Weekend Flashback Review – APB Reloaded

Originally posted February 14th 2012

Something a bit different this week, APB Reloaded is the free-to-play resurrection of the originally Scottish developed APB. A GTA MMO before GTA Online, APB was Realtime Worlds next title after Crackdown, and it had a good premise. Unofortunately, after it was picked up and rebranded, it suffered from pay-to-win weapons, and repetitiveness. While it has evolved a lot over the years, it’s still going. I don’t know how the game stands currently, but if it’s still getting updated then surely there’s a dedicated fanbase that enjoy the game enough to keep it alive. At least now it stands as a monument to a Scottish Developer that had trouble staying afloat.

Not many games get a new lease of life after they die a death. Especially if their creators end up having to disband after the game itself fails.APB: Reloaded is the re-release of the original Realtime Worlds game now under the watchful eye of Gamers First. Although at first glance it looks almost identical, a lot of work has gone in to give this game it’s second wind. The question being was it successful or was it doomed from the start.

The first thing you come across in Reloaded is the fact that it’s no longer subscription based. Gamers First have elected to try out the Free-to-Play model, allowing for anyone to download the game and try it. This, so far, has been a popular assessment, with it’s release on Steam giving them around three million players in the first week. So what do you pay for? Why, weapons, of course. There’s also a “premium” account you can purchase, which increases faction standing and money rewards at the end of missions, as well as unlocking decals, symbols and other things more frequently.

Unfortunately, the Premium is where the system works, while the weapons you can buy kind of break the game. Though you only really rent the weapons (Some you can buy permanently for a larger sum of “g1 points”) the ones you pay for are overpowered and unbalance the game entirely. Some even stripping down the weaknesses of some weapons, for example, a high powered sniper rifle that doesn’t slow you down, is silenced and can be fired from a vehicle. A lot of these weapons have been dubbed “Pay to Win” and it’s obvious why, as the teams with these guns tend to be on the winning side the majority of the time.

The other changes that have taken place have mainly been focused around the god awful balancing in the first release. Though it can be bad with the weapons mentioned previously, after the initial grind for your first new gun, the game can be fairly fun and challenging without feeling unfair. The matchmaking system works well around 75% of the time and matches you with some fun opponents, and if they get too difficult, backup is offered allowing for larger and more chaotic matches.

Progression has had some slight altering too, with weapons, vehicles and enhancements unlocking slightly differently, though this will only be noticeable to those who did play a lot of the game before and after the change. Further updates that come out semi-regularly also tweak the balance of things here and there and it’s clear the developer is keen on supporting this game thoroughly.

Gamers First do have another problem on their hands: Cheaters and hackers are commonplace on some servers, with aim-assists and other silly advantages players give themselves. You will be bound to run across at least one team ‘at it’ in a few hours of play, and it can be disconcerting after you lose to someone obviously not playing by the rules. They do handle this well, however, as they include a recording feature that allows you to record proof of their antics and report the culprits directly to Gamers First. It doesn’t stop the problem, but it’s one way of fighting it.

However, the game is still incredibly fun when played with friends. Getting a group together (unfortunately limited to four people, although the matches themselves are not) and cruising around waiting for missions to start is pretty enjoyable. It also enhances the team aspect of the game, with communication and co-operation being key in the higher level skirmishes that take place. Even with some of the powerful weapons, team play can win out in the end.

Customization is also still the king in this game. All of the fantastically in-depth tools that Realtime Worlds created are intact here, allowing you (if you have symbols unlocked) to create a wide array of fantastic decals for clothing, cars and even large billboards to show off that you’re in the server. I even bought the Jazz Jackrabbit theme tune from the in-game marketplace that a player had created, and there’s many more familiar tunes out there for everyone to use.

All that being said, if you wanted to try this game out for yourself you may not have much fun. Though if you bring a couple of mates in and actually communicate, then it could be worth giving it a try. It is free after all, and can lead to some very amusing things happening. It’s certainly not the greatest game out there, but you can do a lot worse. It’s just a shame that it’s not incredibly easy to recommend to everyone after I personally have spent almost 90 hours playing it on Steam. It needs improvement, but it’s getting there. Slowly.

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