Weapons are swapped by scrolling the mouse wheel. Ammo is replenished from crates found throughout the city.
On foot, APB feels very much like Grand Theft Auto - that is, like GTA, APB is a third-person shooting game set in a contemporary fictional city. Mouse control makes aiming a breeze, but headshots are difficult. In classic online shooter fashion, most players strafe left and right as they try to keep their targeting reticule aimed, hopefully, at enemy heads. When you do die - and you will, often - you respawn nearby. I spend a lot of time sprinting back to the action. But then, I am an APB virgin.
The Financial District is a twisting, turning, vertical jungle of towering concrete and advertisements. Driving will only get you so far - but it does so quickly. More often than not you'll get as close as possible to your objective marker, then get out and sprint the rest of the way. The F button is used to vault fences, smash open doors, climb up ladders to rooftops and activate all the context sensitive actions in the game, such as pouring petrol on cars. Much of my time is spent climbing and running about, trying to find sneaky routes back to areas I know Enforcers have assaulted. Remember, these are real people you're shooting at. And real people shoot back good and proper.
Occasionally I hear player voices, and they're not from my team mates. That's because APB has what Realtime Worlds calls "locational-based VOIP". If you talk through your headset, nearby players will hear your voice whether they're in your team or not. So, when you scream a profanity after getting killed, be aware that you're doing so in a public space.
In another mission, we're charged with stealing four suitcases full of cash from four separate locations and returning them to a safe point. As in the burning cars mission, we drive toward the objectives in a stolen car. This time, though, I drive. APB's cars seem hard to control at first. The drift-oriented driving model is grounded in reality, but it's clearly been designed to lend the game a dramatic, action feel. It's pretty much essential to use the space bar to handbrake around corners, for example. But you soon get used to it. Driving never gets easy - it always requires careful attention, particularly as a Criminal who's trying to escape pursuing Enforcers - but it's not frustrating. The potential is clear: bumper to bumper car chases and lots of shooting.
Soon enough, an APB is sent out, and a group of Enforcers is hot on our tail. With the suitcases stolen, the mission progresses to a second stage: to defend an area for three minutes. We drive towards the objective and hole up behind cover up on higher ground, waiting for the Enforcers to arrive. When they do, all hell breaks loose. There is a lot of shooting, a lot of dying, a lot of respawning, and more dying. Somewhat inevitably, we fail the mission. The Enforcers have won, and are rewarded with loads of cash. Bah.
You'll be able to sell items you've created on APB's auction house for Realtime Worlds Points, which can in turn be used to buy game time.
What's great about APB, and indeed what sets it apart from most MMOs, is that progression is entirely skill based. Let's be honest, if you put loads of time into most MMOs you'll end up with a powerful character. If you go up against another player who's of a lower level than you, 99 per cent of the time you'll kick his arse, even if you're using your nose to press the hotkeys. In APB, however, your chance to shoot someone in the face is determined by your skill with a mouse, not a dice roll. Really, if you're good at shooters, you'll probably be good at APB. Even though I'd only played the game for half an hour, I felt I had a chance against the schooled beta testing Enforcers. I felt I had a chance not because my gun did 330 more points of damage than my opponent's, but because I know how to headshot.
What this means is that APB is not just another MMO. It's not trying to dethrone World of Warcraft. It's not got orks or elves or flaming swords. It's not, even, a GTA MMO. APB is a massively multiplayer online game of cops and robbers that busts a gut to strip away all the boring stuff you normally find in MMOs. This is why APB has a chance of being something special, and this is why you should care.
APB: All Points Bulletin is scheduled for release on July 2 for PC.