APB – hands-on

APB’s combat is defined by its city. When you’re driving between locations, it’s all wide-open roads, occasional ramps and plenty of scope for long-distance combat. But each objective is located either in an alleyway or a building. Thus objectives become focal points for very tense, very action-packed combat. As a Criminal, you’ll find yourself in the core, covering your friends and trying to guess where the Enforcers are coming from. As an Enforcer, you’ll be trying to sneak up on the Criminals, to box them in and stop them escaping.

“If the combat is fun, then it doesn’t feel repetitive,” says EJ. “We may be wrong there, which is why we’re adding other things to do, but we think what we have is a good starting point.” The combat is fun, though we still have concerns. Mainly, that there is no location damage. A headshot does the same damage as a footshot; you simply spray enemies with bullets till they fall down. This lack of precision makes the guns feel weak.

“We don’t have location-based damage, because we feel it pushes the difference between a low skill player and a high skill player too far,” EJ explains. “If people universally want location based damage, we’re going to have to re-evaluate our decision.” We hope they do. As we run around the street, trying to find a nice-looking car to steal, it happens for the first time. An Enforcer speeds along the road in his own vehicle and hits us.

As we awkwardly tumble to the ground – to support slower internet connections, APB uses a simple physics model – our murderer’s Kill Anthem plays. These soundbites, each a few seconds long, are played to your victim when you kill them.Here it’s a screeching, glitching mess of noise. You can turn off thosethat particularly annoy you, but this kind of institutionalised nastiness – such as waving at fallen enemies in Team Fortress 2 – is funnier than the usual swearing and teabagging.

As your Rating increases, rewards are unlocked. These can be received by checking your messages at computer terminals around the world and accepting your Contact’s offer of cash and rhombus-shaped decals. Your Rating is one of the things the matchmaking system takes into account when pairing you with enemies, along with your Threat Rank: a temporary, less persistent measure of your recent success and kill-to-death ratio. The interface for displaying this information was unfinished when we played.

Players are also further measured by their Notoriety, which operates like GTA’s star system. Complete missions, kill enemies, and cause havoc and your Notoriety increases. At stages, rewards are unlocked. Hit Notoriety 5 and a bounty will be placed on your head, offering every other player on the server a mission to hunt you down.

Dave describes the possibilities. “I fully expect a group of four really good players will go in, coordinate it so they all hit Notoriety 5 at roughly the same time, and then hunker down to see how long they can survive against potentially 95 other people on that server. They’re going to boast that they survived 20 minutes.”

APB does a lot to encourage group play. A team of four is the standard combination, and Realtime Worlds anticipate a lot of coordination: groups that dress in uniforms, compete for top spots on the various leaderboards (200 at launch), and work together to dominate a server. Clans, professional play -APB should support it all.

If your group is ever struggling, your team leader will be given the option during a mission to call for backup. Do so, and a couple of other players on your side will be called to join in. Of course, your enemy can do the same thing. Hypothetically, missions could escalate till they consume an entire district, pitching 50 vs 50.