Titanfall creators, Respawn Entertainment, dropped a brand new game out of nowhere this week, and in the short time it’s been around, Apex Legends has already made big waves in the battle royale genre.
The main idea of duking it out in a shrinking play area is still there but honed to a point which makes it nigh on perfect. For starters, instead of 100 players, Apex jams 60 (20 teams of 3) into a decently sized map that’s much more vertical than others, but makes getting around it fast, fluid, and generally just cool as hell.
A big point of difference when compared to other battle royale games is that there’s no option to play solo, all matches are played in groups of three. While that might sound annoying and a little restrictive, it actually works out really well for a couple of reasons. Firstly, each player chooses one of eight characters – each with their own special abilities – before the match begins. Not only does this add some much-needed spice to the battle royale formula, but it also adds a deeper metagame to the experience. It’s still early days, but I think we’ll see a lot of interesting tactics and player combinations emerge over time.
The second, and probably my favourite feature in Apex, is the ability to make contextualised callouts for your teammates, completely eliminating one of battle royale’s most annoying aspects.
Before I explain how it works, let me tell you about the problem, which absolutely shits me to tears. You’re with your team, you’re going about your looting or whatever when one of you spots an enemy team, which will generally result in any of the following:
- Enemy over there!
- Guy behind that tree!
What I’m trying to say is, everyone sucks at making callouts, but Apex makes it so easy that I’m almost pissed off I had to do any other way for so long. While there’s certainly an inbuilt voice chat for communicating with your team, you can also place context sensitive markers on places, items, and enemies which can be seen and heard instantly by your teammates.
Bound to the middle mouse button by default on PC, clicking once anywhere on the map will mark the location and also broadcast your character’s voice, which will say something along the lines of, ‘let’s go over here’ or similar. If you place the marker on, say, a weapon, it’ll tell your teammates exactly what it is and display its location.
If you see an enemy, you can double-tap their location so your team instantly knows where to look instead of having to yell out or listen to all manner of indistinguishable bullshit. Not only that, but it also gives those who don’t own a mic or are just a little shy the ability to communicate effectively and clearly. It’s my favourite feature of Apex and I would very much like to kiss it.
At the beginning of a match, one player will be made the Jumpmaster and is given the responsibility of deciding when and when to exit the ship. When the Jumpmaster exits, you’re all controlled in formation by that person. I like this because it eliminates the problem of one person missing the jump or simply losing track of where the rest of the team ends up, but there’s also an option to jump on your own if that’s more your jam. You can also peel off from the group at any point during your decent, which works well when approaching the ground in order to easily cover off a landing area.
Looting is also much faster and easier in Apex, particularly when compared to games with weapon attachments like PUBG and COD‘s Blackout mode. Picking up a sight or scope, for example, will automatically attach it to the weapon it fits. If it fits both of the weapons you’re running, it’ll be attached to the one you have equipped at that moment. Furthermore, if you swap out one of your weapons for a better one, any attachments you have will automatically be transferred to the new one, assuming they’re compatible. These features really smooth out the process of looting and add a fluidity to the early game that feels incredibly nice.
Dying at the beginning of any battle royale game sucks, but it sucks the most when you’re playing with your mates. You get knocked out of the game and are forced to sit there and spectate your friends for the next 15 minutes or so until you get to jump into a new match. Apex makes spectating a little more interesting by adding a resurrection system into the mix.
It works like this: Say you get knocked down and your mates can’t get over to pick you up, so you die. Your teammates will then have an extra 90 seconds to make it to your corpse and collect a card from your body which can be used at respawn points scattered around the map to bring you back into the game.
It sounds a bit wild, but it works well and is not always easy. For starters, you have to either wait for those who killed you to pick up your loot and move along, or engage them and win, leaving you free to grab the card from your fallen comrade. If you do make it to a respawn point, the process is very visible, so enemies will be able to swoop in and take you all down immediately if they’re nearby. On top of that, your resurrected mate won’t have any gear, so you’ll need to find them some weapons or give them one of yours before all of you can carry on.
Getting around the map is also quite easy and way more fun than it has any right to be. There are zip lines in a ton of places, some of which stretch quite far, making chases all the more thrilling. There are also balloons scattered around the map which allow you to zip up to a great height and fly down again, letting you cover a decent distance in a short time.
Like Fortnite, Apex Legends is totally free-to-play, meaning anyone can download it and jump in straight away. There are microtransactions within, but they’re purely cosmetic in nature and most of the items can be unlocked by playing the game, anyway. In terms of a business model, Apex is definitely channelling Epic Games here.
As far as battle royale goes, Apex has added a good pinch of spice to the mix and it tastes fucking marvellous. You can pick it up for free right now via Origin for PC, or via the online stores for Xbox One or PS4.