“I imagine – and I don’t think I’m making too wild an assumption here – that a lot of people are going to really aggressively hate APB,” I begin.
It’s funny. When I wrote that, it was the evening before embargo. No reviews had appeared. My guess was that it was going to score fairly well. Not spectacularly, but fairly well. 70-on-Metacritic, or something. It still could, to be fair: only four are up there at the moment, though I imagine my review will pull the average down somewhat. I awarded the game 45%*. And I genuinely expected early players to be properly disappointed, and do that horrible nasty thing where they immediately blame all reviewers for misleading them into a purchase.
So yeah: one of the few times when you low-score a big game, and actually aren’t too concerned that there’ll be a heap of offended comments appearing below that number.
As it happens, it almost seems like it’s working out the other way. 45 is by a considerable enough margin the lowest score I’ve seen for it. PC Gamer went 55. Eurogamer went 6 and Edge went 7. I’ve seen as high as 9 from a smaller site somewhere. I can totally see why people would enjoy APB. I didn’t, because I resent having to actively work against the game’s core mechanics to create my own fun.
Anyway. What I really wanted to mention here wasn’t much to do with the review itself, but to do with Dave Jones’ comment yesterday – and subsequently comments from fans in negative APB reviews – that there are no “more powerful” weapons, and that combat is instead based on skill. Different guns, supposedly have different pros and cons, and players are able to cater their playing style to a favoured weapon, it is said.
This is just… well, demonstrably untrue.
When I started playing APB, both in the beta and the final version (actually, that’s another point, which it makes sense to be honest about. I spent about six hours playing the final version of APB. I had previously spent somewhere between ten and 15 hours with the final stage of the beta. My actual logged Action District time in the final version is somewhere between three and four hours, meaning I spent the rest of the time customising my character and so forth. Six hours, of which only three or four were actually spent driving and shooting, might seem very low. But the fact of the matter is that I spotted only one change from the final beta version I played a few weeks ago, and that was a minor cosmetic one. My Play.tm review is therefore absolutely one of those “first look” MMO reviews. You can never play an MMO for “long enough”. So you’re transparent about how much you’ve played. In my head, I’ve spent somewhere in the region of 20 hours playing a basically-finished APB overall, and my impression only went downhill from around the ten-hour mark) …
…er, yes. Anyway. When I started playing APB, both in the beta and the final version, I died a lot. Every time I met an enemy, in fact. Then I earnt enough money to start buying new guns. And unlocked a new gun, and bought that. And then suddenly I was killing other people. More than they were killing me. Very noticeably, the people with the earliest available weapons get shot down by those with more advanced weapons, and since the matchmaking system is absolutely fubar, such people regularly get drawn against each other.
I don’t care how it technically works. I don’t care if the idea is to have all weapons “equal but different”. In practice, some weapons simply have a distinct advantage over others. It is absolutely apparent from playing just a couple of hours of the game. That they were designed to be equal is no defence, and to criticise reviewers for not understanding this is ludicrous beyond belief, because there must be a reason why so many critics have got the same piece of information “wrong”: it’s because, while it may be wrong in theory, in practice it’s a hundred per cent accurate.
I wanted to love APB. When I first started playing the beta, I did. By the time I finished my time with the beta, I was cautiously optimistic, but disappointed by a great many elements. A few hours on with the final version, which hadn’t been tweaked in any meaningful way, I grew bored of the good stuff, and even more tired of the bad. And here’s where I bring back that asterisk from earlier: *I originally subbed the review with an even lower mark. Luke decided it didn’t fit with the site’s scoring policy, and upped it. Which is fine. But in other words, it was a generous 45. The game, to me, has turned out an absolute catastrophe.
But oddly, given the very meh mark awarded at the end, it’s a review I enjoyed writing immensely, and of which I’m really pleased with the results. So there’s that, I guess.