Last played: 2011
My first three entries on this list haven’t exactly been games I’d say I’ve enjoyed. Here’s the first one I actually liked, albeit briefly.
APB was touted years before Grand Theft Auto V‘s online mode, but the premise was similar: you and some friends get in a car, drive around, and shoot (or run over) other people. And when I first got into the beta, I loved it. Roaming around with PuGs was fun, but it was even better when I could get a couple of friends into the game and we could coordinate our murder sprees over voice chat.
The customization system lives up to its well-earned reputation, too. I’m no artist, but even I was able to deck out my pickup truck with a distinctive logo (that I wish I would have preserved in screenshot form), and you can easily see what people far more talented than I have cooked up.
It also had one of the oddest payment systems when it launched under RealTime Worlds, with a box price and pay-by-the-hour system instead of a monthly fee. As I got my game and time comped, it didn’t affect me, but a lot of people didn’t like it.
I even liked the driving, another common complaint. My only real issues were the strict mission-based gameplay, which always pitted you against an opposing crew rather than a more freeform style of play as seen in GTA V, and the matchmaking system and small zones, which made it so that if you often got matched up against the same opponents over and over, often leading to a string of easy victories or depressing losses.
Unfortunately, the game was mismanaged to death in a way that makes the people behind 38 Studios look like geniuses by comparison. When GamersFirst revived the game, as the free-to-play APB: Reloaded in 2011, I gave it another shot. Right out of the gate the controls felt off, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to play like I had in RTW’s version.
Worse than that, though, the game was unabashedly pay-to-win. You could “rent” guns (and maybe cars?) for up to a week using in-game cash, but the only way to get them permanently – and make your character better – was by spending real money. And from what I’ve heard, and glimpsed on the forums, cheating and hacking is rampant and GamersFirst is either powerless to stop it or doesn’t care.
I still get an itch every now and then to go back to APB. It looks like they finally got around to working on the freeform “Chaos Mode” servers… maybe? Brief research seems to indicate it was only tested last year, and I can’t find confirmation it ever went live. If they could address my other concerns – and I could find a crew to roll with – it’s something I could definitely see myself revisiting.