When Rockstar North (Nee: DMA Design) released Grand Theft Auto 3 on the PlayStation 2, we had a glimpse into what was possible in a 3D sandbox world. Creator David Jones then left to found his own studio - RealTime Worlds - and develop Crackdown, a game that expanded on the GTA concept by including co-operative multiplayer. Today we're looking at All Points Bulletin, which marries the two into an MMO structure.
It could be argued that APB
was Jones' grand design all along – that the Grand Theft Auto
games were simply stepping stones; a means to an end. While there's certainly an evolution in the mission and co-operative sense, clear lessons learned from these past titles have been applied here.
The result is an action game that feels familiar to console players with the bonus of MMO-style networking. RealTime Worlds has done away with plentiful dialog boxes and intricate on-screen attack buttons in favour of a HUD that displays your information in icons and sound effects.
Control of your customised Enforcer or Criminal is as simple as WASD direction, a context-sensitive 'action' key and a mouse aim. Exploration of the expansive city of San Paro is encouraged, rather than imposed. When you first enter the Action District, you'll spawn in the headquarters of the 'good' or 'evil' side of your choice.
players will be roaming the world at their own pace. They're displayed in grey, and you can't engage in combat with them – in fact, you can't do much with other players at all besides chat to them, until you join their group or are identified as an opponent.
Missions are delivered periodically via the radio system that's in place throughout the game world. Depending on your current situation, these will involve free-for-all matches or team-based objectives, with vigilante anti-crime forces and nasty underground gangs going head-to-head for supremacy over the city.
One particular mission saw Enforcers attempt to defend several key locations from Criminals eager to spray-paint their mark. Amazingly, in this futuristic dilapidated world, there's a gunfight even for something as petty as graffiti. In another match, Enforcers had to restore power to a structure following a sabotage attempt while Criminals were tasked with trying to kill them off.
The transition from playing around in the streets to accepting a mission is seamless, and finding a group to join is easily achieved by using pop-up menus via the HUD. To get from A to B, you can hop in any vehicle on the road. Enforcers will flash their ID to coax drivers out, while Criminals will just hijack the thing and chuck the poor civilians onto the ground. If you have some friends in tow, they can get in the passenger seats, lean out the window and start gunning down enemies and NPCs.