Since this is basically in open beta, I did a little write up on it for a friend using the Kotaku pro/con review setup.
Pimp yo ride! Pimp yo face!
Obviously one of the most talked about aspects of APB is the level of customization. In most MMO games you are given a choice of facial, body and clothing options to choose from. With APB you get your standard fair of sliders and options but they give you even more to chose from. One such option was hair length and hair length for specific sections of the hair style. Want a bigger cow lick in the front of your head? Done! Want an the same exact hair as cloud from FF7? Done!
In addition to this already crazy level of customization they give you the symbols system from Forza to spray Tattoos on your body and clothing. I dabbled in this area and did a quick version of the Mario 1UP mushroom, total time about 20 minutes. If you've played with the Forza custom paint job tool, you'll be right at home. Thumbs up on the customization Realworlds.
Big City, Bigger Action.
As of now there are three current districts to play in. A social district to hang out and edit your character and two combat districts to lay the hurt on people. This all follows after your initial tutorial zone which is separate from the entire experience. The tutorial was sufficient and allows you to continue playing in the starter zone killing your fellow newbies. (NOTE: Tutorial missions are all run and deliver missions, no PVP combat until after the final tutorial mission).
On my first entry into the combat district I was prompted to "join a team to optimize my gaming experience" so I figured I would to see how things worked. I joined a team already in progress and helped them disarm bombs and steal back stolen cars (I was playing as the police faction). Things were going smoothly until a flashing APB logo came across the top middle of my screen. The logo prompted us that "X" user has become aware of our activities and is coming to stop us. This is the PVP aspect of APB, each mission you acquire starts as a general "Gather X" or "Deliver Y" mission but about half way through the enemy faction is alerted to you and has to try and stop you. Bigger rewards are given to the team that completes their mission obviously.
Can you hear me now? Why yes, yes I can.
Voice chat comes standard (and auto enabled) with APB. The first time you'll notice it is while your standing around other players and you can hear people talking around you (locational audio). As you walk away from the group you'll eventually not hear them any more. This same set up works for teams where once you join a team you can chat freely with them, no outside program required (TS/Vent). Voice quality was top notch I might add as well for an in-game solution. My only negative comment on this was the fact that people did not know that the game auto enabled voice chat so there were quite a few folks with active mics blasting background music or random noises.
That's a crazy fly beat man.
Taking a step back to talk about the level of customization because it deserves its own call out. On top of the existing levels of customization, APB gives players the chance to be their own musicians and create character theme songs or regular songs to play for their friends/crowds. These songs are usually heard at the end of missions and played to everyone in the teams. What better way to show your gaming supremacy to the other team by having your own rendition of "We are the champions" playing. Being a complete musical noob, I avoided this area like the plague but I did hear a few custom tracks playing in the social areas and mission complete screens.
Hold on, let me change the station.
Hot damn, someone took Last.fm and integrated it into a game. Right now its playing off of a customized/limited list created by the devs for testing but I assume after release they will open up this feature so you can play music off of your own library while driving around the city. Its pretty damn awesome to grab a car and start hearing "real" music coming from its stereo system instead of nothing or generic game music.
Young blood & old veterans = one family.
Taking a page from Planetside, APB gives new players the ability to join players of any rank and level to take part in their group mission. You may not be as well rounded and as effective but you'll still be able to help and get XP/Cash.
Check out this fancy mod!
Part of leveling allows you to gain access to character mods or upgrades. My first upgrade mod was an ability that makes me an ammo dispensary to other players and myself. I assume later you'll get some that increase your weapon damage or increase your health but nothing I can confirm.
Congratulations, you've been demoted.
Hand in hand with leveling, if you mess up enough or blow your role in a mission, you will lose XP. I actually de-leveled at one point and easily re-gained the level. Not sure of this mechanic but its nice to see that they are actually punishing you for dying in a game now a days.
With any FPS style shooter you know that one thing above all makes a successful game. Shooting mechanics and network traffic. APB has a functional shooting mechanic, it works but isn't great; however, people jump around because of network lag all the time. This can be the biggest frustration while your trying to aim at other players when they jump randomly from one spot to another. Its not terrible but it is definitely noticeable and can drive you crazy in big fights. This is also a big factor while driving in vehicles, one lag spike and your graceful glide puts you into a building allowing the enemy to turn you into Swiss cheese.
Don't leave me alone out here!
As mentioned earlier when I first entered APB it asked me to join a team. I did and the experience was grand, things worked and the team was pretty cool. On my second entry into the city my luck wasn't so grand. I got into a team but noone seemed to know what to do or where to go. I ended up by myself on a few missions and once the PVP portion came into play I was completely and utterly fucked. I tried my hardest to survive and complete my objectives but the numbers were so out of balance that I could do nothing.
Ok this is a minor gripe but its a gripe none the less. As you level you get new guns and equipment from contacts. Its a pretty standard MMO fair to see new goodies with higher levels, but as of now there is no level separation. Everyone is in one section which means you could just be starting off and get paired against some hardcore, high-level players. There was one mission I attempted with a moderately competent team where we got pitted against a team of higher level gang players. It was a slaughter... Their guns offered superior rate of fire, range and damage.
Wait, who are you? Why am I doing this?
Probably not as big of a deal to the FPS crowd but its a let down none the less. Right now from the few hours I've played, the story to the game is pretty non-existent. You are given contacts to help out by doing random missions but you are never really given an explanation as to why. There is no back story or character development into a grander story. Instead you get random calls saying "Raid this building" with no background or explanation.