incredibly frustrating. While some core issues of APB’s original gameplay have been tweaked, they’re still fundamentally flawed by design. Most of the missions revolve around typical MMO fetch quests or missions that involve a lot of camping. These missions tend to repeat themselves often, and even though players will have to constantly travel around town to make things more interesting, they can get boring very quickly. Not to mention that the overall progression with unlocking new stuff can be tiresome, even with premium service.
Other elements of the game remained unbalanced such as faction interactions. Criminals have a handful of ways to make in-game money fast and easy such as mugging pedestrians, ramming down stores and warehouses for items and delivering stolen vehicles to chop shops, while enforcers can only make money by witnessing criminals that perform crimes (which can be by a longshot unless you’re constantly on patrol) or by completing missions.
“To the owner of a blue security van: You’re parked onto of an old lady.”
APB:R suffers from one other issue that F2P shooters tend to have… You know what I’m talking about: Rental items. The game punishes players than do not play regularly in order to earn back the time and money spent on them. This includes both weapons and cars that can be bought with in-game money or real money. While there are permanent weapons and cars that you can buy, most of the good or even semi-decent ones are insanely overpriced.
The biggest issue with APB lies within its matchmaking system. As a matter for fact, it becomes the major source of all the game’s shortcomings. The game’s matchmaking system tries to look for opponents that have the same threat level as you, and sometimes you will, but most of the time you’ll end up with any and all opponents that are ready to answer dispatches, meaning you may have higher or lower level teammates and opponents to deal with. Issue with this is that new players are still learning the ropes on how to properly approach missions, and with expert players that know every camping spot, every hiding place, every choke point along with having supped up weapons and equipment… the expected slaughtering commences.
Despite the game’s glaring issues, APB:R’s gameplay isn’t all doom and gloom. When the matchmaking works out well enough, and latency connections are solid, the game can create intense moments that you would never quite experience in any other multiplayer game out there.
Graphics and Presentation
The world of APB is a sight to behold, offering up realistic urban environments to run and drive through. The character models all look great, including the NPCs. The sounds of death and destruction from gun shots and car explosions will become music to your ears, and speaking of music: The game’s original soundtrack is not so bad, either.
The soundtrack is filled with licensed tracks from popular and upcoming artists, and with a genre selection of rock, hip-hop, electronic, easy listening you can be sure they have something for everyone. Even if you don’t like the game’s original soundtrack, you can create your own playlist with your own imported.mp3 files.
APB:Reloaded comes complete with all the standard community features such as friends list, clan support, etc. All of these elements work out the way they should and you are highly encouraged to make use of. Because of the open-ended structure of each district, enemies can come at you from high places, low places and just about every other direction at any given time. Coordination with teammates is very important for successfully completing missions. As expected, trying to communicate and coordinate with random players is like trying to coach a preschool baseball team, even with the game’s well designed VoIP function. As the game itself will suggest, having a dedicated group of friends to play with is recommended, but it’s actually more of a necessity than usual. This game isn’t for lone wolves at all.
Since APB:R is an M-rated game, this won’t be for the kiddies or for the faint of heart, and there’s no chat filter that will censor foul language, so expect to see a lot of colorful language from fellow players, as well as grim attitudes.
“Flipping the bird is how you show good sportsmanship in San Paro”
APB: Reloaded can be fun at times, but these golden moments can be few and far between. Even if you manage to put up with the game’s issues and shortcomings, you may be turned off by the fact that there’s not much to do once you’ve maxed out every contract. Players will be doing the same repetitive missions at the start of the game and at the “end-game”, just with more clothing options. The original APB was left as an unfinished mess and GamersFirst has only begun to screw around with it, but just like rebuilding a broken down house: You have to break it down before you can properly build it back up again.
One thing is for sure: APB:Reloaded still has a long way to go before it reaches its true potential.
Customization – 5
Controls – 3
Gameplay – 1
Graphics and Presentation - 4