Once upon a June 2010, I played Realtime World’s All Points Bulletin at its original launch. APB remains one of the high watermarks for character creation in MMO games. It offered players an unprecedented variety of options to shape the way their combatants appeared in the comically bullet-riddled streets and structures of San Paro. However, the Scotland-based developer had poorly managed the development and financing for APB. It was underwritten by ridiculous expectations of immediate success and subsequently went into administration (bankruptcy court) by mid-September. That same week, HiRez Studios’s Todd Harris acknowledged the loss of APB by offering a 30% limited-time discount on his sci-fi MMO-shooter, Global Agenda, hoping to funnel one community into another. I did not have the hardware specs to play the game at the time, so I passed. Twenty-one months later, APB has been relaunched as APB: Reloaded, both games are free-to-play, and my new laptop laughs at any 2 -year old game. I will revisit character creation in APB eventually, but it is time to review people-making in Global Agenda.
As usual, this is not a review of the entire game, but a look at the tools the game gives the player to determine who they will play in the world. This game does not start off with any eye-popping cinematic, but gets right down to having the player decide their character’s class; Robotics, Medic, Recon, or Assault. The classes break down into familiar pet DPS, healer, stealth DPS, and Tank MMORPG roles respectively or, if you like, the Team Fortress 2 Engineer, Medic, Scout, and Heavy roles. A short description comes up for each class giving the player a very good idea the kind of gameplay they have in store. Though nothing about the story is revealed.
Each class in Global Agenda has its own unchangeable models for tough males and sexy females. The armor seen on the Class Select screen is some of what the players have to look forward to as they gear up. There are also various dies throughout the games used to color armor and weapons. Players will start the game tutorial barefoot in a default skin-tight high-tech leotard. Jet packs, armor, ranged and melee weapons can all be recolored later. Once again, there is no customization for character physiques.
However, once the player gets to put their face together, the real character creation process finally begins. I have played few other games with so many options for sculpting a head and a face. Once the player picks a class and a sex, they will be met with 18 female head presets and 23 male presets. Presets are a deceptive start, but one that allows players who want to get right into the game without futzing about over a face. Once a user double-clicks a preset, they can configure the individual elements at a basic level with a Mr. Potato Head-style selector and at an more advanced level with a slider.
In case it’s too hard to see from the screen shots, here is a breakdown of the options:
- 8 basic head settings:
- 30 hair styles
- 8 Eyes
- 6 Mouths
- 10 Noses
- 8 Ears
- 14 Skin Tones
- 15 Primary Hair
- 18 advanced head settings
- 12 advanced eye/brow settings
- 7 advanced lip/mouth settings
- 10 advanced nose settings
- 4 advanced ear settings
- 9 advanced skin/eye/makeup settings
- 2 hair and hair accessory settings
- 20 advanced head settings
- 11 advanced eye/brow settings
- 8 advanced lip/mouth settings
- 10 advanced nose settings
- 4 advanced ear settings
- 3 advanced skin/eye/makeup settings
- 1 hair and hair accessory settings
There are an insane number of combinations available for faces and players will get to see their creations on the generic bodies during normal gameplay and in cinematics whenever they remove their helmets. The tools lend themselves easily to simulating faces from pictures or crafting whatever the player finds interesting.
I made a couple of characters in Global Agenda to try out its customization tools. Characters do not have their own names, only the user name. That is one less layer of immersion. Nevertheless, I played a few levels into my character to see other players and get a taste of the character progression. Unfortunately, there is no “hide helmet” option in the game settings. Consequently, in the low level areas, I have not seen a single player ever neglect their 10% health max boost by removing their helmet. Characters gain stat boosts with levels and skill points every two levels. The skill trees remind me a lot of World of Warcraft talent trees. In fact, running around in 3rd-person with a castbar across expansive landscapes doing kill quests for NPCs travelling from quest hub to quest hub reminds me a lot of WoW.
The similarities might explain why once I started playing, I did not want to quit until I fell asleep in my chair. I had thought that Global Agenda would have more similarities with APB than WoW, but only character head creation holds that distinction. While, I would prefer the illusion complete control over character creation, Global Agenda does so much in that one major area that I can’t help but feel like I own a part of their world once I’ve shaped a face I like. So I need to water that face lest it whither.
Character Assessment Grade: B
While this review is not about gameplay, I have to say that Global Agenda is fairly engaging and I anticipate logging into it every once in a while. I do not think I’ll join a agency/guild or ever do a boss fight in it, but I would like to see what characters can do at higher levels. I’d like to know if I’ll ever get a real feeling of power as I progress. One of the biggest weaknesses of the game a lack of visceral feedback. When I fire my gun, lasers and rockets come out without recoil. When I use my melee weapon, enemies dodge around until they fall dead. When I fall from 100 feet, I hit the ground without any screen rattling impact, just a crouched landing and wave effect on the ground. There is little sense of consequence. Nevertheless, there’s some MMO crack cocaine in this game I think. If you’re curious go download the client here. Then check out the wiki here. And if you’re ready, here’s TenTonHammer’s guides. I’m CSlacks in-game.