Monday, June 20, 2011

APB: Reloaded Once Too Many

There was this hubbub going around APB and what good times were being had by many. Not liking being left out of the rain, I decided to have a go at it. I went about it with the angelic ingenuity of someone simply interested on something different they had heard was fun. I knew nothing about the game, its past, its present or where it might be headed. I knew it had guns and cars and that you could commit crimes or enforce the law. I didn't even know what APB stood for. I do now.

I knew I had to become a member of this 'GamersFirst' thing and that was ok. I liked their name even. Inspired confidence and fuzzy feelings. I even liked them on Facebook, for whatever its worth. The download through their client took a bit too long and I found myself looking for something to play in the meantime. Never a good omen. But I've had to reinstall WAR once or twice, no biggie, and I've also purchased things on the PS3 where if the downloading isn't excrutiatingly long you always have the installing to look forward to. I'm a pro at waiting.

A few hours later the game was ready to go. Or so I thought. Turns out there were a few patches that needed running but I was expecting that. No problem, I had to make dinner anyway.

So I come back with my eggs just in time to load up the game and enjoy the intro cinematic. The background story isn't too bad but neither is it borderline good. But it doesn't need to be. That's not why you play a game like this. Both the intro cinematic and the loading screens were appealing to me. I liked them. I've become a pro connoisseur of loading screens. They were at least more entertaining than a loading screen informing me that "Flee" is a useful skill for fleeing. Quite.

Right around the time I was done with my eggs I entered the famed character creation. I'd heard it was pretty complex and, being a fan of The Sims myself, I was quite pleased with this. The level of complexity didn't disappoint even if the hand symbol to symbolize a slider was, at first, completely lost on me (maybe more so because during the first 5 minutes there were no '+' or '-' signs anywhere but they eventually showed up). So I made what would be me if I was male and a pissed off cop and I called him Baptist. I considered calling him The Baptist but I figured the game didn't allow for spaces in the name and I didn't want to seem presumptuous.

I prepared to enter the tutorial and be completely immersed in a world of reckless gunfighting and less than proper law enforcement. I decided to fool around with the controls for a bit. I'm the proud owner of a G13 and, by God, I was going to take full advantage of this expensive tool. I needed to make a new profile because all my WAR bindings weren't helping. In fact, my WAR flooded brain wasn't helpful when I tried to move forward by pressing both mouse buttons (which resulted in me firing a shower of bullets on startled newbies). My plans of changing key bindings and whatnot were sent to the backburner when I discovered an option to import my music library. I could just picture Baptist in his custom hoody, cruising around with his custom top down listening to his custom playlist.

Punkbuster ruined all those dreams. Imagine my dismay when, 3% shy from import completion I get one of the snazzy complex GIF loading-screens telling me that Punkbuster failed to update and that this was a bad thing. My first immediate thought was "who is this Punkbuster person and why is it kicking me?" I transmited my concerns to the next desk and they promptly explained what Punkbuster was. Main thing I retained from that explanation was how WAR had used it during Beta for like a week and then discarded it completely because it raised too many issues.

My next hour was spent Googling for ways to fix this issue and I finally figured out I was going to have to update Punkbuster manually. I frowned a bit at the unprofessional looking site. It reminded me a lot of GameCopyWorld and that's never a good thing. Ok maybe I'm a little spoiled from expecting a site to look like it was designed this century.

So I swallowed my fear and downloaded their app and updated it manually. 'That should take care of that', I thought. So off I went, to clean up some grafitti. They told me I could spawn a vehicle at parkingmeters (when, in actuality, parkingmeters are more often known to despawn vehicles due to lack of payment. Hmm, so that's where they end up...) but I couldn't find a parkingmeter so I walked. Its ok. I like walking. Maybe I could get him Chun-Li like calves from all the walking. After the grafitti was clean and I was strolling back to base I finally found a parking meter. I spawned a patroler and hoped in. I immediately fumbled with the controls trying to change the tune. Meshuggah isn't really my thing. I quickly learned one thing: I did the world a favor by never getting my driver's license. I hadn't gone five meters and I'd already bumped two vehicles and killed a pedestrian. But I wasn't the lucky one. As I laughed my ass off from my incompetence I was competently sideswiped by another amateur. Further down the road some other people fumbled with the driving controls against poles, pedestrians, parkingmeters and a myriad of other things starting with the letter P.

So I slowly dragged the car around until I stumbled upon what I think was a criminal. I'm not sure. Because I couldn't kill him. I saw him, mowing down civillians like nobody's business and I was sure that someone with so little regard for simulated life had to be brought to justice. So I started firing. First of all, I didn't know what the reload button was. I only knew how to shoot because of my continuous mishaps trying to mvoe forward. So, every time I ran out of clips I just dodged behind a palm tree. The perp (teehee) crouched behind his vehicle and popped his head up to find me from time to time. This felt downright epic. If the game was about this I was so totally playing it for years. I circled one last palm tree and unloaded one entire clip right in his face. And he did the same. And nothing happened. 'Oh, maybe you can't kill anybody in the tutorial zone? Or maybe... he's not a criminul. Huh,' I pondered as I hopped away. He kept sooting at me but I wasn't going to keep wasting ammo, time and, most importantly, patience on this. I had walls to scrub down.

It was during the course of this battle that I had realised something was terribly wrong with my keybindings. I could only move right (which had mad my path through the palm trees quite predictable and fatal if the bullets had done any actual damage). It was time to fix the G13 issue for good. I tried a whole bunch of stuff even reconnecting the thing but I soon went from not being able to move left to not being able to move at all. Frustrated, I propelled my hand forward and proceeded to use the WASD on my 1337 Pro-Gaming 10€ Chinese keyboard. The WASD is green. With it I discovered that my absolute nabness in driving had something to do with my inability to swirve left unless I was in reverse. Hmm.

In the process of trying to tackle down the supposed criminal I had succeeded in losing my vehicle and I couldn't find another spawn thingy. So I walked. I walked for a very long time, dodging incoming charges from players who hadn't lost their vehicles but shouldn't be allowed to drive either. While I was walking I was thinking 'If this was WAR, I would've unlocked a title by now. Something like The Pedestrian. Yes, I'd like that.'

I finally managed to finish the tutorial and I decided to pay a visit to the Social District where I assumed any kind of character customization took place. Hours had gone by at this point but I was still positive about the game. The tutorial hadn't been bad, even if a bit anti-climatic. I know wanted to change out of my training t-shirt into something less noobish. Nothing anywhere Indicated where I might change outfit. Silly me, I thought you could change clothes from your inventory but there are special booths for it. Just like there are special booths for costumizing your vehicle, your music, your symbols. In the booth where you can change your face I discovered Baptist was not quite what I'd designed him to be. He looked less sneering badass and There's a booth for everything and the last booth I happened upon (after much Googling and 30 minutes of jumping up and down stairs) was the outfit one. It looked cool, the things you could change. But I was a noob and a poor one at that so my choices were quite limited.

After I was out of my training sweat pants I decided It was a good time to try and kill someone. For "real" this time. So I stepped out to the Waterfront. As soon as I got a whiff of fresh urban air, the game crashed. 'Ok sooo, fuck this then' I said, stretching back in my chair. I'd had enough. 'Another day perhaps,' we agreed upon shaking hands.

Another day, the very next day in fact, I woke up willing to give it another go. The G13 still wasn't working but my wrist was feeling a bit better. To the Waterfront it was. I pledged my services to an ethnically charged NPC and off I went, on foot. Things were happening, killing streaks were being had and ended by many. I stepped out and almost immediately found people shooting at each other. I wasn't grouping with anyone because I know what Pugging leads to. Now the game proposed another challenge. Since anyone can customise their character however they want, everyone looks gangsta. If everyone looks gangsta, how do you know what to kill? Well, I saw one individual with a "?symbol?" different from that shield thing and so I thought that should be it. But I emptied a few dozen clips in his direction to no avail. By the way he swaggered in my direction I could assume one of two things was about to happen: 1) he would shoot me dead with the sheer power of his ├╝beness; 2) he would stare me down, slap me in the nape and say "You twat". I wasn't having either and I logged off never to log on again.
Truth is, maybe I didn't give APB the chance it deserved. I really looked forward to it but the journey was too bumpy for me to enjoy the final reward. I don't think I'll ever pick it up again, to be honest. I couldn't even use my gaming accessory (G13) in a game supposed to consider Gamers First. Maybe I decided to play a few WAR scenarios while I figured out what to play instead and I ended up playing for some 4 hours. Guess I'll stick with what I know for now.

1 comment:

  1. You might have found it easier if you'd read the tutorial and so on :P That way you'd know you cant shoot anyone at anytime, unless you're on a mission against them. Otherwise it would be total chaos, which would be funny, briefly.