2018 was the year of the Battle Royale games. Sure, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite were both released in 2017 as Early Access games. But both games became the new stars of the constantly growing online gaming environment. It was impossible to go a single day without endless of articles riding the extremely popular battle royale wave that was trending in social media, streaming platforms and in mainstream media. This was especially true with Fortnite as it has a broad appeal, it is free and the violence is as cartoonish as Tom & Jerry.
Other companies wanted in on this money and jumped on the Battle Royale train. Even the latest Call of Duty decided to include a Battle Royale mode, with great success. It was the exception of the newcomers that got popular. Most of the new Battle Royale games like Real Royale never really took off. Even the Gears of War veteran Cliff Bleszinski and his company Boss Key Productions released Radical Heights, a BR game that fell flat on its ass so badly that they shut down the studio only a month after the game launched. All because they were chasing a trend instead of innovating.
Fast forward to 4th of February 2019. Respawn Entertainment, the creators of the critically acclaimed Titanfall franchise, lets the world know that they’ve made a Free To Play title called Apex Legends that is also set in the Titanfall universe. Nobody outside of the industry knew about this game. Nobody knew what to expect. Respawn said it was a spin-off title with no Titans, no pilots and no wall running. Before the actual reveal, nerds went ballistic. Internet tears were flooding social media. The same EA that ruined Star Wars Battlefront 2 were now about to ruin Titanfall‘s legacy. Or did they? Once again we fast forward, this time to the reveal. Hold on, this actually looked really good. Could it be? Are we actually looking at a F2P game published by EA that could have the potential to be great? Here’s the part where it gets even better. Respawn told us in the reveal that the game is available now on PS4, Xbox and PC.
I didn’t hesitate for a second and downloaded it immediately on PS4 and PC. Less than 20 minutes later and I was jumping out of a drop-ship with my three-man squad, competing against nineteen other squads (sixty players in total). Since launch date I have exclusively played Apex Legends every day. Respawn somehow managed to create a game that is heavily inspired many other games and improved on the Battle Royale formula in ways that I haven’t quite experienced before. You have the choice between eight different legends. Six of them are unlocked right away, while the remaining two legends can be unlocked by playing or by paying. All Legends got different abilities that will help your squad become champions.
There’s passive abilities, active abilities and ultimate abilities. This is very similar to what is done in the hero shooter Overwatch. You will possess the power to heal your squad, track enemies actions, create portals for quick getaways, drop air-strikes down on your foes, smoke up your surroundings, create decoys that will confuse your enemies and so on. All these abilities is best used when coordinated with your team and requires on-point communication– and this where Apex Legends really shines and outperforms every team-based shooter out there.
Which brings me to the excellent “ping” system. With a touch of a button you can communicate with your teammates without ever having to rely on voice chat. See an enemy? Aim and ping his location. Found some gear that your teammates might need? Ping it and the game will alert your team that you’ve found a level 2 backpack and show up on their screen and minimap. Your teammates can then aim at that item that pops up on their screen and claim “dibs” if they want it. Want to let your team know that you’re looting a certain area, or maybe let them know that you got their back while they’re looting? The radial ping wheel menu got you covered. Other games have had similar functionality, but never has it been this advanced and streamlined at the same time. This should be the standard for all team-based games going forward. For the first time in my life I can enjoy playing with random people online who aren’t using a microphone. And I’d argue that this communication system is quicker and more efficient as there’s no language barriers between the players.
The game feels very similar to Titanfall where it counts. The controls are spot on and the shooting just feels right. If you’ve played TF before then you already feel at home with the guns because they’re more or less the same brands. The Hemlok, Wingman, Flatline, Alternator.. it’s mostly all there, easing the transition for Titanfall veterans. Apex Legends also has items like attachments, backpacks, armour etc. Everything that you’d expect in a battle royale game. And it’s all colour coded depending on its rarity and what benefits it will give you. Golden gear comes with its own additonal perks like healing faster, being able to revive yourself and so on.
Speaking of revival, Apex Legends adds something new to the battle royale mix. When you’re killed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re out. Your teammates can pick up the dead players banner and bring it to a Respawn Beacon. You’ll then drop into the map again by a drop-ship, but without your gear. So it comes at a huge risk because this drop-ship can be seen and heard by any nearby enemies. Unlike some of the other mentioned battle royale games, there’s no vehicles you can control in AL. Nor is it needed. Traversing through the big Borderlands-looking map always feels fluid. No, there’s no wall-running. But you’ll notice soon enough that it’s not needed. You’ll slide down slopes with great speed, mantle ledges gracefully and if you play as Pathfinder you’ll combine your trusted grappling hook with sliding, pulling off the sickest kills after some practice. There’s also plenty of zip-lines around that you can use *and even create). And when the circle of death is coming in on you, zip-line up to the balloons and you can redeploy and get some airtime again. So even without wall-running, manoeuvrability in Apex is not an issue.
Apex Legends is F2P done right. The microtransactions are not intrusive and you can’t pay your way to victory. Yes, it does include lootboxes but you can also unlock content in the shop with in-game currency you get by levelling up, or you can support the developers and buy the stuff you want right away. So far I haven’t spent any money on it, but I will when season pass arrives because I want to support further development of this great game. But you don’t have to; you’ll have the full experience of the game regardless of wallet thickness.
Apex also runs smoothly as they’ve targeted 60fps on all consoles and it more or less sticks to that most of the time. There’s been very little connectivity issues and game-breaking bugs that I’ve experienced, especially on the PS4. Had some performance issues on PC, but it’s still early days and Respawn will most likely address issues like this in upcoming patches. There’s also some gameplay balancing that needs to be looked at (Wingman revolver, I’m looking at you).
I would also like to see more modes. Right now there’s only three-man squads. I hope we will see four-man squads and even duos in the future. I personally don’t think a solo mode would work out because of the Legend class system. But I might be wrong. I also hope that we’ll see more maps in the future. PUBG got four maps by now and I prefer that over how it’s done in Fortnite with constant updates to the one map they got.
My final wish would be that crossplay would be enabled at launch so I could play on my Xbox One X with PS4 friends and vice versa; yet I guess since Sony is still playing favourites with their Cross-play beta program, we just have to wait. Respawn said that will come eventually. I’ve played Battle Royales religiously since PUBG came out and I am still in shock that I’m playing an EA F2P game and loving it. Blackout/Fortnite/PUBG, watch out; there’s a new sheriff in town and he’s aiming his OP Wingman right at ya. 4.75/5 Bibles.