Like a lot of stories, this one begins in a pub. A few years ago, we were sat on the tables round the back nursing a couple of pints, scraping the remnants of a packet of Golden Virginia into a couple of thin fags and contemplating whether we could afford a pie. And talking about games, as we are wont to do.

“It’s easy,” we said to our then-flatmate Chris, who would go on to have a flourishing career in the games industry (he’s nearly earning about minimum wage in Crawley Gamestation now). “There’s a gap in the market for a Grand Theft Auto-style Online game. People like GTA. People like playing massively multiplayer games. Stands to reason.”

APB:Reloaded screenshot
This is what you'll spend a lot of the game doing

“Bollocks,” he said, pulling on his pint. “You couldn’t level up the characters properly, people wouldn’t have fun, the lag would be ridiculous, you’d have the problems of real-time combat to contend with, and also the concept sucks.”

“Nah, you’re a naysayer. You’ve played too much Warcraft, man. It’d be fun.”

Turns out Chris was right. Smart old Chris. If developers Realtime Worlds had asked Chris how they could make a crime-based MMO, maybe they wouldn’t be in such a mess.

They released APB (All Points Bulletin), a crime-based MMO, which got a poor reception from both critics and consumers due to – well, due to a lot of the reasons that Chris outlined. That boy's wasted in Gamestation, we tell you.

APB Reloaded screenshot
He at least deserves to work in Game

Still, it was a great idea – take the role of either a Criminal (do crime, earn money, get a crew) or an Enforcer (duff up criminals, still look pretty goddamn street) in a Grand Theft Auto style world with a whole bunch of other players. It’s a pity it sucked so hard.

But there’s some good-ish news on the horizon. The game folded six weeks after release as the developers went into administration, but new owners K2 have rereleased it under the name APB: Reloaded, and they’ve made some changes.

First off, it’s free to play (which is an important consideration as most gamers will only pay for one game subscription at a time) and, more interestingly, they’ve tweaked the way that levelling up impacts your character.

APB Reloaded Screenshot
Man, eff cars

If you play for a while, for example, you can get +30% health. Great! But if you select that option, your speed decreases by 30% - so you’re waddling about in the open like a fat kid who’s eaten too many plums. High-level players get more options, sure, but they’re not going to be able to stomp all over new players with their funky powers.

At the moment, APB:Reloaded is in Beta, which means that it’s being tested to iron out any lumps and bumps that might make it too rubbish to release to the general public. If you’d like to take part in the test then get over to their website and sign up for the mailing list.

And if you don’t like it now, hell, at least it’s free.