APB Hands-On: Enforcing Justice in San Paro

We get some play time with Realtime Worlds upcoming MMO shooter and find that we've got a little Dirty Harry in our Enforcer.

Lead designer EJ Moreland admitted that the game can be rather unforgiving in the beta, especially when new players go up against more seasoned players. However, the game does try to match you against players of your level when passing out missions. Unfortunately, the server we were on was rather sparsely populated, and the population was players very familiar with the beta. The few missions I was able to complete only happened after I grouped with other players. There was a distinct thrill in killing a bad guy several levels above me, using other members of my team to distract him.

Moreland said that when the game releases, players will be on more of an even footing. He said that the beta players will probably group on their own servers since they are familiar with the game and want to advance quickly against their peers. He said new players will be able to jump in and get standing and rating, but it will be better to come in with friends and group up whenever possible. Moreland said he doesn’t foresee ganking and griefing to be a problem. But getting killed more than once or twice by the same player is part of the game mechanic, depending on the population of the district, meaning that lower population districts could pit you against the same higher level players in missions more often. That is why the game is set up to look at factors such as faction balance and current player population before assigning new players to a district. The good thing is that players do not have to accept missions against higher level opponents, and players cannot target you unless a mission is in progress. Once you compete or fail a mission, your opponents become non-targetable again.

"The core of the game is shooting people and having some degree of skill at that," Moreland said. "It is all about competition. Getting in with a good group of players can help, otherwise the game can be a real shark tank."

Needless to say, I found that out firsthand as I found myself face down on the pavement much more often than celebrating a capture. My skill did increase a bit as I became more familiar with the mechanics, but the game really is designed for players with some level of skill in shooters.

Moreland said there is no end-game for APB at the moment, other than leagues and a marketplace where players can create their own customizations and mods and sell them to other players. Frequent updates are planned, consisting mostly of new customizations and modifications. New content is planned less frequently. One planned update includes Chaos Mode, which is essentially open PvP where missions are not needed to take on opposing players.

The fee structure for the game is different than your traditional MMO monthly fee. While players can get unlimited play for $9.99 a month, players can also buy game time in chunks, say 20 hours for $6.99. The casual player then does not feel cheated if he or she can't play for extended periods of time. There will also be the ability to buy points in the marketplace to spend on customizations and mods that players have designed. If you happen to be creative and design a popular mod or customization, the points that people give you to use your designs can be used to pay for game time. So it is conceivable that popular mods could fund a players game time for months at a time.

APB is scheduled to hit shelves in North America on June 29. I've already contacted a few of my beta buddies so that when the game launches I'll be able to hit the ground running with a good team, instead of just hitting the ground.

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