‘Apex: Legends’ innovates in the battle royale shooter genre

Grant Beltrami, Arts Editor

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Signing into Xbox Live, PSN or Discord and seeing all of your friends online in the same game is rare.

Even massively hyped releases like “Grand Theft Auto,” “The Elder Scrolls” and “Call of Duty” don’t sweep the board in their first few days.

Somehow Respawn’s new battle royale game, “Apex: Legends,” accomplished this feat following its surprise release on Feb. 4.

According to Business Insider, “Apex” had 25 million registered players in its first week, a feat that took “Fortnite” 41 days to accomplish.

But is the game good? Is it fun? Does it have staying power? Yes, yes and maybe.

The gunplay in “Apex” is tight. There is not a whole lot of aim assist on console; this coupled with a lot of recoil on some weapons makes automatics tough keep tracked on a strafing enemy.

Shotguns are satisfying to use and effective at a decent range with the right attachments. Sniping is difficult, as it should be.

There is significant bullet travel time and bullet drop, but no wind effect or need to hold breath. Good scopes have rangefinders and drop crosses that take out some of the guesswork.

The only problem I have with the gunplay in this game is there are not any guaranteed one shot kills. Even the 50 cal. Sniper rifle, the Kraber, will fail to kill a player with full armor and a level three helmet.

Technically the Mastiff, a shotgun that can only be obtained from supply drops, will OHKO a fully armored player if every pellet hits their head. But that is not by any means a reliable outcome.

One problem I have with Apex’s weapon sandbox however is the Wingman, a 6-12 shot, depending on magazine, heavy pistol that is the best gun for almost every situation.

Each shot deals 45 base damage, 90 with a headshot and over 100 with the skull piercer attachment. The Wingman is laser accurate and has a decent rate of fire.

By comparison the Longbow sniper does 55 base damage and 110 with a headshot, but is almost impossible to aim hip-fired, has a slow rate of fire and a smaller magazine.

The power and versatility of the Wingman makes it a must have and limits practical weapon combos.

“Apex” only allows you to carry two weapons at a time, so basically the Wingman and one other, or two Wingmans.

I absolutely love the way movement works and feels in this game.

Right out of the drop ship, as you rocket toward the ground, there is a technique to gliding far from the ship.

Nothing feels like an obstacle. You can climb and clamber up about 10 feet of wall by simply holding the jump button.

You can sprint and slide in “Apex” and You will go further depending on the slope of the terrain you are sliding on. Sliding downhill is really fun and a great way to cover distance quickly.

The absolute best thing about movement in “Apex” is that there is no fall damage. It is incredibly freeing to be able to move and climb without having to plan a way down or worry about killing yourself over a misstep while scoped in. It also allows for creative ambush strategies in many areas across “Kings’ Canyon.”

Overall the game feels polished, which is a rare feeling for a new game, let alone one that did not have an open beta.

“Apex” does a lot of things right and has made some major improvements to the battle royale formula.

Most notable among Apex’s innovations is the contextual pinging system.

Similar to Battlefield’s spotting system The ping system allows for one button communication that is intuitive and all-encompassing. Pinging an enemy will spot them on teammates maps, pinging a weapon on the ground will signal its location, pinging an empty slot on your own weapon will signal that you are looking for an extended magazine, scope or other attachment.

The ping system is so effective that it is faster than using voice chat in most situations.

Another innovation is the jumpmaster system. The jumpmaster decides when to leave the drop ship and controls the entire squad until they reach the ground.

Other players can break off and control themselves individually if they wish but the jumpmaster system helps keep squads together at the start of the game and lets non-jumpmaster take a snack break.

“Apex” has a lot in common with other battle royale shooters.

Each match has 60 players drop in teams of three from a ship that is slowly flying across the map. Players are unarmed upon landing and must find weapons and armor in buildings and crates.

An ever-shrinking dome of fire constricts the field of play and keeps players moving towards each other until the game ends with one squad left standing.

“Apex” is a hero-based first-person shooter. Each hero has three abilities, one passive, one active and one ultimate ability.

The passive abilities do things like allow you to see footprints of enemy players up to one minute old, know when an enemy is looking at you and know the next location of the hill.

Players can use their abilities to deploy smokescreens, heal allies, set traps, turn invisible for a few seconds or grapple to a nearby object or enemy, among other things. Most active abilities can be used every 30 seconds or so.

Ultimate abilities slowly refresh but can do things like call in an airstrike, deploy holograms, grant enhanced vision and movement speed and deploy long-range ziplines.

What “Apex” needs now to be successful is a steady stream of additional content.

Right now there is only one map, and 20 different weapons. Adding too many new weapons will clutter the sandbox and some will be deemed useless and never touched. This has already happened with the light pistols and the shotgun handgun A.K.A. the Beak.

I don’t see skins in this game being nearly as popular as skins in “Fortninte.” The art style doesn’t lend itself to colorful and distinct outfits and, even if it did, playing from the first-person perspective means you don’t get to appreciate your own appearance during games, only during menus.

Each hero has a distinct look but It’s hard to imagine dropping $10 or $15 for a slight recolor or change in their appearance only visibly from 20 feet away or closer, compared to “Fortnite” where you can look like a T-Rex or a Marshmallow or John Wick or Santa and you can see what skin someone is using from 100 yards out.

Apex’s success shows that there is still room for improvement and innovation in the already saturated battle royale market.  Its longevity remains to be seen, but I’m having fun and I hope they can keep it feeling fresh.

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