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E3 2009: APB eyes-on impressions

Real Time Worlds created an open world action game for the Xbox 360 with Crackdown. Now the Scottish-based developer is turning to the PC for their next game, the MMO All Points Bulletin (also better known as APB). During E3 2009 (where it was announced that Electronic Arts would become the game's publisher) we got a chance to get a better look at the game's features.

The dev team members spent a lot of time during their E3 2009 presentation talking about not the game itself but rather the tons of customization features that you have at your disposal. The Unreal Engine 3 based game will allow you to make pretty much anyone you want and the visuals are a step above the usual MMO graphics. From skin color to build to facial hair (guys only for the last one), the customization features could almost be considered a game in of itself.
APB's creation system extends to making tattoos for your character via a paint application that will allow anyone to make any design they want and then extend that design seamlessly to the character. The same goes for clothes which will allow anyone to "make it work" and become a true fashion designer. Indeed you can try to sell your design to other players for in-game money (sorry they won't be using a real money system for this feature).

Customization even extends to the cars in the game. APB will have 40 basic models and they can be changed around to your liking. You can even put your own paint designs on the cars. Customization even extends to music. The dev team showed an app that allows players to create their own theme song. If you kill off a fellow player in the game he or she will have to listen to your song. That's kind of nifty. APB will also allow players to create their own soundtracks via a deal with Last.fm.

So what about gameplay? APB is set in a large fictional open world city where two heavily armed gangs are trying to rule the streets. You have the criminals who just want to shoot people, break into cars and generally cause mischief. The enforcers look like a gang but they are in fact the law in the city and try to bring down the criminal elements.

As the dev team described it to us, the actions in the game are not designed to be scripted. Everything is under control by the players. There is no lobby system for setting up shooting matches, for example. A person can just pick some friends and opponents and start a match in the game itself. Depending on your character's skill level they may have to face off against more than one enemy which makes APB less like the typical 8v8 team shooter game. If you are not a part of an in-game match you can still observe it without getting shot.

APB's customization tools look spectacular but as we learned with Spore having cool editors is no match for having good gameplay in the end. The E3 2009 demo presentation was light on the gameplay aspects but the game should be ready for an open beta sometime this fall. Then we should see how well the game plays.


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