APB is an online, multiplayer homage to Grand Theft Auto; you play either a Criminal or an Enforcer (a mercenary police officer). There’s not much plot, as the game is basically a sandbox for player-driven, explosive, vehicular mayhem. The game is defiantly aimed at a mature audience and the language is extremely colourful.
You start off with a contact who gives you missions, which involve either committing or stopping crime. Playing as a criminal is harder but has more rewards. For example, if you don’t accept a certain number of missions, an APB is called on you and you’ll find yourself hunted down by Enforcers; however, by committing crimes, you can earn far more money.
As an Enforcer, you have to stop criminals from committing crimes, which can involve guarding a property, killing a certain number of criminals, or picking up stolen items. By completing missions, you not only earn money but also rewards such as new guns, vehicles or clothing, and after a certain number of missions you unlock a new contact. You also earn console-style achievements for special moves or by killing the most players over a given time-frame.
Grouping is handled well: you can play solo or set your status to “Looking For Group”, in which case you’ll be automatically added to a group. If you’re in a mission where you’re outnumbered or outranked by the opposition, you can call for backup, which alerts other groups who can then join your mission, up to a maximum of eight players per side. Voice chat is built into the game, which is essential for serious players.
The game offers far more than fighting, however. The game area is split into two large “action” districts and one “social” district. In the social district, you can use sophisticated terminals to design artwork, create music tracks or customise your character and vehicle. You can then sell your designs either for in-game money or for “RTW points” that can then be used to pay for game-time in the “action” districts.
The driving is as smooth as in Grand Theft Auto, while the gun-play is up there with the best FPS shooters. You can import your own music, and if other players own the same song they’ll hear it playing from your car stereo. We were impressed by the depth of customisation – for example, we saw players in convincing Marvel comic character outfits.
It’s non-stop action, and probably the most fun we’ve had in an online driving game. The payment system is novel, and it’s the sort of game you can jump into now and then, or play obsessively. We’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best games of the year.
Price is £24.