Here's a little insight into the mind of Lewis Denby: when I play anything with decent character creation tools, I'm always the same person. Specifically, a girl. More specifically, a redhead. She's a fresh and unassuming youngster, modestly pretty, seemingly meek but with a real attitude brewing beneath the surface. As I write this, I'm listening to Paramore, and suddenly realise my plans to somehow woo and eventually marry vocalist Hayley Williams might well be intrinsically linked.
This is my girl. I was her in Mass Effect and its sequel. I tried my best to craft her in Fallout 3, but never quite got the proportions right. Dragon Age was easy. She's been through the wars, this girl: from one side of outer space to the other, through stark nuclear winter, and to the end of the world and back. Now, she's somewhere in the city of San Paro, but her role has changed. The years of attempted heroism have left her jaded and cynical. And so it is that she's joined forces with the Bloodrose clan, ready to cause chaos and disorder on the streets of this upcoming sorta-MMO, sorta-shooter from Realtime Worlds.
If there's any game around in which it makes sense to so meticulously craft a character, it's the hyper-stylish APB. We've known about its versatile creation tools since last summer, when the first video footage emerged. But this is my first time putting them to use. And how marvellous they are to use, too: an enormous series of sliders is all it takes to manipulate almost every act of your character's physical appearance. It's intuitive, and magnificent.
Of course, when you're creating a game like APB, they have to be. One of its core pillars is the notion of celebrity, whereby every player on a server can craft for themselves a unique identity that develops over time, and which can be recognised by others populating the game world. Within the Social District, a non-combat region of San Paro, you can visit a number of terminals scattered around different shops, via which different aspects of your character can be tweaked. Want a new wardrobe? Head to the clothes shop and spend your coins on a snazzy new jacket. Want some inky skin? The tattoo parlour seems like the sensible place.
My girl got her first tattoo after a just a couple of days. She's been an unassuming kid before, kitted out in just the default T-shirt-and-jeans combo. These streets changed her quickly. The tension between criminals and Enforcers is as widespread as ever, with entire city blocks falling into frenetic gunfights on a regular basis.
A bit of story, then. San Paro is a city in which vigilantism has been legalised. On the one side of the law are the criminal organisations, groups who raid shops, steal cars, and assassinate key Enforcers. The Enforcers are the guys who've appointed themselves to keep everything under control. Predictably - and because it would make a pretty imbalanced game were they not - they're struggling to manage.
Missions come in a few forms - and, as you'd expect, vary from team to team. (Incidentally, you can't switch sides, so once you've created your character you're stuck with either breaking or enforcing the rules unless you start again from scratch.) There's assassination missions. There's tasks to blow up this or kick in such-and-such. As an Enforcer, your job will be to prevent the criminals from carrying out their treacherous shenanigans, but regardless of which side you play on, it's mainly all an excuse to get trigger-happy in everyone's face.