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Press Any Key: My Initial Reactions on the APB Reloaded Beta

Press Any Key is a new editorial segment inspired by our gameplay videos recorded live on Justin.tv.  In an attempt to give you all an idea of what we initially think of a certain game, ‘’PAK” will address the good, the bad, and the ugly we’ve encountered so far as well as the 2-hour (average) video of our first playthough of the game.  This is not a final review or ‘delayed reaction’ but, rather, our first thoughts on the game.  They may change.  They may stay the same.  But at least you get a clue as to what we think before we give it a final review either way.  If you want to check out more live videos, be sure to check out our Late Night PC Gaming stream over on JTV.

When I first caught wind of All Points Bulletin, the follow-up game to Realtime World’s sleeper hit Crackdown, I was extremely intrigued by the idea of an MMO that wasn’t fantasy or sci-fi based, but grounded the sort of cops and robbers, urban-warfare setting that made Crackdown such a fun experience.  It seemed like something that was right up Realtime World’s alley.  And the very elaborate designer tool set seemed like the kind of addition that could really add a lot of customization and personalization to the user experience.

APB Reloaded “Criminal” Live Show (as seen on JTV)


Watch live video from gamecrashers on Justin.tv

In reality, APB turned out to be one of the biggest video game lemons of 2010.  It was panned by the critics, shunned by consumers, and would ultimately result in the closure of Realtime Worlds only six short, agonizing months after the game’s initial release.  In its defense, APB wasn’t a horrible game.  Combat was fun and diverting, despite being your standard third person mayhem.  San Paro, the stage for APB’s dose of crazy, had enough varying locales that skirmishes could get quite interesting (and messy).  And the ability for players to customize everything from the outfits they wore, to the cars drove, right down to the music that played when you dropped an enemy to the pavement, was something that hadn’t really been attempted in an MMO before.

At the same time, APB was a game that seemed to miss the mark on just about everything else it set out to do.  It wasn’t really an MMO, since players had to group up in order to engage other players in small-scale skirmishes.  It didn’t really have any lore to speak of, since missions were loosely connected excuses to go out and kill other players for cash.  And while there was a silly pleasure in going out and capping some fools, that really wasn’t enough to sustain players for very long.  For a game all about creating awesome content, awesome content seemed to be the thing that APB was sorely lacking.

All of this might have been overlooked if it wasn’t for APB’s utterly baffling pricing structure.  When players were informed that APB would be a full priced game saddled with a monthly fee on top of it, I’m sure they expected to get something for that investment.  Instead, whatever fun was derived from the initial release was quickly offset by the fact that it was not, in any way, worth the price of admission.

The rest, as they say, is history.

APB Reloaded “Lethal Enforcer” Live Show (as seen on JTV)


Watch live video from gamecrashers on Justin.tv

Skip ahead to May 2011.  While Realtime Worlds may be no more, APB, now acquired by K2 Network, has been retooled, reworked, and rebranded as All Points Bulletin: Reloaded, a free to play MMO complete with micro-transactions, licensed music playlists, and the same design tools that made the original game so intriguing.  But will a fresh coat of paint, and a free-to-play model, be enough to assuage the resentment players felt after APB’s initial release?

In short: maybe.

APB Reloaded isn’t really all that different from the first game, which is to say that a lot of what was wrong with the first game is still present in this ‘rebranding’.  Missions are noticeably bland and repetitive, areas of the city that should be alive and bustling feel anything but, driving is a ‘slippery’ endeavor at best, quest givers and npcs are vacuous mannequins that have about as much personality as a ham sandwich, and combat is, unfortunately, still pretty unrefined, imprecise, and unbalanced.  I’m also not a huge fan of the interface, which boils down to a never-ending collection of badly laid out menus and windows that require far too many mouse clicks to achieve what you want.

All that considered, APB Reloaded has one thing going for it that APB never did: it’s free.  While going free-to-play may not seem like much (especially after that list I just ran off), it has a brilliant side effect of making the player care less about the overall quality of the game and more about whether or not they’re having any fun with what’s there.  And to be honest, I found myself having a good time in the game on more than one occasion, despite my initial bias.

As for how the micro-transactions will factor into the equation (I have not tried to purchase anything in game), I have to assume that, when the game goes live, people who want to pay for stuff, will.  In this way, the player gets to decide what the game is worth to them.  Essentially, everyone will get what he or she wants out of APB Reloaded for exactly the amount of time they want to spend with it, minus the nasty after taste of a game that didn’t live up to the hype or the initial cost.

APB Reloaded is such a weird game in its current state.  It’s a game that still doesn’t feel finished, polished, or even ready for prime time.  However, what is there is competent enough to give players that want to jump in, blow stuff up, and jump out a ‘run for their money’ (again, free).  Perfect, it’s not, but, under the right circumstances, APB Reloaded actually can be kind of fun…and, really, who cares if it’s the mindless, trigger-happy, turn-your-brain-off kind of fun?  If you’ve ever had an interest in taking APB for a spin, but weren’t interested in the upfront cost, there’s never been a better time to give APB a try.  Seriously, you have nothing to lose (FREE).  Free is free, after all, even if it’s an incentive to pay for extra goodies.  So if the idea of rolling up on some bad guys with your posse in a tricked out van sporting custom colors on it sounds like a good time, APB Reloaded might be right up your alley.

You can download the open beta of APB: Reloaded from Gamersfirst.com

2 Comments

  1. Posted by R.James on 04 June 11 at 12:35pm

    The game plays how it previously played. They didn’t change the fundementals of the game…almost at all. In a lot of ways, it’s still the busted game Jason played at Pax East. But the reason that doesn’t matter as much is…wait for it…because it’s free. I’ll play it more and give it a full Delayed Reactions review when it goes live.

    Probably could have put one more paragraph about specific gameplay moments of ‘blandness” and “greatness” (when it shows up) in. But really this segment is just designed to give and initial up/down impression. Delayed Reactions is for the real beefy review.

    Thanks for reading, dude.

  2. Posted by Alexis on 05 June 11 at 6:28am

    In practice the player requires microtransactions to stay competitive in the game, or to be a daily player (Thats incredibly active unless you don’t have a life).

    The reason for this is that weapons and their upgrades are expensive in ingame currency and only last 10 days. Only clothes, vehicles and the two starter weapons are Permanent and even then unless you pay $10/mo you only get limited customization of the first to and ammunition is bought separately.

    So an alright game for free to dip into, but don’t expect anything deep unless you have a large wallet.

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