Apex Legends is the Battle Royale Game You Should Be Playing

The best way to tackle this is probably a questionnaire format. There are lots of battle royale games vying for your attention these days, and I didn’t want to write about this one pretending those didn’t exist. Let’s compare them directly. Also, if I do it this way, I can get back to playing sooner.

What is Apex Legends?

Okay, so quick history lesson. Remember how amazing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was? How about Modern Warfare 2? Well those guys left Activision a long time ago and formed a new studio called Respawn Entertainment. They made Titanfall 2 for Xbox, PS4, and PC. It is one of the best shooters of the last decade (some would argue the best multiplayer shooter since Modern Warfare) but it never had the sales to go along with the acclaim.

Apex Legends is the next game from these people.

Okay… But What is Apex Legends?

It’s a squad-based, character-based, free-to-play, battle royale, first-person shooter. If you really wanted to be reductive about it, you could say it’s a cross between Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, with the shooting from Modern Warfare, and the characters of Overwatch. It was developed in secret until yesterday, when it was announced and released at the same time.

Why should I play this instead of Fortnite Battle Royale, PUBG, etc.?

Where do I even start… The main reason is that it plays much better than the rest of the genre. Apex is built similarly to the Modern Warfare-era shooters, so it has that smooth frame rate and excellent control you might remember from back then. It’s one of those games that just feels good to play. The matches are smaller (60 players, split into 20 squads of three) but there’s also less empty space, so you get the tension of battle royale, but the gunplay of a traditional shooter. The second reason this should be your battle royale of choice right now is that it oozes great game design and fresh ideas. It’s clearly inspired by people who’ve played these games and identified how to make them better.

Blackout mode in Call of Duty Black Ops 4 also feels great, though.

I agree, and that’s the battle royale game you should have been playing… until now. Apex plays better, straight up. Also, it’s free.

I’m intrigued but what’s this character stuff? I don’t want to lose just because someone picked the character that beats my character. Is this just Overwatch: Battle Royale?

Not really. So there are 8 characters to choose from, and they have unique style/personalities like you would see in Overwatch. However, they all have the same stats, same movement speed, and access to the same weapons, so the game still plays like a normal shooter regardless of who you select. The characters each have one passive ability, one usable skill, and one ultimate. They’re unique enough to influence your decisions, but none of them will break a game or instantly win you a fight like ultimates in other games.

However, like in Overwatch, most of your unlocks will be tied to these characters. You’ll get loot boxes with skins, poses, voice lines, and so on. So if you’re concerned that having pre-defined characters takes away from that customization of something like Fortnite’s character system, you’ll still have your chances to show some style. I’d also like to add that as someone who hates the corny, whimsical style of Fortnite and the “Saturday morning cartoon” vibe of Overwatch’s cast, I liked Apex’s characters. They’re not stereotypes, they all seem like capable soldiers, yet they’re also likable.

Squad-based, you say? What if I want to play solo?

The short answer is, you can’t. If you go into matchmaking without a party, you’ll be matched into a three-player squad.

Ew. That means I have to talk to randoms on the internet in voice chat, right?

Aha! You’ve stumbled into the single best thing about Apex: the ping system. The R1/RB button (I don’t know the PC controls) will flag anything you’re looking at for your team. If you see some level-1 armor, aim at it, hit ping, and it’ll create a marker that shows your squad where it is, along with a text pop-up saying “[Your name] found [armor - level 1]. Also, your character will call out the item verbally. That’s already a huge step up from how every other battle royale game handles player communication, but it goes way deeper.

You can mark enemies and they’ll show up for your allies. You can mark locations and then hold the ping button down to choose options like “I’m defending this point” or “I’m going over there”. You can ping your own inventory to ask players for ammo or other items. You can even highlight something someone else pinged, and press ping to respond with “Okay” or “No”. It’s brilliant. It allows you to communicate most of what you’d need to in a multiplayer match without ever having to voice chat, and it’s all on one damn button. I’ve played the game while in voice chat, and still constantly used pings.

But I just don’t like battle royale games. Dying to random stuff and not being able to respawn is not fun.

I don’t like battle royale games either! Since this game can only be played in squads, dying puts you into a “down, but not out” state, like a lot of modern shooters. You know: the thing where you crawl around waiting on a teammate to revive you. Apex also adds an innovative twist to that, though. If you die-die, any surviving teammate can go to your body and pick up your banner. If they deliver your banner to a respawn point (these are scattered across the map), they can revive you at any time. It’s very possible to have your squad get wiped at the start of a match, sneak away to a respawn point, and bring them back at the end. It adds a new layer of gameplay to the battle royale format beyond just the scavenge > hide > kill people loop.

Image via Polygon

Sounds cool, but it’s free-to-play. Will I get murdered by players who spend more money on the game than me?

Right now, the only purchasable stuff is cosmetic. You get skins and stuff for your characters, as well as stat trackers. Side note: they even made stat trackers cooler than I’ve ever seen in any other game. You can choose which stats to show, and some of them are fun joke stats. Additionally, everything I’ve seen can also be earned from simply playing the free version of the game. You’ll also never get duplicates from loot boxes, as far as I can tell. If you do, the game will instead give you crafting materials that can be turned into an item of your choice.

I like how Fortnite gets new stuff added to it every so often. Is that going to happen with this game?

I wonder the same thing. Fortunately, Respawn has already put out a bit of a roadmap for the future of Apex Legends.

That’s not very specific, but I think it’s a really good sign that they’re already communicating their plans to players and the game is barely 24 hours old. Add to that the fact that they’ve already come out and said they’re only working on this game and not a Titanfall 3 and it’s pretty clear that they have a lot riding on its success. Call me optimistic, but it says a lot to me that a world-class development studio jumped on the battle royale bandwagon without the parachute of putting it in as just an optional mode like Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V are doing. I think they’re committed.

You’ve compared it to a lot of other games. What else is unique about this one?

Here’s a little list of things that jumped out at me.

A look at some of the skins. Image via Trusted Reviews.

  • Movement. Titanfall is the shooter that started the wall-running, double-jumping phase of shooters this generation. That stuff isn’t in this game, but it does have a great mantling system (that’s video-game speak for the thing where if you jump at a ledge or a window, your character will pull themselves up automatically), and a sprint-slide. The slide is really cool too because if you slide downhill, you move faster than normal sprinting. Which brings me to the next point…

  • Map design. Respawn makes hardcore multiplayer shooters. They’re not a team of modders like the people behind PUBG, nor are they a group of people who threw their game together in a couple months as an experiment, like the Fortnite team. As a result, the map in Apex is made like a shooter map. You move faster by sliding downhill, so there are lots of places to slide. You’ll need to get from point A to point B very quickly at times, so there are launchers placed around the area to move you, and they’re easy to see from a distance. Those respawn points for when your teammates die are important, so they’re marked on the map. However, they’re also positioned so they’re easy to reach. The map feels like a bunch of people played the game and thoughtfully filled it with things that complement the game’s design. It doesn’t feel like just a giant, open stretch of space with some scattered buildings, as in PUBG.

  • There’s a training room! How in the hell have we had this many battle royale games, yet none of them launched with somewhere and test out the weapons? Training mode also teaches you how to revive people and use your abilities.

  • Drops. The weapon systems leans much more PUBG than Fortnite. This means you won’t find guns that are epics and legendaries and whatnot. Instead, you’ll find guns and also attachments, and you’ll decide which parts to add to which weapons. Instead of the Fortnite style, where a rare drop would be a really good assault rifle, a good find in this would be a rifle that already has attachments on it. If you want that fancy scope on your shotgun, just take it off of that rifle. Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode works similarly, and executes this idea very well, but the inventory management controls in Apex are better.

  • There’s no beta. There’s no early access BS. The game was released and ready to go the instant they announced its existence. It runs super smoothly, the matchmaking does what it’s supposed to do, and I’ve had exactly one bug in about 10 hours of play. This level of commitment to polish is not the norm for battle royale games.

When you jump to start the match, there’s a trail behind your enemies showing you where they’re landing. Good game design is good.

You must really like this game.

I do, but it’s also partially because of the context of its release. Like I mentioned in the intro when you started reading this article a year ago, Respawn has some baggage. When these people were working at Infinity Ward, they redefined the multiplayer shooter genre with the first Modern Warfare. They’re the reason shooters give XP and do aiming down the sights. They left Activision because they didn’t like seeing the Call of Duty brand they popularized get milked by other studios. They landed at EA, and put out a couple incredible games that largely went ignored because Titanfall wasn’t an established franchise (and also because Titanfall 2 was released within a week of Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare). Now they’re taking another huge risk, banking once again on their ability to make damn good games. I personally want to see those efforts rewarded. So yeah, Apex Legends is a well-made, fun video game. But it’s also a game you can feel good about supporting.

What’s up with the name?

I have no idea! What a terrible name. Why not just call the game Apex? Well I went and Google’d to see if the name was taken and apparently there was a totally forgettable racing game in 2003 called Apex for the original Xbox. I feel like, if it was me, I would have just changed the name completely, but who knows how far along they were in development when they realized Apex was taken. Maybe they already had t-shirts and logos and stuff. I don’t know. Making games is hard.

Play Apex Legends. It’s free and it’s on your Xbox One and your PlayStation 4 and your PC right now.

Know someone who likes shooters with bad names (which is every shooter except Bulletstorm and Gears of War)? Share this article using the buttons below!