Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
I can’t remember the last time an online multiplayer game was announced and released same day, and even if I could, I doubt that release would have been as impressive as Apex Legends has managed to be so far. Coming from Respawn Entertainment and set within the world of the Titanfall universe, Apex Legends is a Battle Royale first person shooter that is not only free-to-play, but well worth checking out.
Consisting of 8 characters dubbed “Legends”, players can choose to enter with two additional friends or random players to make up their three-person team. 20 teams compete, with the last team standing being declared winner. Like other popular Battle Royale games, Apex Legends drops the players onto a large map, requiring them to scavenge for equipment and weapons, while working their way towards the safe zone circles indicated on the map. The zone restricts over the course of timed rounds, forcing remaining players closer and closer together into inevitable conflict. On the surface, Apex Legends feels and plays much like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode, and others. But there’s enough spins on the formula present to help Apex Legends stand out.
First and foremost, Respawn definitely knows what they are doing when it comes to first-person shooters. Even if Titanfall and Titanfall 2 weren’t sales juggernauts, they were great games, and both featured fun multiplayer modes that felt unlike most shooters. While Apex Legends might lack actual Titans and wallrunning, it still features the fast, frenetic style of gameplay present in those games. Apex Legends also features precise, fantastic weapon handling, and a surprising degree of balance between Legends.
Out of the gate, your initial download of Apex Legends will net you six characters to play as. There are two more you unlock with currency gained by purchasing a founders pack, or you can unlock them using in-game currency earned as you level up. The characters represent particular class archetypes, like attacker or defender, but all in all they’re very unique. For instance, Mirage and Bangalore are both technically attackers. However, Mirage comes equipped with abilities that allow him to send out decoys for distraction, whereas Bangalore can launch smoke grenades, and gains bursts of speed when under fire. Every Legend has one passive ability, one ultimate ability on a long cooldown timer, and one tactical ability on a shorter cooldown. The cooldown times between Legends can vary, and generally depend on the power of the ability. Again, the balancing done here out of the gate feels great and well thought out.
Respawn has also introduced a number of unique concepts within the Battle Royale arena. Apex Legends gives players the ability to attempt to respawn teammates. If you’re knocked down and bleed out (or get executed), your teammates can grab ahold of your cache and attempt to revive you at dedicated spots on the map. There are some limits in place, like a long timer for the revive itself, and they only have 90 seconds to retrieve you from where you died, but overall it’s a pretty solid idea that works well. It also sets up interesting encounters, as opposing players will often hover around a kill site in the hopes of picking off well-meaning partners trying to rescue their friends.
When jumping out of the dropship at the beginning of a match, one player is randomly selected to be the Jumpmaster. The Jumpmaster essentially controls the descent of the entire team. Teammates can opt to break off from the Jumpmaster at any time, and can also helpfully ping locations on the map as suggested points of interest. Once on the ground, the ping function can become vital, allowing you and your team to highlight other points of interest, items to pick-up, and enemies in the distance. It allows for a remarkable amount of effective teamwork without mics, and works extremely well.
Also, map locations will helpful indicate the quality of loot when you enter an area. During the jump phase, a location may also be lit up in a way to denote higher tier loot, which often becomes an early conflict zone for loot hungry players. It’s not difficult to figure out where loot might be hidden, and it won’t take much more than a few matches to get accustomed to the general layout. However, the map itself is pretty large, with lots of interior and exterior spaces, high cliff sides, and a bunch of verticality. There’s no fall damage in Apex Legends, so you’re even more free to explore the space around you, allowing for more daring escapes and tense moments in combat.
While Apex Legends does feature packs of random loot purchasable with real world money, you’ll earn packs at a decent rate while leveling up. All items that can be purchased lead strictly to cosmetics, like new character skins, kill quotes, execution animations, and so on. It adopts a similar style of monetization as other popular Battle Royale games, and doesn’t seem to be too egregious with shoving those things in the players face. There’s also a bunch of character skins and weapons skins to unlock, so it’s unlikely you’ll run into issues finding something you like early on.
If you have a PS4, Xbox One, or PC, you should really give Apex Legends a try. It’s managed to hit the ground running, with very little in the way of server issues or other hiccups after the first week. It’s clear Respawn has plans to support the title in the long-term, and the six Legends characters available from the start (with two more unlockable via in-game currency) provide enough variety to begin with. This will be the Battle Royale title I stick with for the immediate future, and I’m excited to see this game evolve over time.
Note: Electronic Arts provided us with a Apex Legends Founder Pack PS4 code for review purposes.