Not to be the "Finally, a good battle royale game" guy, but...
Many of the battle royale games to come out in the wake of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have felt like mild diversions for the fledgling genre, and all have shared in common a sort of hacked-together feel, like something that gets modded into a game that wasn’t originally designed for it. Apex Legends feels like the first truly new battle royale game to come out post-PUBG, one that is designed from the ground up for that particular style of play. In turn, Apex Legends feels like the point where battle royale finally becomes an established shooter genre, if only because it benefits from two years of other games’ shortcomings.
Apex Legends succeeds because of its smartly designed systems and effective means of communicating with its players. It automates a lot of time-consuming actions of other games, instantly equipping attachments on weapons and transferring them over to new weapons when guns are swapped. Other unnecessary time-wasters, such as lengthy pre-match lobbies and slow parachute descents, are completely absent here. Apex is fast and always focused on the action. The same has been said about other battle royale experiences, but Apex is on another level.
Unsurprisingly given this studio’s pedigree, the shooting in Apex feels outstanding, buttressed by some phenomenal sound design that gives every gunshot a wickedly terrific crack. One of the best features is that ammo is color-coded, so you know what to pick up for your weapons at just a glance. The time-to-kill, already the subject of debate within the community, is quite long, which is sure to turn off some players. But this feels by design, because Apex is also a hero shooter. You’re encouraged to use your character’s abilities, as well as items like grenades, as often as you can. Some of these characters have purely offensive abilities, others defensive. There are even a few who are designed for support and tactical roles, making them effective at gathering intel, getting the jump on opponents, or escaping from bad situations. Everyone is a bit spongey in Apex, though you’ll find that once you start chucking grenades—which are everywhere on the map—and making use of yours and your squadmates' abilities, you'll win fights more often than not.
This focus on teamwork is one of Apex’s greatest strengths, and it’s enhanced by terrific character callouts and an almost miraculous contextual pinging system. A simple marker can be placed anywhere in the environment with the press of a button that both of your squadmates can see. Double tapping this button will tag the location as hostile. Holding the button will bring up even more options, allowing you to tag areas to defend and spots you want to loot. Every single item in the environment can be tagged for your partners to see, and you can even use the feature to request ammo, attachments, healing items, armor, and weapons from the inventory screen. There's character dialogue for all of this, so you'll always know what's happening even if you don't immediately see what's being pinged. Even smaller touches, like getting a prompt to thank a teammate when you’ve picked up something they’ve dropped or pinged, goes a long way to making Apex a wonderfully cooperative game.
It's worth hammering home just how much I love the character callouts in this. In addition to verbalizing whatever you're pinging, characters will also call out when under attack. The game can even detect when an opponent is using a sniper rifle; in one match, a teammate pinged a far off enemy, their character shouted that it was a sniper, and I ducked into cover just as a shot rang out over my head.
After putting a decent number of hours into PUBG on Xbox One—a wretched port, but a somewhat playable one—I was totally done with battle royale. Apex has pulled me back into this style of shooter with its focus on cooperation, satisfying combat, and speed of play. The fact that a surviving squadmate can respawn fallen comrades was the initial impetus for me to download Apex, but I’ve been constantly surprised at how the game takes the stressful, often frustrating battle royale experience and makes it this exciting and approachable.