APB is the cops and robbers MMO from the creators of Crackdown. There are no levels, no ‘Artificial Incompetence’ to battle, and no numbers to slowly grind. Why? Well, according to Real Time Worlds’ boss Dave Jones, “leveling is a broken concept - it’s called a grind for a reason.” So APB isn’t about killing 2000 bunnies or crafting a new sword from the skins of 600 lizards; APB is about action and takes Counter Strike as its inspiration. APB is always player vs player with real rewards for success and real punishment for failure.

Like a massively multiplayer GTA, criminal players are set tasks by the city’s crime lords and let loose on the streets to commit their misdemeanors, ranging from low-level theft of someone’s TV, right up to multimillion dollar Heat-style midtown bank robberies. Players on the Enforcer side just have to stop them. At the moment a crime kicks off, the game assesses the skill level of the players involved in the crime and sends an All Points Bulletin to a corresponding team of Enforcers, marking them on their radar.

The chase is then on. The first Enforcers on the scene scoop up a straggler or two as the criminals bundle into their van, other Enforcers set up roadblocks with hijacked vehicles or give chase, exchanging gunfire with the half-dozen robbers in their cash-filled wagon. Escape means clothing and kit for the gang, while capture yields similar rewards for Enforcers.

Personalisation is the key to APB; your reward won’t come in the form of an ever-increasing number or the chance to take on even bigger and more tedious monsters, but in new costumes, weapons, haircuts and accessories for your in-game avatar. APB’s character creation is more flexible than that of any EA game or wrestling title. Characters can be unique without looking ridiculous, and characters can be given unique shirt designs and tattoos using a system similar to Forza 2’s editor. Whether criminal or Enforcer, you’ll build your look from scratch and earn better gear as you play. You’ll look pretty good rolling up to hoodlums in your Miami Vice suit when APB releases.

May 5, 2008