Apex Legends – Xbox One Review
Coming out of nowhere and completely blindsiding the gaming community, Apex Legends launched within 24 hours of being announced and has completely changed my opinion on Free to Play Battle Royale shooters. Well this one at least.
Respawn the team behind Titanfall 1 and 2 (which is still one of the best multiplayer experiences you can have) had done the unthinkable and kept this game a complete secret from everyone. Nothing was known about Apex Legends until the day before it launched and kudos to Respawn and EA for keeping it that way. Since the game launched it has gone on to hit incredible numbers. The game registered 2.5 million games in the first 24 hours, that figure has now shot up to 10 million with one million concurrents in just a few days. These are huge numbers that most games can only dream of.
A large part of that success is it’s free to play model. Everyone wants something for free so what’s not to love? A free game even by a studio as revered by me as Respawn doesn’t equal instant success. A free game still has to play well and many have come and gone in the past with barely a whimper. But the big question is how does it play and the short answer is superb.
Planted firmly in Titanfall lore the backstory here is one of a peace believe it or not. The Frontier War is finally over and the Apex Games have emerged as a way for those among the world’s many factions to still satisfy their blood lust and that’s all you need to know. The game doesn’t need some ridiculously convoluted story to drive it. The arena combat here has been stripped back to its bare bones with none of Titanfalls gigantic mechs in sight and my immediate reaction upon playing for a few hours was how badly I missed them and how unimpressive the game was without them. I stayed the course though and a few hours later I couldn’t put my controller down and I was once again embedded in the world of Titanfall.
Taking a note out of Overwatch’s hero playbook you get to pick one out of the six Legends that are currently available with an additional two locked behind a paywall or unlockable via the games ridiculously stingy reward system . Each Legend plays completely different so you’re bound to find one that fits your playing style. Each Legend has his or her own tactical and ultimate abilities which can swing the tide of a battle in a heartbeat or resurrect a near fatally wounded team member or squad. At first glance some of these abilities can seem overpowered but don’t be fooled into thinking these will allow you to power your way through to victory. Respawn have got the balance just right and the way your squad works together is far more powerful and important on the road to victory than any of the characters tactical or special ability.
Picking your favourite character to play with will depend if your someone who likes to play defensively, offensively or provide support. Whichever playstyle you prefer you’ll not be found wanting for choice. There is a good selection of characters to choose from each with their own pluses and minuses. I always play as the support character Ajay Che, AKA Lifeline. Her ability to not only heal herself but also her teammates is crucial when you find yourself in a fix. She can also revive fallen teammates 25% quicker than anyone else and her Ultimate is a care package drop that holds up to three items with a chance of them being level 2 or higher. But that’s just me you might want to play as a tank character like Gibraltar or take a stealthier approach with someone like Bloodhound who is a Tracker or Caustic who lays traps for his unsuspecting victims.
Prior to each game beginning a splash screen will show you a Champion and his/her accompanying teammates. The Champion is someone who has proven their worth in a previous game by being the best player in that session. Killing the Champion will snag you a handsome 500 XP. But that’s not the end of it because the Champion banner gets passed around during the match so there are multiple opportunities to bag yourself some sweet XP especially if you’re lucky enough to kill the Champion a couple of times. Each game also has a Kill Leader which is unsurprisingly the player with the highest kill count. Take down the Kill Leader and you’ll get an additional 50XP. It’s another example of Respawns ability to think outside the box and help push the risk/reward gameplay and keep the game flowing. Camping out in this game isn’t advisable. Sure you can do that if you wish but you won’t last long as you’ll be quickly hunted down by a pack of rabid legends. Everything here is geared towards movement and the slow pace of a game like PUBG just doesn’t sit right here.
As with any team based game communication is key but as we all know by now you’re either going to end up paired up with a sweaty kid, a Sergeant Major, someone blaring music down their microphone or nobody speaking at all. So it’s kudos to Respawn for their ping/tagging system which is, dare I say it a revelation. If you can see it you can tag it and whatever information needs to be passed onto your squad is done instantly. Want to move to a key location on the map? Just point your reticle at it, press RB and the system creates a waypoint everyone can see as well as communicating it verbally in the voice of your chosen character. It’s the same slick system when you find guns, ammo and armour you just point, tag and it’s relayed to everyone as well as marked on the hud. Spot an enemy and it’s the same process. This might sound clunky but it’s really slick and intuitive during gameplay.
Bleeding out or getting killed doesn’t mean game over either. You can be healed when your bleeding out but you’ll have very low health so you’ll need to heal straight away. Unusually for a Battle Royale game dying doesn’t mean it’s game over. Any death in the game results on a loot drop in the form of a crate. Inside your crate will be a banner which one of your teammates can pick up as long as the get to it within 90 seconds of you dying. When your banner has been retrieved you can be respawned at any of the respawn points on the map. You’ll respawn with none of your previous weaponry, armoury or attachments so you’ll need to haul arse and pick up gear pretty quickly.
Every other shooter that comes out these days has a Battle Royale mode tagged on or has one in the pipeline but Apex Legends stands head and shoulders above them all. It’s mix of slick and fast paced gameplay coupled with its intense and constantly moving combat is going to be hard to surpass and with Respawn CEO Vince Zampella recently stating that: “There will be new maps, new modes, new characters, new weapons, new skins. There will be a ton of stuff coming over the next year to 10, maybe. It depends on how successful it is.”