APB – hands-on

We’re Criminals, and our first job is to go burgle some shops. Heading to the nearby car park, we spawn our currently equipped vehicle. Just like weapons, cars are unlocked, bought and then assigned to a slot in your inventory. Once you’ve bought a car, it’s yours forever, respawnable at car parks around the world.

“When I first came here everyone called it an MMO,” says EJ. “But what we wanted to make was something that was really fun and action based... When we realised there was a difference, we took a step back and tried to identify the core components that were important to us.” The result: servers of 100,000 players split into districts – essentially instances – which each contain 100.

“Technically, if you look at the term, yes, it’s a massively multiplayer game, but people have associated that to mean MMORPG. We’re not that. It’s a lot faster paced, and it’s a lot more about player skill. It’s not really about the next big +1 or +2 weapon. It really is about learning to play the game and being good at it, and a lot more about the competitiveness of that – the leagues, the conflict, the missions.” That means no digital dice rolls. The combat has more in common with Counter-Strike and Quake than it does World of Warcraft.

“People think about it, they’re like, ‘Oh yes, it’s like GTA with 100 players,’” Dave says, “but that is absolute chaos. When anybody can just kill anybody in the city, in ten minutes the whole city just collapses into anarchy and people are just pissed off and shooting everybody and running everybody over. It can be fun, but it’s a very different game.” So in APB, the only people you’re able to hurt are those involved in the same mission as you.

Enforcers can pledge to Contacts and get missions the same way as Criminals, but they’re also offered missions while on the move, telling them about Criminals that need to be stopped. The idea is that Criminals feed off the environment – breaking into shops, stealing cars, mugging pedestrians, causing property damage – while Enforcers feed off Criminals, capturing, or more commonly, killing them.

There was a concern early in development that Criminals would be cooler than the Enforcers. “Who the hell is going to play Enforcer? Surely criminals have all the fun,” says Dave. But they took steps to compensate. “As a criminal, you can actually get matched against other criminals, so in some respects it doesn’t really matter if there are too many criminals on a server. That’s good, because as an Enforcer it gives you a lot of criminals to feed off.”

Enforcers also have a couple of toys the Criminals don’t, such as less-than-lethal weapons. While a killed enemy has to wait roughly ten seconds before respawning, a less-than-lethal weapon just incapacitates them, giving the Enforcer a chance to perform an arrest, which knocks them out of the fight for 30 seconds or more.

“The mission is about setting up a context for a fight,” explains EJ. “Now, that’s not to say that the other part isn’t important. We have capture points, we have checkpoints, we have delivery missions where you pick something up and you have to keep it away from the other guy, we have escort missions, but we wanted to keep it very, very simple.”