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Avatars with attitude

Title: APB

Format: PC n Rating: 16+ n Price: from €40 (plus subscription)

APB makes its mark with the huge level of customisation on offer; starting with creating the basic physical appearance of your character and extending to a ludicrous degree through tweaking the paintjob on your car, adding tattoos or even designing decals for your clothes from scratch in a Photoshop-lite kind of program. You can even create simple musical themes to play everytime you kill an enemy. The depth is a little overwhelming but each level only requires you to scratch the surface to proceed, though truly creative types will have a field day.

Potential

There's a huge amount of potential personality in your APB avatar, it's just a shame the worlds themselves are so bland; streets, alleyways and towering buildings soon become repetitive. The mission types on offer are fairly varied but generally consist of running from one location to the next and shooting things.

At least the controls are semi decent, though it's hard to get used to the lack of headshots or scoped weapons in an online shooter.

The matchmaking mechanic, however, is inspired -- once your mission catches the attention of the other side, a group of Enforcers or Criminals are dispatched to take you down. Getting the call and cramming into a car with three other team-members is a lot of fun.

But the car controls are sluggish and there's rarely a sense of an overarching reason to play -- each battle is forgotten the second it's over.

The worlds are also curiously empty and you can only interact with people who are currently on your mission, meaning it can be tough to find someone to shoot in the large maps.

Most troubling of all is the pricing structure; punters will have to shell out for the full game (around €40) which comes with 50 hours of game time but, once that's up, you'll have to pay by the hour or get a 30-day pass for around a tenner. The clock only runs down in action districts but players will want to be getting a lot more bang for their buck. APB has potential but will need to work hard to justify its price tag. Score 6/10

Title: DeathSpank

Format: PSN, Xbox Live n Rating: 16+ n Price: from €14

Puzzle

An adventure-standard inventory provides for some simple fetch-and-combine puzzles and you'll spend most of the rest of the game chatting to the massive, fully voiced cast in quippy conversations that will remind you Lucasarts used to make games that were funny.

The attention to detail is extraordinary. Finding missions can be a chore though, thanks to the largely unhelpful map, and the game is also surprisingly tough, so you'll have to grind to a decent level to survive.

DeathSpank will be passed over by some gamers as just another downloadable title but it's a lot of fun, easy to pick up and funny. Admittedly, it's more suited to short sessions but adding in a second player, as the diminutive, mincing wizard Sparkles, is a great way to spice up the gameplay.

Score 8.5/10


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