by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 21st February, 2019
Respawn uncovered what they were working on and no, it's not Titanfall 3. Nevertheless, Apex Legends is an excellent Battle Royale game set in the Titanfall universe.
After the super-fast descent from the dropship, you and your team land on the part of the map marked as "mid-tier loot area" knowing that most players always target those hot high tier loot parts of the map where killzone establishes as soon as the first team lands.
But you decided to lead your team to relative safety while allowing them to pick solid weapons and shields that are good enough to allow them to stay alive until they make their first kill and loot enemies for better gear. Your entire team has to be on the constant move because being light on your feet is the recipe for staying alive in Apex Legends.
Constant motion combined with an extremely easy way to spot and pick up equipment along with the excellent ping system that allows players on the same team to communicate without speaking one word enable your fire team to loot the area in just a couple of minutes before you move on closer to the circle.
And during your journey, you three don't stop for a second. Wall climbs, grappling hooks, infinite slides while riding down slopes, constant sprint while looting buildings, and easy pings without letting them slow you for a second are all there to allow for extremely fast and fluid movement.
You arrive a minute before the circle shrinks and notice some movement in the distance. Your team decides to let the enemies wander away because long-range engagement isn't advised in Apex Legends. You will only notify everyone else about your location and won't kill anyone because everyone moves like lightning bolts across the savannah.
You lie low and wait for the circle to contract again. After the next round begins, it's time to move again. You activate your character's ultimate ability to give teammates a couple of extra healing items before moving on and one teammate activates his ulti in order to track any enemy that could be hiding inside one of the low buildings in what seems to be a swampy part of the Apex Legends' large and extremely vertical map.
He spots some fresh tracks and points your team to one of the small shacks thanks to the excellent ping system. You three flank the building - you come from atop while the hunter is waiting for the void walker to enter the house with her ability activated, allowing her a couple of seconds of damage immunity while freely moving.
The void walker spots enemies inside and ping their locations to you and the Bloodhound. The hunter then activates his ability while being just outside the house, pinging enemy locations again and allowing you to drown the enemy team with grenades. This shakes them and in just a couple of seconds the hunter and void walker down two foes with powerful shotguns that are super powerful in close quarters.
You jump from above and disorient the remaining member of the enemy team with loud cover fire from your faithful LMG, giving the void walker enough time to recharge her ability and to freak out the enemy by sweeping just past them, while they can't damage her even though he really tries by throwing grenades and shooting like a madman.
And then, in a second, the hunter flanks and kills him with a couple of shots from his shotgun. You kill the remaining two enemies who were left while downed as baits, loot them, and prepare for the next round. The adrenaline is pumping through your bodies with all of this happening during the course of about three or four minutes.
Apex Legends is a surprisingly fun mixture between a hero shooter and a battle royale game. It doesn't try to invent a new subgenre and to introduce some revolution; it simply offers excellent gameplay combined with solid hero shooter elements.
The game was cooking inside Respawn's labs for some time and while I was a tad bit disappointed upon its reveal because of the fact that we won't get Titanfall 3 (it was revealed later that we will get another Titanfall game in 2019 but it won't be a full-fledged sequel) but after playing the game for the better part of the past week (both on the PS4 and PC) I can say that this one is pretty good way to kill some time and enjoy some intense battle royale action.
Apex Legends is a game that plays at a much faster pace than PUBG even though it doesn't include vehicles while it features somewhat realistic shooting elements not found in Fortnite. The game plays like Black Ops 4 on steroids, with ultra-fast movement, excellent gunplay, simplistic loot and inventory system, and reliance on teams of three.
Yep, you can't play solo, which is a shame. Just to be clear, while the game takes place in Titanfall universe you won't find any Titans here, which is another letdown. Just imagine how fun (and how potentially broken) the game would be if it allowed players to summon those huge mechanical killing machines.
The parkour-based movement system is also out of the picture but at least you can climb most walls without any problem and there's also that excellent sliding move that allows players to slide down slopes fifty miles per hour. The focus on constant movement makes this one faster than any other Battle Royale game on the market, which is totally fine by me because this means fewer snipers and more close quarter combat where I can kill everyone with SMGs and shotguns, which are the two best weapon types in the game.
As I already mentioned, Apex Legends only supports playing its teams which will disappoint more than a few readers who like playing as lone wolves. But the good thing is that even playing in a PuG allows for some solid team play and coordination because Apex Legends has by far the best ping system I saw.
Simply by pressing the middle mouse button (or R1 on the PS4) you can mark loot (with your character saying loud and clear type and rarity of the marked piece, so that other two team members can instantly know whether they could use it or not), spot enemies, suggest drop location or your next point of interest while roaming the map.
It all works extremely seamlessly and while pinging everything looks simple, Respawn should really be applauded for implementing a system that makes voice communication almost unnecessary. Sure, you will play better with friends while constantly talking with each other but I managed to be part of the last team standing a couple of times while reaching the best five or six teams happens on a regular basis. The game starts with 60 players divided into 20 teams, just enough players for the size of the map featured in Apex Legends.
The map isn't that big but it does feature lots of verticality. There are hills and slopes, most buildings have two or more floors, there are balloons dotting the map that allow you to launch into the air and change your location fast while not being prone to fire. The map is divided into, let's say, about a dozen smaller areas each one featuring equipment of different rarity. This makes areas with valuable loot dangerous killing fields that are perfect for new players to land on and do some shooting practice.
But even if you land inside a regular loot area you will probably find a nice weapon, maybe even two, and will probably skip the early bloodshed happening in places that host best equipment. I like the map; it features lots of different areas, it's just right when it comes to its size, it has lots of verticality, and the idea to separate different areas based on loot rarity is an excellent way to assure that those looking for action know where to land to get some right after their feet touch the ground.
The action is the bread and butter of every multiplayer shooter and Apex Legends features the finest, handmade bread and sweet, savory butter in immense quantities. Gunplay is similar to Titanfall 2 meaning it's freakin' awesome! Weapons have a noticeable kick and effects of lead entering enemies' bodies are extremely satisfying. Weapons are easy to use and you will find the regular arsenal of weapons seen from Titanfall games.
ARs, SMGs, shotguns along with LMGs and a couple of sniper rifles are enough to guarantee good times during each and every firefight. Apex Legends has the best gunplay when compared to its direct opponents (PUBG and Fortnite) and that will make lots of players picking this one as their favorite Battle Royale timesink. Each weapon can be upgraded with custom parts which are automatically equipped after you pick them.
The inventory is small, like in Black Ops 4 and you can quickly get rid of unnecessary items since those are clearly marked after you pull up the inventory. There's noticeable lack of ammo, especially during early game so I advise anyone to mark each ammo pack they don't need so they teammates can pick them up in case they need it.
But if you manage to survive for about ten minutes you should find enough ammo to last you until the end of the match. Enemies can take lots of beating because shields can be quite powerful (they are divided into three tiers, with the last one being able to soak 150 points of damage) and they can be recharged, which means that you should always go for the immediate kill. If you leave the enemy to recover, they will most definitely recharge their shields because shield rechargers are much more frequent to find than medkits.
As you've probably noticed I mentioned that the game features different heroes, each one with their own unique abilities. There are eight of them in total (we will get new ones in the future), divided into DPS, Tank, and Support roles, and each can be helpful in their own way.
Each hero has one passive ability, one active that can be used pretty frequently, and one ultimate ability that takes some time to recharge. You have a couple of characters that are basically a must-have in every team (Lifeline with her healing skills, and Bloodhound who's capable of tracking down enemies) but even without picking those "must-have" characters you still have a good chance of surviving till the end if you and your teammates play as a team and cooperate.
It's because each power can be extremely handy but zero of those are OP, and because with team play nothing is impossible. Six heroes are unlocked from the start while two have to be bought with in-game currency, which can be earned by playing the game for about ten hours, which isn't too bad. If Respawn makes future heroes so easily unlocked Apex Legends will surely be forgiven for the inclusion of in-game purchases and 3 (yes, three) in-game currencies.
One of those can be earned while playing while two others are bought with real money. Now, the game offers loot boxes that come with various cosmetic items so having those isn't so bad. And you earn one box for each level meaning that you will have lots of weapon and character skins after a dozen hours of playtime. And, to be honest, there are no skins that look so cool that you simply must own those, meaning that there's really no need to spend money. And yes, the game will start receiving regular, paid battle passes, with the first one scheduled for March.
And finally when it comes to visuals Apex Legends does not disappoint. The game is pretty, colorful, and quite bright. Each item that can be picked up is brightly colored so you simply can't miss seeing a better shield, powerful scope, or ammo type you need. This is excellent because it helps the game to keep its crazy pace even during the loot picking phase when players can stand for seconds trying to figure out which item they could need and which items to dispose of in case they need the extra space.
Textures are sharp, and character models sport the same design philosophy we've seen in Overwatch. Cell shaded-like, with lots of cartoony characteristics, and with lots of bright colors to make them easy to spot in the heat of the battle. The game works excellent both on the PC and PS4, with the PS4 version suffering from occasional slowdowns during the jump phase.
Overall, Apex Legends is an excellent Battle Royale game. It simply works; it's fun as hell; its weapons are enjoyable to shoot; the movement system favors fast movement with lots of jumps and slides, and the pace is quite fast guaranteeing short but sweet matches that end after 15 minutes or so.
Respawn managed to build a game that's extremely fun to play and, even more important in the age of Twitch, extremely fun to watch. They surprised the whole gaming market with Apex Legends and if handled properly (I really hope EA won't mess this one up) Apex Legends can become the second most popular Battle Royale game of them all.
The level of polish is astounding and Respawn shown DICE, Bethesda, Bluehole, BioWare, and others how to make a multiplayer game that works perfectly right on launch. I can recommend it to everyone who likes Battle Royale, fast-paced multiplayer of Titanfall games, cooperative shooters, and shooters that feature top-notch gunplay.
I can only hope that the game will offer solo matches and that we will receive new maps in the future. Now that they released a superb Battle Royale game I hope Respawn will focus on the next Titanfall game and make it better than its predecessors. Apex Legends is great and all but I'm longing for that crazy, parkour-fueled dance found in Titanfall spliced with explosive mech battles that made Titanfall and its successor so unique and enjoyable.