Apex Legends is a free-to-play battle royale first person shooter made by Respawn Entertainment, the studio behind the brilliant Titanfall 2.If you’ve not played a battle royale style game before, the premise is straightforward: a number of small teams are dropped into an arena without any weapons or defensive items. Players must search the environment for weapons, ammo and armour, and, thus equipped, track down and defeat the opposing teams without being eliminated. Victory, of course, goes to the last team standing (whether in whole or part).
This is far harder than it sounds. Firstly, though Apex Legends’ arena is huge – and even when populated with over 40 players it can take a good few minutes just to find someone – every few minutes the map shrinks: a ring gradually closes, and anyone caught outside it very quickly perishes unless they reach the safe zone. This means that surviving teams are slowly but surely pushed together. Secondly, fights are short, sharp and usually over very quickly. Thirdly, unlike old-fashioned FPS arena games, death does not mean a chance to respawn and get back into the fray. No, if you’re down, the only way to rejoin the fight is for one of your teammates (often still under enemy fire) to recover a ‘token’ from your remains and then survive long enough to reach a respawn point. If all your teammates are down then that’s it. Game over. This can all happen surprisingly quickly, too. Fortunately, with plenty of games and players available, there’s never more than a short wait before you’re starting afresh.
Set in the same universe as the Titanfall games, Apex Legends draws heavily on not only the weapons from Titanfall 2, but also the movement system. Pressing the ‘crouch’ button whilst sprinting will put your character into a fast slide – especially useful for going downhill quickly – and running at a wall and hitting ‘jump’ will let your character scale all but the highest of buildings. Also, thanks to your character’s ‘jump-pack’ (a sort of limited rocket pack), you can jump with impunity from the highest of vantage points.
For veterans of Titanfall 2, however, be warned that while Apex Legends draws heavily upon Titanfall 2’s movement mechanics, grappling, horizontal wall runs (where you can briefly defy gravity and run along a wall) and double-jumps are absent (meaning that for crazy, fast-paced combat with near total freedom of movement, Titanfall 2 is still the best game to experience this in).
As for characters, at the start of each match players can choose from a range of characters or ‘legends’, each with different abilities. These range from a chirpy robot who can create zip-lines to quickly move between locations, to characters who can heal, set traps, teleport, or even create holographic doubles to confuse the enemy. These give each character a wildly different feel and style, and you’ll be likely to spend some time puddling around before you find the character which suits you.
So how does Apex Legends actually play? Perhaps the best word to describe the game is solid. What it does, it does well, and without fuss or issue – something remarkable in a game which cost you literally nothing to play. Controls have the same tight and responsive feel from Titanfall 2, and Respawn have really given thought into making the experience of communicating with your squad as easy as possible. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than the intuitive, context-sensitive ‘ping’ system. With a touch of one button, it is possible to quickly alert your teammates to the position of weapons/ammo/armour or enemies.
The battle royale genre is notfor everyone – some players will like the tension inducing, rapid and (virtually) final nature of the combat, whilst others will prefer the older, more forgiving style of FPS arena gameplay of the Unreal Tournament and Quake series. Regardless, with its solid gameplay and production values, if you like the battle royale genre, or have never experienced it and are just plain curious, Apex Legends is well worth playing. ■