APB: All Points Bulletin

Reviewing an MMO is a famously tough thing to do. The things that make a good massively multiplayer game (a strong update schedule, a solid community, and a mechanic that supports gameplay across a wide audience) are tough to quantify in a one-shot writeup. Many outlets avoid the task completely, leaving the judgment of newly-released MMOs to their own communities. If an online game floats, it's good, goes the conventional wisdom. If it sinks, it wasn't any good anyway.

But reviewing a game can shine a harsh light on its weaknesses, put a spotlight on its best features and help bring attention to lesser-known yet still deserving titles. Despite its differences from more traditional boxed products, don't MMOs deserve the same treatment?

So, in that spirit, we're presenting a review for All Points Bulletin, the latest game and first MMO from developer Dave Jones and his Realtime Worlds. MMOs are an evolving investment in both time and money, so rather than a simple writeup, I'll have a few posts over this week to look at all of the different aspects of the game critically. Today, I'll install the game and create my character. Tomorrow, I'll talk about the actual grind and how it works. Thursday will cover the game's community and customization options, and Friday will feature APB's current state and Realtime Worlds' future plans for the title, along with final impressions and the overall review score.
My first few moments were pretty standard for an online game: run the installer, and wait for the latest updates to download and be implemented. Things didn't go completely smoothly, however. I was asked to reboot, did, and then got stuck in a loop, with the game constantly asking me to reboot to finish the install.

That led me to the game's forums, which weren't particularly comforting: While the boards were very active with technical questions, answers were hard to find. Since this is Realtime Worlds' first MMO, they're a little slow to the punch for support, it seems. I did eventually find an answer to my issue (without the help of official support), but even they say they're already overwhelmed. That's not a good sign for a mass market PC MMO, but it appears Realtime is working to right the ship.


Problem solved, I moved on to character creation, and was asked to choose one of the game's two factions, Criminal or Enforcer. In the city of San Paro, players either commit crimes, or take out criminals by whatever means necessary. In terms of gameplay, there's not a lot of difference between the two, but we'll get to that later in the week. I chose Enforcer, and moved on to the Advanced character editor.

While the basic editor offers a few random ages and body types, players who really want to try and recreate themselves will want to skip to Advanced. That mode offers many more options for changing the way a player's body and face looks, along with scars, tattoos, or other identifying marks. I worked for a while to try and make a character that looked just like me, but as you can see below, thanks to the game's aesthetic I ended up with something closer to caricature than real-life replica.


After about 40 minutes of tweaking my brow size and depth, flipping through thirty different face options, and trying to get my hair color just right, I was satisfied enough to hit Finish and step out onto the mean streets.

Tomorrow: Driving, shooting, and culling bounties in San Paro's Financial District.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.