Crispy Gamer

E3 2009: The Five: APB

The Skinny: Realtime Worlds, who most recently brought us Crackdown, goes massive with APB (All Points Bulletin), an massively-multiplayer online game that pits cops versus robbers.

1. APB is all about player-vs.-player combat. Imagine a game of Grand Theft Auto where all the people on the street are other gamers. Except this is no free-for-all. You and your online buddies (members of either Enforcement or Criminals) cruise the game world in cars or roam around on foot. Players can't attack each other until a crime is committed and APB's transparent matchmaking kicks in. It's a clever way to prevent the nightmare of ganking.

E3 2009: The Five: APB

2. Which would you prefer: a fair fight or an interesting fight? All Points Bulletin promises to practice asymmetrical matchmaking. If that means sending a team of four noobs after one hardened criminal, so be it. If the lone crook survives he earns bragging rights. If the rookie cops prevail they earn a respectable collar. If a master criminal does enough dirty deeds, there's the potential for all the players in a zone (good or bad) to be offered the price on his head.

3. Customization plays a major role in APB. Character creation allows players to tweak their avatars to an insane degree, though the system won't let you abuse the sliders until your character looks like the Elephant Man. Still, there's zero likelihood that any two characters will look alike: Cars, clothes and weapons can also be tweaked extensively. Realtime Worlds expects some players to earn money and gain rep solely by designing fashions and customizing gear.

E3 2009: The Five: Brink

4. Music is a major part of personalizing the APB experience. If you listen to your personal mp3 collection while playing All Points Bulletin, other players (who own the same tunes as you) will hear your songs booming from your in-game car stereo. Thanks to a deal with Last.fm, APB will stream similar music to other players' ears if they don't happen to have any black metal in their personal collections.

5. Player chatter will add to the musical din. All Points Bulletin will use voice over IP to allow players to communicate. There will always be the option to go to a private channel, but otherwise players will be able to overhear anybody they stroll nearby. There's huge potential for abuse here, but also amazing opportunity for interesting interaction.

The Verdict: Sounds intriguing.

This preview is based on a developer-driven demo of the game at E3 2009.