Oh, don’t give me that look, you know I’m right.
It’s been a year since Fortnite blew up, two years since PUBG did the same, and three years since I last felt happiness, and in that time, we’ve seen pale imitators merely grasp the prize of being “The Game A Majority Pays Attention To For A Week Or So”. Last Tide, Rings of Elysium, Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, so on and so forth, and now it’s Apex Legends’ turn to grab the cup for a little while.
This is what Respawn have been working on since both Titanfall titles crashed and burned, which seemed impossible since the entire journalism circuit was ready to give it a thumbs up and a happy ending. Nevertheless, both games tanked, and with more Titanfall implied to be on the way, Respawn has a busy year ahead of them with both this and Jedi: Fallen Order confirmed to release.
Right, the gist is that instead of 100, or 88, or 69, or 420 people dropping into a small island, instead it’s 60, with it being sectioned into 20 squads of 3. The island is a claustrophobic mish-mash of jungles, swamps and deserts, and you all fight to the death with Titanfall weaponry, but with the face value gameplay of Titanfall, sans the wall-running, actual titans, and an interesting aesthetic.
Instead of having you control some faceless berk, it instead takes a page from Overwatch‘s book, and lets you choose from 8 characters, with 2 of them being locked away by optional micro-transaction nonsense. All of them exhibit different skills and talents you can use to gain the advantage in battle, including ultimate abilities that range from passive to kinda-passive-but-they-can-kill-if-you’re-really-lucky.
Balancing-wise, I’d say the heroes of Apex Legends play well off of each others abilities, and the only one who could even be remotely considered OP is Gibraltar. Aside from having two different shield abilities– one that’s temporary but invincible, and a breakable one that you gain from simply aiming down sights– His ultimate is a straight-up mortar strike bombardment on one small part of the map, which can practically win matches in the final circles. No other soldier has this kind of benefit with their ultimate, with the character Caustic possibly having an equal advantage with his wide-reaching Gas Grenade. It’s tough to gauge.
Combat is Titanfall without wings. You can’t wall-run, you can’t double-jump, you can’t manipulate the towering environments to your advantage– Y’know, all the things that gave Titanfall that life and brevity the FPS industry so desperately needed? The best you can do is slide down hills at extravagant speeds, which is only advantageous in rare occasions. Zip-lining also plays a heavy part, although it suffers from the same problems mentioned above.
All of the weapons are fan-favorites from Titanfall, but if there’s anything that needs a fat nerf or removal, it’s the Peacekeeper. There is genuinely nothing else in the game that compares to the sheer amount of tactical opportunities this shotgun can grant you. It’s the highest damaging weapon in the game, the range is better than most SMGs, and the “Hop-Up” you can apply to it only increases that power tenfold. It’s a joke of a weapon, and practically renders anything else you can obtain, useless. I have heard complaints that the Peacekeeper is “inconsistent” with its damage, but to be honest, if you think the Peacekeeper’s a bad weapon, it’s because you’re bad at the game.
Back to my original critique, and honestly, what’s the fucking point in finding all these great attachments for a gun like the R-301 Carbine, or a Longbow DMR, only to find out that some prick with a pissing quad-barrel shotgun one-taps you like it’s Russian Overkill? The only other weapon that can possibly stand up to the wrath of a sniper shotgun is the Devotion LMG, which has the confusing design of having less recoil the more you fire it, along with an increasing fire rate. It makes no sense, and only serves to be another example of a cheap kill.
That being said, combat can be fun. Titanfall combat without it explicitly being Titanfall is still fine and dandy, since it still manages to be faster and more rewarding than nearly every other FPS out there. However, despite problems that are inherent within the formula of Titanfall, it’s the battle royale flavor that Respawn have applied that causes further issues.
What’s weird is that the feel of gameplay feels more reminiscent of the first Titanfall, as opposed to the second, which is a problem. The first Titanfall didn’t quite have the parkour/hyperspeed gameplay sorted out, leading to a lot of loose control issues that made the player make more mistakes than what is necessary. Titanfall 2 didn’t have this issue, as everything felt exceptionally tight and focused; movement didn’t feel like I was fighting with my controller or wondering if it was broken, so why isn’t Apex Legends the same?
It’s exceptionally difficult trying to maintain a sense of flow and nuance to heated firefights. There’s an odd delay between when you first start sprinting, and when you can actually slide away. This delay will be the bane of your existence if you get caught with your pants down while looting for something. The only thing you want to do is run away, but you can’t do that when you have to build up your speed, like it’s a Tom & Jerry cartoon and you’re running in place for a second or two.
Lines blur, things get tense, and due to the fact that you can’t reload and sprint straight away (At the same time, that is), if you run out of bullets during a close-quarters fight, you either resort to a fucking awful melee attack, or write your will. It certainly doesn’t help that the magazine size for most weapons is pathetically small, and it also doesn’t help that the Time-To-Kill on Apex Legends is longer than most mainstream FPSes. This leads to a problem: the lack of context regarding damage.
Right, I get that I’m doing damage, okay? I get that I’ve just laced about 200 damage to this guy, and that’s including his armor. My only question is “how much health does he have left?”. Out of how much health did I just take away? An ambiguous bar with no numbers isn’t much help, and in the heat of the moment, paired with estimates, doing “quick maffs” in combat to note how much health my enemy has left is too much work.
The sound design is good, but hampered by unnecessary callouts. Not only is there an announcer mentioning every single thing that happens, from the top ranked player dying to a care package falling from the sky, but the characters in your squad also feel the need to announce everything previously announced before. It’s a never-ending torrent of babble and spit, and it gets in the way of trying to remain vigilant with your hearing.
Characters do have a fantastic time never shutting up. I appreciate the thought and design put into making sure every character is as unique as possible, and I also praise the complete absence of generic white guys talking about FNGs and being cocky. The only problem is that those personalities still remain, and Apex Legends houses some of the most insufferable characters put into a video game as of late.
Yeah, it’s great that these eight characters have various lines, dozens and dozens of different callouts and announcements, but holy shit, if I have to hear Mirage stutter and stammer his way through another line of dialogue, I’m going to force the voice actor to watch Heil Honey! I’m Home. Even then, the writing for many of these characters is piss poor. Bloodhound genuinely says “My name is Bluthund. You may call me Bloodhound”. I know you just said “Bloodhound” in German, you gimpy prick.
However, Apex Legends’ biggest problem at the moment is that if you’re more of a lone wolf, or you simply hate people who don’t share your blood type or favourite episodes of Family Guy, solo-queueing is absolutely forbidden. I would not recommend solo-queueing team-ranked games in Apex Legends’, which might sound obvious, but the selfish personality of players present in this game is staggering.
This forced teamwork angle might be executed better if it wasn’t such a cynical genre to be implemented in. None of the heroes ultimates sync with one another, the pinging system can be used when you or your teammates are down, which shouldn’t be a thing, and squads of 3 seems awkward, as opposed to the usual “Solo, Duo, Quads” standard that works so well. It could be so that ultimates aren’t so relied upon, but again, most of them benefit nobody but the player controlling them, and you can’t pick 4 Gibraltars, Caustics, or Bangalores, so I don’t know.
The only time you will ever play tactically, or sync with your teammates the way you should in-game, is when you’re with a squad that you know. If you want to experience this game in your own way, by yourself and without the worry of two other airheads getting in your way and stealing all of your loot, then you’re going to have to wait until they add a solo option.
Here’s what I recommend in the mean time: If you’re playing solo, and you have the advantages, play as recklessly as possible. The only option they’ll have is following your suicidal decisions, and if they (more than likely) fail to keep up with your demands of constantly moving and attacking players, then they falter, and you don’t have to worry about the extra baggage. It’s Titanfall combat, don’t even worry about the odds, and it’s going to go much better than chaperoning for two fat nonces who are going to rob all of your stuff anyway.
Now that I think about it, both styles of play might appeal to anyone. Whether you’re looking for forced teamwork or want to be a lone wolf that has a total disregarding nature of teammates, both might appeal, because the victory is never as tasty if its shared, and a solo victory is possible. That I can promise you, but what I can’t promise you is how that victory will be earned.
Winning games only feels good depending on the context. Matches switch effortlessly between “Tense Firefights Constantly”, and “Seeing Nobody For 15 Minutes, Only To Get Taken Out By A Mastiff In The Marketplace”, with the latter happening more often. The best way to put it is that your victories will usually be handed to you, as opposed to hard-earned challenges.
Something that’s hard to describe is the utterly boring nature of the map and graphics, despite the interesting aesthetic that Titanfall bought to the table. You’re in an alien world, covered in weird and unique structures, both man-made and bought forth by nature, and even with a map that manages to house both a desert, a swamp, and a lush jungle, it looks so generic.
Apex Legends’ cosmetics are fairly decent, hidden behind paywalls obviously, and with most of them costing disgustingly expensive amounts. You can get their version of loot boxes, dubbed “Apex Packs”, every time you level up, a la Overwatch, but this comes with a catch. As soon as you reach level 20, the Apex Packs only get given to you on every other level, so you don’t get an Apex Pack on level 21, but you get one on level 22, so on and so forth.
It’s admittedly a scummy tactic, and despite Respawn promising that EA had no hand in the micro-transactions or whatever, this does feel like Andrew Wilson has his grubby hands all over it. Yeah, the “it’s just cosmetics” argument is a fair point, but to cheese you out of tons of camos and lines and quips and anything Overwatch already did (but arguably better) is scummy.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the rewards for leveling up were decent, but they’re not. You only 600 of the non-premium currency every time, which translate to a meager 5% of what it costs to unlock either Caustic or Mirage. You don’t get any Crafting Materials (yes, I’m serious, there’s Crafting Materials), and you don’t get any more Apex Packs after Level 20. What’s the bloody point?
Well, that’ll all be answered when the Battle Pass comes out, and thus we reach the main question of Apex Legends, and that’s “What’s the future looking like for it?”, and the answer is “Possibly really good”. The fact that Apex Legends has reached a player count of tens of millions in mere days as opposed to months is impressive, even for a Free-To-Play title, and it all depends on how long this Battle Royale train can be rode out.
Honestly, it’s not that I hate Apex Legends, it’s just that at the moment, there’s not a lot going for it. I’m only wasting my time playing it like mental because it’s the only multiplayer game as of right now that doesn’t make me want to headbutt a child. On the surface, Apex Legends is a much more substantial Battle Royale than Fortnite and Black Ops IIII’s “Blackout” Mode, but once you begin to dig in, there’s not much meat to it.
In the end, Apex Legends is… alright. Like every other Battle Royale title, it does one thing really bloody well, and suffers in other areas. Just like PUBG’s end-game but crap… everything, and Fortnite’s tight mechanics but crap gameplay; with Apex, the execution of hero implementation works better than Realm Royale, but it has some pretty thin offerings at the moment.
With that said, all of these rumours circulating about the direction it’s taking leads me to believe that this is the long sought-after Titanfall 3 everybody wanted. A TDM game mode, tons of new heroes and weapons being added, other game modes and such rumours. If that’s the case, then fair enough, I just wish there was more insight to most of it. Secrecy is one thing, but being blue-balled is another. Could this be the title that finally takes Fortnite off from its default-dancing throne?
We’ll have to see what the future brings, because that’s the excuse people make these days.
This review of Apex Legends was based on the Xbox One version of the game.
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