The first time I downloaded “Apex Legends,” I deleted it after five minutes. It felt stale, like ‘Titanfall 2”-lite with “Fortnite” jammed in. Then I played it a few more times at a friend’s house, and the gameplay proved to be a little more fun than I’d originally thought—though I remained cynical. However, since I had been broke for the past two weeks, the idea of a free new video game that millions of other people were playing (that’s not “Fortnite”), was too much to resist. So I redownloaded it, and now I can’t stop.
For the uninitiated, “Apex Legends” is a battle royale game. It places players into squads of three who jump to wherever they want on a big map. You land, and then you have to scavenge for gear, and a circle that gets progressively smaller funnels players into the same area. Eventually, one team emerges victorious.
I’m not a sucker for the battle-royale game mode. I don’t find it immediately compelling. But “Apex Legends” takes that idea and makes it viable for people like me who are looking for a little more strategy and cooperation in their video games. The game is also a hero shooter that forces you to work (and communicate) with your teammates, scratching my “Overwatch” itch. It’s addictive, nail-biting first-person gameplay that forces you to be strategic. In short, it’s like crack.
A great online multiplayer game allows you to make your own stories. There has to be room for creativity and exploration. I can’t forget the skin-of-my-teeth moment the other day when another teammate and I were revived from the brink of death, and our squad ended up finishing in second place. Or the time I was matched with two high-level players who went straight for Skull Town (the Tilted Towers of “Apex”) and proceeded to massacre everyone while I cowered in the corner with my measly pistol. By forcing you to play with other people in a meaningful way, the game gives you control over the narrative.
I hate talking to internet strangers, so the fact that I can ping enemies, gear, directions, etc. without talking or being verbally harassed by twelve year-olds is great. There’s something fulfilling about telling your team that there’s an enemy over on the left or that there’s a rare helmet in this chest without having to use a headset. The pinging system is so great that “Fortnite” has already copied it.
As a fan of the “Borderlands” games—games that made the first-person looter shooter popular, I enjoy that beginning dash to grab gear as fast as possible. I get a dopamine rush scavenging for weapons, armor and ammo that’s reminiscent of “Borderlands” and “Destiny.” While in “Fortnite” or “Call of Duty’s” “Blackout” mode it can feel like a long time before you get a good gun, “Apex Legends” minimizes that downtime; it’s another part of the battle-royale game praxis that the game improves.
“Apex” feels great because it was made by Respawn Entertainment, a studio founded by ex- “Call of Duty” developers responsible for “Titanfall” and “Titanfall 2.” As one of the six people who played “Titanfall 2,” I can say that the same great design and gameplay experience carry over. Your character has weight, and, even though you cannot use giant robots to smite your opponents into oblivion, the parkour, zipline and mud slide traversal feel as good as in those games.
The game runs great. It’s rarely buggy, and I usually load into matches within seconds. Your teammates can be toxic, but it’s the internet, so that’s kind of to be expected. It just works, which is sometimes a lot to ask (looking at you “Anthem”).
“Apex Legends” is free, so there’s no reason not to play it. Just do what I did: download it, play it, delete it and repeat. According to gaming site Polygon, “Apex” reached 50 million players in its first month—it’s a hit! Go play it!