Apex Legends Review
The battle royale genre is in its infancy. Despite the growing amount of developers who are including battle royale modes in their titles, there are still only a couple games that have managed to deliver unique, engaging experiences without technical difficulties. When Apex Legends released out-of-the-blue in early 2019, it succeeded in becoming the first stand-alone AAA battle royale that wasn’t just capable in its controls and its performance, but also took steps to change and evolve the battle royale genre. By adding elements such as hero-based abilities, respawn beacons, and a diverse pinging system, Apex Legends accentuated its great shooting controls and unique player movement, ultimately raising the bar for future battle royales.
When it comes to first-person shooters, it’s easy to know when firing a weapon feels good, but it’s difficult to describe why. Whatever the mixture of audio and visual effects is that produces satisfying gunplay, Apex Legends has it. There are a dozen or so weapons in the game, each different from one another, but all capable of taking down an enemy (except, perhaps, the damned Mozambique shotgun). The balance between guns in Apex Legends generally rewards skill over luck while still being a tier-based system. More often than not this leads to moments of joy from finding a powerful gun as opposed to moments where you feel cheated when an enemy’s amazing weapon beats you instead of player skill. All the boxes are ticked here: pistols, shotguns, SMG’s, and LMG’s – even energy weapons – and it’s easy to find your niche weapon after playing a few rounds. Accessories for guns grant a sense of progression through a game and in some cases can change singular guns in big ways. Like Respawn’s Titanfall series, Apex Legends has that particular strand of Call of Duty DNA that makes the shooting feel good and gives each gun its own personality.
Also like the Titanfall series, Apex Legends gives its players a lot more freedom in physical movement than other shooters. There isn’t wall running, but players can climb up the sides of buildings to get up to high points quickly and use momentum to slide down hills and jump farther. Balloons on ropes let you fly up and then down into a new spot, while zip lines let you attack – or retreat from – a location quickly. This movement means that gunfights are often quick, that attacking is the best plan, and that flanking is extremely viable. It also makes retreating and healing an option – as long as you’re prepared for enemies to move in on you quickly. What I enjoy most about the movement in Apex Legends is it gives you a tons of options when it comes to engaging in a gunfight. The other few other unique elements of Apex Legends, such as landing quickly without a parachute (RIP Radical Heights) and the ability to respawn dead teammates, help in making Apex Legends feel unique.
Apex Legends has a handful of characters to choose from, each with their own unique passive, active, and special abilities. Most abilities are useful and fun to use (Pathfinder’s grapple or Bangalore’s passive speed boost), although a few stinkers exist (Mirage’s special or Gibraltar in general). Guns and shooting are still the main tools here, but certain hero skills have quite a bit of usefulness as well as depth, rewarding those who practice them. The inclusion of hero abilities gives players just a few more options on how to approach and engage in gunfights, and the game is better for it. As for the writing of the heros, their backstories feel like they were written in ten minutes and the incredibly high number of cringeworthy quips that the characters spout during a match is both nauseating and impressive. I feel like quips inherently induce slaps to the forehead, but that doesn’t really excuse the fact that Apex Legends is filled with annoying dialogue. The good news is that you’ll likely be too busy sliding down hills and shooting people in the face too really let it bother you.
Apex Legends is the next big step in the evolution of the battle royale genre and it succeeds in large part by combining elements of other games, then polishing it all to a nice shiny finish. The shooting feels great and so does player movement. Being able to respawn teammates means you’re never really out of a fight if you have teammates alive. Hero abilities add depth and strategy to fights. What the battle royale genre was lacking was a game with great gun controls, a solid framerate, and a sense of personality. With Apex Legends, Respawn entertainment delivered all of that and a whole lot more.