May 3, 2011

Has All Points Bulletin really been Reloaded?

I remember writing sometime ago a review of APB. It was actually something mid level, and though the game had flaws, I think it had a huge level of potential. It was fun, the game was relatively balanced with a couple of odd ball weapons here and there, and you didn't have to be an expert with twitch combat to succeed. Real Time Worlds had a great opportunity, but because of poor management decisions and no real direction, the life of that company ended only a few months after their flagship title launched, which was a shame.

Now let's fast forward to now, APB:R is in a "closed" beta, which is only closed in word alone. It's actually a private payees club where they are basically scamming people for money, and of course quite a few people are buying into it. What do I mean? Well quite literally, GamersFirst (also referred to as G1) actually has the audacity now in a closed beta (the game is still not even open beta until the 18th of May, so wrap your head around this) of actually charging people money for their services now. The pandered excuse is that they want to test their backbone market system thingy, despite the fact they've already got at least 8 other titles that have more than tested the G1 system. They are basically using marketing speak and such, and of course there is a decided group of people that are pretty much cheer leading for this. It's hilarious, to say the least.

Anyways that's only one thing of many. To be blunt, server stability in APB:R is an absolute joke. If a single district even gets more than say, 50 people, the district starts getting severe latency spikes. How severe? Put it this way, my average ping time is around 40 to 50 to the server I am on. When one of these spikes occurs, which G1 keeps stating they are going to fix (they put out at least one patch they claimed would fix the spikes, but then later back peddled and claimed that Punkbuster was responsible for fixing that, so nice bait and switch) my latency has jumped as high as 1500ms ping. Needless to say in a populated district, fun time is dramatically reduced, because these latency spikes occur like clockwork around every 2 minutes.

Now, we get into the other issues. It's obvious whatever server infrastructure G1 is using can't really handle the game. There is a lot of loading issues of textures and such, as well as many other factors. You can run through areas and it loads fine, come back 5 or even 10 minutes later, and you get invisible wall treatment and it takes noticeably longer each time for the game to load in textures. Memory usage spikes upwards of nearly 3 gigs worth in a short period of time so there is also a horrendous memory leak somewhere. In short, G1 really doesn't know how to run this game.

And in whatever brain fart they had, they decided that the game wasn't good enough so they decreased the Time to Kill (TTK) of all weapons down. A few this was only one or two shots, but majority this was nearly cut in half time and such. In short, it just isn't fun. It's a TTK designed for first person shooters. In third person shooters, there are just too many things that can be manipulated to give too many advantages. In short, the game is now geared to be in favor of those that camp and any sense of strategy is removed as it's all one sided.

Then of course comes another major kick to the gut for one of the best features of the game; the car chase. To favor those people who couldn't drive (ie most of them) they've completely removed one of the best aspects of the game, car chasing, but making VIPs and Item Hold missions weigh a car down so much that it practically has no speed. In short, the entire TTK and car system has been gutted to favor the least common denominator playgroups. And I am speaking as someone that loved to chase people down, and the thrill of avoiding near misses and clutch moments, nothing beat a car chase then.

They've also been tinkering with the spawn system, and by tinkering I mean completely fucked it up. I can't even begin to state how many different ways I just spawn in just to start getting sniped by the enemy team now thanks to the fucked up spawn system. Or the fact that Criminals almost always spawn near objectives, while as an enforcer I get spawned no less than 150 meters out. My average hovers around the 200 meter mark in fact. This isn't even funny, because it takes no strategy or skill to take a spawn point just a zerg. And some criminal based points to defend are just stupidly defensible.

Then of course comes how they balanced Modifications (formerly known as upgrades). Needless to say they are fundamentally worthless in the grand scheme of things except two. Everyone will practically have the same load out to. Car mods are pretty much don't even bother now. Weapon mods are decent, provided you plan to fill the niche but let's be honest with the low TTK most of them are worthless anyways.

But the major growner is the fact that G1 keeps claiming they know who the hackers (people that use aim bots and such) are, and are just "following" them and check their habits. In laymen's terms they don't know crap. They are just stating it to scare the aim botters they know are there but have no proof on. Considering their latest blog statement is contradictory to everything they said several weeks ago, it's just laughable. Not to mention in the short order of that blog being made, several of the known aim botters come out and try to state they have skill and are not botting, trying to protect themselves from their actions obviously.

How do I know they are aim botters? The magical ability to know where everyone is, snapping gun fire, not to mention said people are a part of clans that have already had members banned from the game for that very thing. What's even sadder, tow of the clan members were even made G1 forum moderators and at least one person from one of said clans openly states that he hacks and G1 won't do anything to him about it. Of course, several of those people from said clans say that have G1 GMs on their side and such that will do anything they say. Now how can you sit there and take this game seriously anymore when the prominent cheer leading squad comes from those groups?

It's rather funny to. Sitting there and watching district populations, they spike when new people get invited but as fast as they spike, only a few days later, those populations die down. It's obvious the game that people wanted back is not the game that was delivered and G1 refuses to listen to the people that matter. Instead they keep listening to that cheer leading squad because those handful of people obviously think that they speak for the vast majority of gamers. APB:R does not have much of a chance in the near future at its current set up because there is too much favoritism going on instead of making the game balanced and fun. In short, if you can't get people to play your game for free, you aren't going to make but a few dumbasses pay for it (and I feel dumb that I spent $10 bucks to help "test" something that didn't need testing). In short, it was a rip off and scam because G1 has been promising but not delivering and giving half assed excuses.

In short, G1 has been dumbing the game down. It's no longer about tactics or strategy. It's about the cheesy combat, zerging and holding down mouse 1. That's it. And of course the things that made APB fun have been removed. Advancement is a pure joke now. It feels exceptionally grindy because there are no more rewards in the game. None. Anyone who says you get rewarded obviously has their head buried far up their ass. What you do is level up a contact and "unlock" things that you then have to buy from the said contact. No more do you get things like a STAR "Spider" or a Jericho "Crusader" to try out. You have to buy those, and they have a leased time period, IE after a certain amount of time, they expire or as they like to say, get re-possessed. Some half baked excuse of trying to get the items out faster and make the money spent be used more. Oh, and in replace of all the former rewards we got, we now get spam mail telling us about crap we really could care less about.

Oh there are more permanent things, like clothing and customizable cars, but all weapons are leased, even the empty slotted kind. So every 10 days you have to buy that same gun over again. Oh you can supposedly buy it multiple times to extend its life, but that really doesn't matter. Instead of implementing a smart system of durability and decay we instead are basically forced to keep buying the same gun over and over and if you forget, you might have to actually re-slot the bastard to.

And the grindiness is even greater this time. Those from APB might remember there was a bit of grind. Well, they've increased it significantly, and it's made worse because there are no rewards for working your butt off, just pointless spam mail to remind you that the city is a crime center of disaster. Gone are the faction levels to, it's just straight up contacts, though for whatever reason those contacts are still sub divided into their old factions, despite the factions are completely pointless now. Each contact, except for the starter ones, have 10 levels each, with the starter having 5, and the boss of each faction having 15. If you do the math, that's 95 levels for one faction with all 9 of their contacts. Counting the starter contact that's 195 levels worth of grinding. And the system likes to trick you because the first contact, after the insultingly easy tutorial that explains nothing now, breeze by rapidly, but once you get to the next tier, the grindiness sets in hardcore. Contacts creep by painfully slow.

And that's not even to mention the roles system which was set up by morons. You can now see clearly what you have to do and how many times, but the grindiness is even greater there. Various items are unlocked based on role rankings which is just basically another grind system. Except certain roles are so stupidly impossible to unlock one way or the other. Less than Lethal (LTL for Cop Role) weapons are balanced around the old APB, thus the higher TTK values. That means pretty much against all guns, an LTL user has no chance in a stand up fight. They might score one or two arrests but on average will get plowed quickly because most guns are 4 shot weapons, or shoot so stupidly fast that the fire rate on LTL has no chance.

Then there are the equipment roles. Like the first contacts, the first bits are a bit breezy to do, except for Enforcers which is the spray paint one which pretty much requires an act of God to get unlock the first part. It takes 50 tags to unlock the 5 various roles for those equipment upgrades, except handcuffs which require cop role, IE LTL, but no point in equipping handcuffs since it was made stupid fast anyways. But after those first 50.. the next unlock is at 200. Okay, who was the genius who thought that up? And considering Enforcers have to do missions to get these unlocks, where as Criminals only have to do a few missions and keep bashing things on the street otherwise, the system is entirely skewed.

Then of course comes criminal versus enforcer money balance. It's a joke. Don't even bother trying to state otherwise. Criminals can make money without having to set foot in a mission. Oh there are a few criminals who whine about witnessing, but that requires that an enforcer see this and actually pin point target witness in the short time we have to actually witness a criminal committing a crime. Oh not to mention that we have to wait for a criminal to have a minimum of $100 dollar stash, oh and most of the time the witnessing is absolutely worthless for the enforcer in the end because the standing increase is pathetically low not to mention the payoff is rarely worthless the bullets you just used. You will rarely find a smart crim committing crimes where you can see them, most of the time they are hiding away someplace so they can't be witnessed. About the only thing an enforcer can do is hope they find cars to turn in but you'd be better off just doing missions and hoping for the best.

Realistically, I had high hopes for APB when G1 bought it. But after playing, extensively, APB:R all I can say is I wasted $10 dollars now and it will be unlikely the game will have a higher population than APB had back in RTWs hands. G1 doesn't listen to people, instead focusing on a few minute players, some of whom are a part of clans who have already had confirmed hackers in them. They like to bait and switch commentary a lot and it's clearly evident they have no idea what they are doing or what direction they want to go in. They've tinkered with the system to the point that it is no longer a strategic or fun game, but favors zerg and shooting spam style game play. Hacking is evident everywhere while the self same cheer leading squad of the confirmed clans with hackers in them keep trying to lie it up and say that hacking is not that evident.

In short, APB is free for a lot of people, but it's obvious they can't even get a large portion of those players who have to pay absolutely nothing to play the game. Not more than a few days ago I saw several districts near bursting with the number of players in them. The past few days only two districts have had half a population in them each while the others were holding 2 to 5 people in them. But the cheer leading squad will deny that means anything at all. Of course, even though we are being asked to pay money, G1 will also be trying to tell me I am breaching the NDA, which I say bull crap to. They of course say it's still closed beta, but again, they are wanting to charge us money for services in a closed beta, which is really one of the most laughable slaps in the face to date. Not to mention several blog posts ago they said they would give us free APB credit to test their system first then open the cash shop in full. See how far that went huh?

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