A little over 8 years ago I got my first full time job working as a QA tester for one of the biggest studios in Scotland, Realtime Worlds. I would be working on some shooty game called APB. A year and a half later and I had joined the design team, having meetings in the same room as Dave Jones (admittedly only rarely). It was pretty damn exciting.
Despite its flaws, I did like the game. In particular with the post launch improvements it was a pretty decent game with scope for improvement and when played in a LAN environment it could be really good fun. Alas it wasn’t to be successful and RTW went under with the game later revived by Gamer’s First.
Some six later the game has been released on Xbox One so I was keen to see how the game had developed and changed plus how it would feel on a console. I was rather excited.
Or perhaps foolish?
Within 30 seconds of starting the game, it crashed. On my 3rd attempt I finally got in and created my character. The customisation was pretty well done and aside from ignoring one of the key rules of console game design – the safe space – it worked well.
I then loaded into the game and was pleased to see a new approach to tutorials, although it did look a touch placeholder. The existing tutorial tried to push the player through a series of rather tedious steps and missions, relying on messaging the player to teach them about actions. Frustratingly due to limited development time the messaging could only be hooked up to actions the user has taken. A little bit late. But now they had a checklist, an idea that a few of us were keen on back in the day. It encourages the player to learn without dominating proceedings. It also means the first steps aren’t so bloody tedious.
That said, there’s still a huge lack of explanation of the basic concepts like who you can shoot. So many players seem confused as to why they can’t shoot any random enforcer, which is understandable to be honest.
Happily I got into an opposed mission very quickly. This was a lot more challenging than I hoped. The frame rate was poor with constant freezing and compared to other shooters that I’ve played of late, marksmanship mode felt quite foreign. Particularly at close range, more often than not any attempt to go into marksmanship before opening fire made it harder not easier to hit enemies. Perhaps the zoom was more than expected?
Then I crashed.
Having played it some more, I’ve gotten more used to the combat but it handles oh so different to playing other games in my collection, which isn’t ideal and feels clumsy. Perhaps this is a difference from console gaming to PC gaming with the latter being more suited to “twitch” combat in close range.
My biggest gripe of the game came the next time I loaded. The game immediately asked me to switch district instance to a better populated one. By ask I mean told me it was switching. Given it can take 5 minutes to bloody load, being straight told “oh sorry this instance is no good, will reload” is fecking annoying. It seems to do this about a third of the bleeding time. What makes it even more annoying is that the game NEVER seems to successfully switch. So yeah – the ridiculously long loading time is effectively doubled while the game fannies about. Why not put me in the best instance on launch? Or at least give the player the option to switch.
The UI design still needs a lot of work. Customisation is fine but the remainder of the UIs are rather awkward to use. I was very surprised that ‘X’ would be such a dominant button in UI usage. For example to switch weapon I open my inventory and select my weapon using D-Pad (thumb sticks are iffy at best) then press X for a sub menu and select switch using A before picking my weapon. I get that X gives you options like destroying the weapon etc *but* the main action is surely to switch weapon. Why not bind that to A? For standard “I’ll select my weapon” style UI interaction, I’d expect to only be using A for select, B for back/close and LB/RB for pages. Bizarre.
I am enjoying my revisit, even if mixed with a LOT of anger and frustration at times. The game is buggy. The UI needs an overhaul. The performance is terrible to the extent of often unplayable. The game crashes constantly.
Just as I remember.