APB is vapid. It’s a game so concerned with how it looks and the personality it puts out that it never bothers to actually have any real personality in the first place. Smoke and mirrors is one way to describe it. A crushing disappointment is another.
This time last year, APB was one of the most exciting games I’d ever seen. It had character customisation tools that damn near blew my mind and the basic pitch of cops and robbers as an MMO sounded great, even if the cops were called ‘Enforcers’ for no real reason.
That was a year ago though. Now, APB is out, and it’s not as fun as it sounded. Those systems are still in place, but they’re shades, seemingly compromised into oblivion when Realtime Worlds realised that they couldn’t bring their vision to life. Usually, it wouldn’t be fair to compare a game to what was said a year ago, but here, you can see they are still there, see what they could have been, and that makes it so much worse.
At its best, the APB from a year ago manages to shine through, washing away all the frustrations. But most of the time APB is this sad, broken thing, trying to put on a cheery face when all it really wants to do is collapse in on itself.
APB's designers let you create even the most copyright infringing of tattoos!
I suppose I should explain why.
Style over substance is something you’re going to hear a lot, in one form or another. For some, style is enough, but the style only means something when there’s substance to apply it to. APB’s style works, as demonstrated by the editing tools for creating logos and clothes. Using vectors, primitive shapes and a significant amount of patience, you can create almost any design you want. Then you can rotate, stretch and move the design anywhere you like, onto anything you like. It’s genuinely astonishing.
There’s also a music designer, and car customisation, both of which demonstrate a similar range of options and possibilities. The music in particular behaves like a stripped down version of a professional product, allowing you to place notes on a dot matrix with multiple instruments, to create some brilliant compositions. These become your death theme; a short, five second audio clip that plays through the speakers of your victims. That means you’ll mostly be listening to Mario or Zelda theme tunes when you die, but there are some good original tunes in there already too.
The official company vehicle
It also means you can make a reasonable amount of cash just from being a good designer. The game features a universal marketplace allowing the game to be filled with an already surfacing visual personality after just a week. Looking forward a few months down the line, I wouldn’t be surprised if nearly everyone in the game had managed to find themselves a unique look.
The main issue with these powerful tools though is the lack of direction you’re given. They’re not hugely obtuse in interface or anything as hampering as that, but when you’re presented with the full power of such a thing, and then given no help as to what the hell you’re supposed to be doing, it’s somewhat overwhelming. Just being led by the hand through creating some basic designs and songs would’ve made everything more friendly.
This approach is taken towards the game tutorial, too, which essentially boils down to teaching you when and where to press ‘F’. Things like restocking ammo, differentiating between mission types and even the essentials of combat aren’t even touched upon, let alone explained, meaning that you’re better off ignoring the tutorial entirely, to save you precious minutes. However, doing that means you’ll jump into the Action District even more quickly – and it’s only downhill after that.