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APB

Creative cops and robbers

APB looks like a dream game; a massively multiplayer take on cops and robbers that exists in a persistent online world. It's a game powered by personal creativity and style, where you'll continue to play, not because you need to level up and improve your characters stats and skills, but because you love blowing stuff up or bringing the legal beatdown to crims.

It works like this - when a criminal starts a crime spree, the game will check to find what police are available, and sends out an APB - a warning to get in your car, and catch them. The game compares your previous success and failures and figures out exactly how much police will be needed to take you down.

Then, ridiculous car-chases and on-foot battles kick off. It's literally that simple. If you like playing GTA, then this is the game you've been waiting for.

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The key though, is understanding just how creative APB lets players be. Realtime World's ambition is to create a world that you want to log into just to be amazed by what's been added by the players.

The in-game character modification is astonishing - it is easily the best looking and most flexible character creation tool in the world right now - better than the Sims 3, better than anything. Not only can you create absurdly detailed physical models, you can layer amazing tatoos and logos onto your clothes and skin - the art then taking the properties of the material to seemlessly blend and appear on the surface. A gang symbol automatically takes on a worn sheen on a leather jacket, the shade of the skin it's burned into, or the mottled fabric of a tasty sweater.

The car customisation is as good, if not better than Forza's, and again, the logos can be etched all over your bonnet. There's an in-game music editor, with which you can program 'death-beats' - the noise other players will hear when they die. As examples, APB's devs played a chiptune recreation of Another One Bites the Dust and the Mario theme.

If you buy property, you can throw vast advertising hordings up, using the same vector art, or erect statues around the city. The goal - for your friends and gang mates to be identifiable immediately, not because they have a name floating above their head, but because you just recognise them out of a crowd.

But it's not just about player creativity. Like the PC version of GTA, you can add MP3s to play as you drive around. That's fine. But APB goes one step further. Last.fm integration means that if you own the same music as other players, as they pass you, what they're playing will be heard as they drive past. And if you don't, the software will find something similar and play that.

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