APB Impressions: Financial District In ConflictS

APB: All Points Bulletin is, according to Realtime Worlds, all about "creativity, conflict and celebrity." At Gamescom today, we got a look at the massively multiplayer online game's second "C" during a live demo.

Realtime Worlds' cops versus criminals online game is focused far more on the flesh and blood player than a computer controlled one, as illustrated by the deep level of customization seen in APB's avatars and highly personalized cars, the first "C" that we wrote about at E3. That customization extends further to what Realtime Worlds calls "death tunes." These are user-created jingles that play when an Enforcer kills a Criminal, or vice versa, written with an in-game music creation tool. It's a griefing tool, rubbing the death of your enemies in their faces with a tune of your choice.

Those were the sights and sounds we experienced during our demo, a pair of missions that involved picking up packages—simply referred to as "evidence"—and delivering them to various locations. The Enforcer team we watched were given that mission by a man named Malcom, who set them up with a nine chapter long series of tasks, a mission we never actually saw the developers complete.

That's because the Criminals interfered. A real life team of players aligned with the Criminal faction were alerted to the Enforcers' activities as soon as the police force picked up the evidence.

What really happened there was that a squad of four Criminal players were matchmade by APB when the cops started their mission, as by design. The same would be true for a group of Criminals, should they solicit a mission. That's where the player-based conflict comes into play, as you won't face anything but human opponents in APB, according to Realtime Worlds.

As the Enforcers and the Criminals clashed throughout the Financial District of city San Pero, APB looked like a mix of a traditional MMO and Grand Theft Auto IV, with stats like player names and "threat rating"—essentially a player's level of skill—displayed above their heads.

Much of the conflict we saw was via gunplay, with players dying and respawning, joining the fray about 100 in-game meters away. The Enforcers have one advantage in APB conflicts, with the ability to "arrest" opponents, extending their opponent's respawn time.

Yes, handcuffs last longer than death in APB.

The conflict portion of APB looked interesting, if a bit familiar, a blend of third-person gunplay that moves at the speed of an MMO. We'd imagine it's the possibilities of improvisation and chaos that will ultimately make the game so appealing, at least on top of the character leveling and deep customization.

APB is slated to be published on the PC by Electronic Arts in the first quarter of 2010, with the developer looking at "console strategies" once it has "everything ironed out."