We get some play time with Realtime Worlds upcoming MMO shooter and find that we've got a little Dirty Harry in our Enforcer.
The life of an Enforcer in San Paro is not easy, especially if you have the driving skills of a 12-year-old and are up against ruthless criminals bent on terrorizing the city. At least that was my first hands-on experience with All Points Bulletin (APB), the upcoming MMO shooter from Realtime Worlds. I managed to infiltrate their offices in Boulder, CO, last week to get a look at the near-gold build of the game, then interrogate the lead designer in a secluded office until he gave me all the extra details on the game.
For the uninitiated, APB is a third-person shooter that encourages players to group up, as enforcers or criminals, to complete missions. The more missions you complete, the higher your prestige (for enforcers) or notoriety (for criminals). You can group with up to three other players to accomplish some of the tougher missions and gradually work your way up the ranks as your skills increase.
Unfortunately, not having played in the beta, my skills were virtually nil. First of all, I'm not into shooters and I suck at Player-vs.-Player (PvP) combat, so the learning curve for me was a bit steeper than your average Counter-Strike player. To be clear, this third-person shooter is all about PvP. Yes, there will be missions that allow you to do things where you aren’t up against other players, but sooner or later, it is "kill or be killed" and you better know your stuff.
While the development team had some prebuilt and more advanced characters for me to try in the play-test, I decided to create my own. While some MMOs offer you limited customization, APB thrives on the customization of your avatar, with literally thousands of combinations using sliders for facial hair, eyes, weight, clothes and more. As you gain credibility with various factions, more customizations can be unlocked, from clothing to vehicle and weapon modifications. After deciding to play around with a portly enforcer with muttonchops and a mohawk, I entered the tutorial district of San Paro.
APB is set up in three districts, a social district which can hold up to 250 players at one time, and two action districts, which can handle up to 100 players each at a time. Each world (comprised of multiple districts) can hold up to 10,000 players. The tutorial district is a relatively simple area that allows players to get the feel for the controls, how to drive a car and how to aim and fire your weapon. I completed the six missions rather easily for the contact I was given. Contacts represent people who give you missions and building your reputation with those contacts opens up better weapons, ammo and customizations.
Bolstered with a false sense of security, I ventured forth into the Waterfront action district to begin my education in law enforcement. Character movement was fairly simple, using the mouse, the WASD keys and the shift key to run. The open-world game gives you a huge area to run a round in, and onscreen cues make it easy to find out where you are supposed to go. I found myself running a lot form location to location, as my attempts at driving vehicles usually ended with dead pedestrians, property damage in the tens of thousands of dollars and numerous vehicle fires induced by too many fender-benders. As a side note, enforcers can commandeer vehicles at any time with no loss of prestige. That cannot be said when running people down or knocking over signs and fire hydrants. But the prestige loss is minimal compared to the gains of completing missions or apprehending criminals.
The more you do in the game, the more chances your character has to advance in level, giving you access to more weapons, ammo and customizations. Right now, players can increase up to 15 threat levels (used for matchmaking purposes), gain credibility with up to 20 contacts and specialize in up to seven roles, such as car thief for criminals or vigilante for enforcers. I was able to gain a couple levels just by witnessing a crime, the simple act of hitting the left ALT key when you see a crime happen. Of course, as an enforcer, you want to take down these punks, so you have the option of engaging the criminal to kill him or arrest him. To arrest, you need some form of non-lethal weapon, but I was too low a level to purchase one yet, so marshaling my best Clint Eastwood impression and screaming "Do you feel lucky, punk?" I'd bluster headlong toward a criminal only to die horribly in a hail of bullets to the face and torso (Note to self: Crouch behind objects and zoom in to aim better. APB offers no snap targeting system, so getting that targeting reticule over your target is important to subduing them. Right clicking to zoom in makes targeting a bit simpler.)