Ever since World of Warcraft hit the shelves and sucked the souls from millions of people worldwide, MMORPGs seem to be all the rage, and it’s not hard to see why. From the company’s end, a good MMORPG can pull in tens of millions of dollars per month. From the player’s end, this genre of game gives both an epic storyline, with hundreds of hours of entertainment from a single game, while at the same time allowing millions gamers from across to world to live, die and battle evil together in a whole new world. Ever since Blizzard released what can be argued as one of the largest video game franchises in history, there has been a never-ending line of MMORPGs, trying to recreate that same success. They come in all different shapes and sizes, from outer space sci-fi epics to just recreations of everyday normal life.
One of these MMORPGs is APB Reloaded, which, after a disastrous initial release, managed to acquire over 3 million registered users after a secondary release on the Steam platform, making it the second most popular free-to-play game on Steam behind Team Fortress 2. For those who haven’t heard about it, APB Reloaded is set in a present day city, and the player can choose between two factions, which essentially boil down to cops and robbers. The game allows for decent customization of your character, though it does take a while before you look any different from the other swarms of beginning players.
In terms of gameplay, APB Reloaded is reminiscent of the Grand Theft Auto Series, an open world, crime-based fps, with the added twist that there’s millions of people playing with you. Unfortunately, it misses the mark on a lot of the little things that added up to the masterpiece that was GTA. The city just doesn’t seem as real, it lacks the backstories that Rockstar was great at creating, all the various factions and their histories, the character’s personal background, and real NPCs with their own motivations are simply non-existent in APB. The radio stations are just that, radio stations that play music that you’ll likely get annoyed with quickly, and would rather just have your own songs playing on iTunes in the background. In GTA, I would love listening to the radio stations, and by the end of Liberty City Stories, I had the entire reel of the talk radio station memorized.
Furthermore, there seems to be no real plot beyond just ‘get money, kill people.’ It really wouldn’t have been that hard to add a few villains, or something to work towards beyond just getting to a higher level. As a result, the missions themselves are repetitive, and from what I can tell, consist almost entirely of one team attempting to pick up some boxes somewhere, or spray paint a wall, and then the opposing team trying to stop them. Once either the team trying to do something accomplishes their objective, or the time runs out, the mission simply ends, there’s no follow up, and you’re simply left wandering around, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, if wandering around was fun. Even though you can steal cars like GTA, it lacks the destructive mayhem possibilities that were the main selling point. There’s no other policing force beyond the ‘cops’ faction, so if you start running people over or shooting in the middle of the street, there aren’t many consequences, and it gets boring quickly. Imagine how awesome it could’ve been to get a 10 person party, and get everyone into their own tanks. Sadly, though, that’s not the case. One final negative point, is that during my first few missions, it matched me and my party against players much higher than us. We were getting one-shot killed, while emptying entire clips into our enemies seemed to do nothing. It was an incredibly frustrating experience, and it took up to 12 players on our team just to handle the 3 or 4 on the opposing side, and it completely ruined our K/D stats right from the start.
There are however a few bright spots, beginning with it’s actual gameplay mechanics. It plays like a real fps, and the missions are actually fun if you have balanced teams, and if you can get over playing similar missions over and over again, which is a prerequisite for enjoying any fps. There aren’t any bugs that I witnessed, and the aiming, shooting, jumping and sprinting all work quite well and without causing any problems or frustrations. There’s also the unique part where you can drive your car into shops in order to rob them, but none of the shops are more than a foot or two deep, and although its fun to break stuff, it doesn’t really feel like you’re smashing through a real TV store. The game also forces you to join parties when you’re beginning, which, although initially I was hesitant, definitely makes the beginning more enjoyable. Another good point is that is that if you’re party is getting slaughtered on a mission, you can request backup, and it will almost instantly add more people to your party.
In the end, the game feels unfinished. It’s got a lot of potential, and under the right light it can be fun. I would say it’s comparable to Homeland, in that the bare fps gameplay is smooth and clean, but there’s a lot of little issues that need to be addressed, and it really doesn’t go above and beyond the established games of its genre. Right now, I would suggest sticking to GTA’s multiplayer, but I’m gonna keep an ear to the ground waiting for news of a sequel or expansion, and if such a day comes, I’ll be more than happy to give it another shake.