By WillHeroX 3 Comments
It's easy to point at all the games that Apex Legends is comparable to. There's the militaristic, attachment-focused gunplay seen in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, the more fast-paced style of battle royale that Fortnite has, and Overwatch's choice to feature specific characters with certain abilities. Then there's of course the fact that it plays like Respawn's own Titanfall (it is from the same universe, anyway). All of it blends together to create a package I've been having an extremely great time with. My favorite part is definitely how solid the gunplay feels (Titanfall 2 was a great game for a reason!) but one of the things that's stood out to me the most is how much it feels like I've gotten a successor to Left 4 Dead 2.
Yeah, that probably sounds wrong.
Left 4 Dead 2 is a heavily linear game in a lot of ways. Every time you play a level, you go from the same beginning to the same end, perform the same objectives, shoot the same enemies, and utilize the same weapons. The thing that's different is where those weapons are placed, and when the enemies appear. Chances are a Tank will show up in one of Dead Center's four levels, but it could be any of them; you could fight one right at the beginning in the burning hotel, or out near the gun store during the crescendo event. Then there are Witches; how many of them will you encounter? Will a Hunter interrupt your attempt to crown them, or could a Boomer conveniently stand next to one, preventing you from dealing with either to avoid causing the horde to appear?
Battle Royales are similar in a lot of ways. You start with no items (you do start with a pistol in Left 4 Dead though), finding them in the environment as you go along towards the final encounter. Along the way you may meet your end to an enemy, and it'll probably be a different scenario then the last time you played, with them emerging from different places or targeting someone specifically, when you and your team are spread out in a slightly different way. The toolset is the same, but what the games do with them varies. Apex Legends obviously has more variety in this department due to being a Battle Royale, with dozens of possible starting locations, and having character abilities, and multiplayer (Left 4 Dead does have Versus, but that's not exactly what I'm referring to here), yet the general feel has stuck with me at times of how they evoke the same "let's do a run together."
But the biggest correlation between Respawn's latest title and Valve's best game is how the characters interact with the environment, other players, and enemies.
The Left 4 Dead series has eight playable characters; Louis, Zoey, Francis, and Bill in 1, and Coach, Nick, Rochelle, and Ellis in 2. Each has a defined personality and relationship with their fellow survivors. They'll joke with one another about things they see, their lives, and other things. Despite appearances, Left 4 Dead does have a defined narrative. The characters just react slightly differently each time because of minute changes in the environment and enemy placement. The biggest thing about this though is that they talk about things they see and find. If Francis approaches a place where a gun is stashed, he might yell "We got weapons over here!" and if Louis sees some pills...well, you know. You rely on these people telling you they found things, and that doesn't require a human player typing it out or mentioning it in voice chat. Sure those options exist, but they aren't explicitly necessary. This system isn't perfect by any means, but it's there and it makes such a difference, especially when Nick calls out "Boomer!" to alert his comrades about a threat.
Apex Legends operates in a really similar (though different) way. Apex's legends are constantly talking about a variety of things; where to go next, what ammo they could use more of, that attachment they found sitting on the floor of some dusty shack...the difference is that it's initiated by the player. The player decides what information is worth communicating, which is then voiced by the in-game character, along with a pop-up that will display an icon of whatever that person is trying to get across to their squad. Unless someone spams the functionality (and even when they do), the lines feel natural, and being able to respond with confirmations is a great way to make it feel as though you can communicate with others without voice chat, and also have the characters react to their environment.
Fortnite, by comparison, has none of this. The only communications that exist are either text-based or emotes, which aren't really useful in the heat of battle. If I ever found myself playing squads with randoms, I had to go to the house they had looted to see if they left anything I could use. Sure, I do that in Apex too, but there's at least an indication of whether I absolutely need to or not at times, if say someone else finds a really good armor piece they have a duplicate of already. The tagging enemies part is something that other games can't match though; I have so much more awareness of where both my teammates and enemies are in Apex, and the game feels better because of it. Fortnite requires that I run towards where I hear the shots, but that sometimes isn't enough as I run through doors, or mishear which floor an enemy is on, resulting in inefficiency.
Apex does suffer from the fact that, as of this writing, there's no actual banter. Wraith doesn't scoff at Mirage's bad jokes (they're good jokes, I just mean the good-bad kind. Uh. Right), Pathfinder isn't running up to Caustic and going "You're a scientist! Are you friends with my creator?" or anything silly like that. It makes all the characters feel a bit distant from each other in this regard. Even though they actually respond in conversations initiated by the player, Bangalore isn't actually talking to Lifeline about anything in particular; the "thanks" is non-specific and is only usable when the game deems it so. Apex is a battle royale though; the game can't just have the characters start talking to each other, because an enemy could suddenly appear out of nowhere and interrupt the flow of dialogue. I don't think it's necessary to have them talk to one another, but it would be nice to help make them feel more like people: Even having character specific-reactions would be nice (i.e. someone being a bit hesitant with their confirmations on Mirage's lines since he's...well, he's Mirage).
You may be asking at this point: what about Overwatch? That game's situational writing is similar, but it feels different to me. It certainly accomplishes a lot of what Left 4 Dead 2 does, but it's a different game; you don't go around picking stuff up in Overwatch, and you don't call out new areas to head to really. Additionally, Apex being a game where everyone can use all the same guns/healing items/etc makes it feel a lot closer to Left 4 Dead for me, since I liked that Left 4 Dead was a multiplayer game where everyone could essentially fill the same role. When I chose a character in Left 4 Dead, it was because I felt like playing as them then and having their voice represent me. The same is true now for Apex...except I only use Wraith because she's my favorite and none of the others stand out as ones I want to hear as my voice. Both Apex and Overwatch fulfill various aspects of what I liked about Valve's zombie shooter, but Apex comes closer to capturing the feel of the game I spent most of my high school afternoons playing.
Hey, while you're here, if you want to, check out my montage of my first week with Apex!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go play some more of this game, and hope I land near a house that has a Flatline.