Player Immersion in APB

Despite having 60 hour work weeks lately, I’ve still managed to clock a lot of time in APB since it was released at the start of the week. I’ve already written a review on the game, and you can read it by clicking on the APB review link in the “Reviews” column to the right. Or click here if you’re lazy.

I’ve checked out a few professional reviews that gave APB scores of 5 and 6 out of 10, which conveys a very different message from the 8.7 that I scored APB. Despite the fact that the game isn’t actually that outstanding, I’m sticking by my score. For me, the reason why APB deserves a good score, is because of the immersion that the game provides us, the players, with.

As someone who used to play Dungeons & Dragons in my teenage years with my friends, and as someone who has taken part in online RP, I was quite impressed with the immersion provided by APB. Don’t read into this wrong, I’m not approaching APB as something that I would use for any sort of RP purpose, because the game is just too PvP oriented for such a thing to off easily. No, I’m talking about a different kind of immersion here. I’m not talking about the kind of immersion where players pretend to be their characters and roleplay them. The type of immersion I am speaking of is the kind where players are aware of what their characters represent and enjoy emulating the roles in a realistic fashion in order to increase the fun had in the game not just for one specific person, but for everybody andI intend on going over what some of these things are. Since I predominantly play as an Enforcer, the things I mention from here will be biased towards that faction.

Stop in the name of the law!
I only witnessed this once, sort of in passing. I saw some Enforcers bugging Criminals via VOIP, which is voice identification. They were hassling the Criminals to get out of their stolen vehicle and were using real police phrases to do so. It was really exciting, because the Enforcers had their sirens blasting while shouting at the Criminals. Eventually, the Criminals did surrender the vehicle and the Enforcers made off with it, presumably to turn it in for some cash. It was really great to see players enjoying themselves in such a way, and I really do hope to see more of it.

Obey the rules of the road.
This one I see each time I play, perhaps once or twice. I’m guessing that these people aren’t on missions when I see them, since they always appear to be taking it so easy. What are they doing, you ask? They’re obeying the rules of the road, that’s what. They make all the proper turns, drive at a respectable speed, stop at intersections, and allow pedestrians to cross the road. I’ve done this once or twice when I wanted a few minutes away from missions, and it was somewhat enjoyable. It makes you feel like a part of the city a little bit more, and provides passing players with a neat sight. “What? That guy is driving the speed limit and not ramming other players? I can hardly believe it!”

Officers on patrol.
This one is neat, and I’ve engaged in it a few times while looking for crimes to witness. Some Enforcers, rather than driving around the city or even running, will walk. Yes, walk. Some players may have overlooked the walk option in the control menu, but it’s there. It adds a hefty amount of realism to APB, because surely these characters can’t run everywhere they go! Aside from just making you look like a part of the city, walking can be very beneficial. It is a great method of being able to get a glimpse of potential crimes for longer than the two or three seconds you might get with a vehicle. It puts you on the street and gives you presence. Criminals beware!

A good Criminal never rests.
I’ve only heard stories about this one from Criminal players. According to them, it’s a lot of fun to rob stores and such – which is a gameplay mechanic for Criminals that awards money. However, from what I’ve gathered, a few Criminals like to plan their robberies out and really coordinate them like a real team committing a real crime. They’re not roleplaying, but they’re really getting into the game and what Criminals do, and it’s great to see them becoming so immersed in the game. If I play Criminal more, I may very well try this out.

And that’s about it for now. APB is a very enjoyable game for those who like to feel somewhat immersed in their faction’s duties and roles. The game is also fantastic for Grand Theft Auto fans, as there is a whole city to explore and have fun in while also blowing people up. I’ll be playing until my 50 hours are up and probably afterwards as well, so for those interested, I primarily play on Zombie. My Enforcer character is named Boulder, and I’m more often than not out on vehicle retrieval runs, turning in stolen vehicles for a few quick bucks so that I can play around with my character’s appearance. I’m definitely not the best shot around, but my driving skills aren’t too shabby! I’d like to think that this is because I’m addicted to racing games. Hit me up if you need a driver for a mission.

Return to July 2010 Articles

The Decline of Need for Speed

The Need for Speed series has been respected and revered as one of the best arcade racing franchises ever developed. It has the numbers to back it up as well, as Need for Speed is the fifth best selling video game franchise of all time, behind only Mario, Pokemon, Tetris, and The Sims.

Despite achieving such success, the series has developed a bit of a bad reputation among reviewers and the general public alike over the past few years by repeatedly releasing games in the series which share very few common similarities except rushed development times and generally poor reviews.

Generally, the Need for Speed franchise is losing more steam as it continues to evolve into the unstoppable beast of the racing game genre, pumping out at least two games a year now. To reflect the decline in the games’ quality, here are the metascores for each Need for Speed game in chronological order, oldest to newest.

The Need for Speed – N/A (8.3 from Gamespot)
Need for Speed II – 71
Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit – 88
Need for Speed: High Stakes – 86
Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed – 78
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit II – 89
Need for Speed: Underground – 85
Need for Speed: Underground 2 – 82
Need for Speed: Most Wanted – 82
Need for Speed: Carbon – 74
Need for Speed: ProStreet – 62
Need for Speed: Undercover – 59
Need for Speed: Nitro – 68
Need for Speed: SHIFT – 84

With the exception of SHIFT’s success, the Need for Speed series has almost been in a steady decline since 2002. That is eight years of Need for Speed titles being consistently worse, barely even ranking above “average” since ProStreet in 2007.

Two more games in the Need for Speed franchise will be released this year. The first, due out next month, is Need for Speed World, a PC MMO. From what I understand, a beta began quite recently and the general consensus is that the game is unfortunately very bad. A low metascore is pretty much a sure thing with NFS World, unfortunately.

The second game coming this year may help get the staggering series back strongly on two feet (or four wheels?). Currently titled Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, it is the third game in the Hot Pursuit sub-series. The previous two Hot Pursuit titles scored 88 and 89 on Metacritic, the two highest scores that the series has received on the ranking and scoring website.

Electronic Arts is playing it smart with Hot Pursuit III. They know what works and what the core fans of the series enjoys most, and that’s the Hot Pursuit aspect of the franchise. While Carbon, ProStreet, Undercover and Nitro were interesting experiments, they can be considered failures due to being the lowest scoring games in the series since Need for Speed II, a thirteen year old game that hadn’t even found it’s footing or decided yet what it wanted to be.

Hot Pursuit III, ultimately, will be the game that decides whether or not Need for Speed will continue to be successful in the long term. NFS World will inevitably bomb judging by the comments by beta testers, and if Hot Pursuit III follows suit, then I’m afraid that Need for Speed’s time will almost be over.

If the new Hot Pursuit works out and happens to be a success, I truly hope that Electronic Arts will see the light and base all future Need for Speed games on the Hot Pursuit formula. After all, it has worked pretty darn well for the two games based around it.

To conclude the post, here are videos of Hot Pursuit, Hot Pursuit II, and what I assume will be named Hot Pursuit III. It’s quite cool to play them all at the same time and check out how the series has evolved in terms of gameplay and graphics.

Return to June 2010 Articles