Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: 2/4/2019
Rating: Teen (Blood, violence)
REVIEWED ON PS4 PRO
Upon finding yourself to this review, you may be jesting, “Oh nooo, AnNNoOOoTttHhEeR BaAAtTllLeE RoYyAalLeE GaAmMeE.” But before doing so, let me do my best to explain to you that Respawn Entertainment’s newest addition to their first-person shooter catalogue only ups the ante in this relatively new realm of battle royale genre games taking the foreground. Apex Legends puts the player in the shoes of one of eight legends (with Caustic and Mirage available for purchase via microtransactions or experience points – curse you EA!) Each legend is equipped with their own unique abilities, battling for supreme domination on a remote alien island against 19 other teams, each made up of three legends. A map hosting 60 players may seem a little less than the Fornite counterpart that fueled this growing battle royale trend, but this does not make it any less of a fruitful addition to the ever growing roster of free-to-play video games in the battle royale genre.
Jumping to your death – in groups of 3
I found myself playing Apex over the course of my Playstation Plus Subscription coming to a close – free-to-play they say, don’t worry we’ll get to this later. So, my first impressions were that it borrowed the fast paced character mobility and action from the late Titanfall, which I thoroughly enjoyed (the sequel, that is), and that this was a fresh take on a world of re-hashed battle royale games (with the likes of Realm Royale, H1Z1, PUBG, and obviously Fortnite being part of this formula). With the ability to slide and parkour over any obstacle in your way, Apex Legends ensures that despite the dread about to set in, each player can maneuver with ease in and out of battle, making you feel like a badass ninja. The game takes what made Titanfall 2 so good and borrows ideas from class-based shooters like Overwatch without ever jeopardizing it’s own vision. This offers the players a reason to come back for more if they plan on mastering every legend. Sure, it may resemble a similar look to Black Ops 4’s Blackout, but the first-person resemblance is where I draw the line. Apex Legends is undoubtedly hard (or maybe I’m still a noob), but once I received my first dub that put my team on the map, I had to come back for another victory (which regrettably did NOT happen the following match).
Every new match starts by putting you in a lobby with two other teammates waiting to pick one of eight legends in an orderly fashion. My go-to character has been, and will probably continue to be at least for the foreseeable future – Pathfinder – who resembles the protagonist Chappie from the 2015 Neil Blomkamp film (with the writer himself expressing interest over Twitter in having Chappie’s video game debut in the form of a skin for Pathfinder.) This legend has an ability that allows for the use of a grappling hook for quick maneuverability in and out of battle, which reloads roughly every ten seconds, and a super move wherein the Pathfinder can set and launch a zipline that allows for fast travelling and traversal of different biomes on the map. This is just one set of abilities for one character, and although it may seem a daunting task to try your luck each match with a different legend, this will allow the player to become familiarized with their favorite play styles over time.
Following picking a character, one of the three teammates is tasked with being the jumpmaster, which can be declined and sent on to the next unknowing victim in a thank you next type fashion, who then chooses the location to drop with the help of teammate deliberation. The team can decide to drop together in a v-formation from the plane, or drop separately and go at the game lone-wolf status (I do not recommend the latter unless you’re Ninja). As the player skydives in, tense music pounds in the background as the trails of other teams flying in from the drop-ship are seen scattered across the skyline, adding to the sense of, “Okay, shit, let’s get in and get out quick”, with the right weapons, ammunition, and supplies necessary to war against other teams vying to do the same. Upon touchdown, the dread of not knowing when or where enemy contact might result starts to set in as bullets, explosions, and in-game kill feed begins to roll in. This is where Apex Legends shines – even if you are downed in the midst of chaos, players can try to revive you or retrieve your banner if you die so that any given teammate has the chance to rise again in battle.
Kill or be killed
The amount of times tension leads to lack of microphone communication is too much to count. Luckily enough, Apex Legends implements a user-friendly communication system to help coordinate with teammates. With the aid of the R1 button for PS4, players can ping certain locations where enemies have been or weapon and ammo caches have been seen, as well as all sorts of goodies with the right experimentation. This slight addition has already been added to the likes of Fortnite in the form of a recent update – a smart implementation especially to a fast paced game such as Apex Legends. Communication is key to victory, so even if you are microphone shy, this marker system works wonders for the many tense situations players will experience.
Mechanically, each weapon shoots and handles differently, adding flair to every distinct kill and mini victory had. With a variety of short, mid, and long-range weapons at the player’s disposal, the way to approach any given scuffle depends on not only the legend’s abilities, but also the two weapons that a legend can hold at any given time. On top of weapons to pick up across the map, Apex Legends offers a plethora of other goodies in the form of different grenades to do area of effect damage with, backpacks to hold more loot, and various levels of armor, medkits, and ammo types to load your weapons with. All things considered, no two legends will play the same on the battlefield (despite similar weapons and the like). For instance, coupling my favorite “Peacekeeper” shotgun with the Pathfinder’s grappling hook offers a sometimes satisfying dope enemy kill, or silly blunder on my part – but this is just one of many in-game instances players can experience. Top this with a zipline as the Pathfinder’s super ability to get myself and my teammates out of harms way makes for a thrilling escape towards the circle or imminent victory. It is easy to see that each legend offers a slice of variety to gameplay, adding to the satisfying feeling of seeing your legend rack up stats as players spend more time learning each of their respective moves.
Picking your legend also means that it was chosen on the basis of your fellow teammates’ decisions. With each legend acting as the usual take on medic, support, and scout type classes to name a few, picking one is essentially half the battle as team dynamics change the course of events. Bangalore is the professional soldier class equipped with airstrikes and smokes, Lifeline is the medic class that heals and drops supplies of various tiers, and Bloodhound is the tracker that aids in teammates’ vision on the enemy. Add in an inter-dimensional traveler and skirmisher, Wraith, as well as a tank class in the form of Gibraltar and you got yourself hours worth of trial and error to play with.
Victory or defeat – let’s play another match
As I mentioned before, I came across Apex Legends towards the end of my Playstation Plus Subscription. A mere month later or so, and what do you know – Apex Legends is now offered free-to-play to ANYONE with wifi access. Undoubtedly a smart move on EA’s part if Fortnite’s rampant success is any consolation, and if we are to judge on the basis of Fortnite’s history, Apex Legends is sure to shine in the days, months, and years to come with this business model in mind.
Battle royale games are intense, but that shouldn’t scare you from picking up the controller and giving this new addition a try. You probably won’t get your first victory the first time you play, and it might even be a handful of games until then, so it’s safe to say that you’ll lose more than win. Accept the fact that with all the huffing and puffing to follow after defeat, the game is hard, but if you’re like me and enjoy the likes of FromSoftware’s level of difficulty, this game is cake in comparison. Nonetheless, there are hours of fun to be had with friends in this game, and with enough practice and patience, you may end up seeing yourself alongside your fellow teammates become the Apex Legends of the battlefield – a beautiful sight indeed worthy of a victorious battle cry.
Reviewed by Maximilian Serventi