One of the hardest parts about reviewing an MMO is that the genre takes full advantage of being online and persistent. Because players need to log in to an updated client every time, developers can quickly and relatively easily push out new bugfixes and content with regularity. Realtime Worlds has already released one patch post-release for APB, and while I've talked about certain issues with repetitive gameplay and earning customization levels, both of those issues can be fixed with updates if the developers choose to do so.
So the final question in reviewing an MMO isn't necessarily if you should buy this game today or not. It's: Does the game offer enough promise to invest your time and attention? Future plans included, out of all the games you could spend your free time on, is APB capable of rewarding that investment with a quality experience?
There are a lot of factors going into that question. APB requires an initial purchase right now of $50, and that includes fifty hours of gametime in the "Action Districts" (time spent in the Social District customizing your gear is unlimited). You also get 100 "RTW points" that can be used to buy more gametime as well as items in the game marketplace. Essentially, you get 50 hours with your purchase and you'll pay about six dollars every 20 hours after that.
Under that model and in its current state, I can't say APB is worth it -- besides all of the issues I've brought previously, the game itself just feels unfinished and unpolished. Loading takes quite a while. The shooting mechanics are very basic (there's no location-based targeting, and guns mostly feel the same) and the in-game marketplace is confusing, while the Social District looks rushed, as if big features were left on the development floor. When you factor in cheap moves like the ads courtesy of Vivox in the voicechat and RTW points being sold in increments other than what you actually need, it's very hard to justify paying $50 for this game outright, not to mention the extra costs if you want to keep playing after 50 hours.
That said, I think APB has already been a learning experience for Realtime Worlds. From what I've seen of the launch, they've had to make hard choices during release, some of their own volition and some likely not. There's every indication that they're going all-in on APB, and that's what this game needs: Some strong bugfixes, some big content updates, and some post-launch developer attention.
If Realtime Worlds can do all that (and Dave Jones knows this is a long haul endeavor), APB could find a place on your MMO shelf. Developers on the forum are promising free content already, monthly league awards are coming to fill up those statues in the Social District, and the forum feedback is flowing freely. And if Realtime Worlds does what the game seems intended to do, and lowers that $50 barrier down to a free-to-play title with microtransaction support, APB could really shine.
Jones said at release that he expected APB to get mediocre reviews, and as you commenters expected, he's getting another one here. If APB was just another Grand Theft Auto clone, it wouldn't be worth a second look. But because it's an MMO, it still has that chance to improve and do better. The ad-hoc versus mission mechanic is ingenious, and that customization can be intoxicating, especially when you get a clear idea of exactly what you want your character and vehicle to look like.
Those things are worth experiencing, and hopefully if Realtime Worlds can narrow its focus and land some post-launch development right where the community needs it, San Paro will eventually be a place worth visiting.
This review is based on the retail version of APB provided by EA.