'Apex Legends' Is Not 'Titanfall 3,' But It's Still Great

EA’s new battle royale game is all about the joy of movement, teamwork, and fantastic superpowers.

by Matthew Gault
Feb 6 2019, 5:01pm

Image: Electronic Arts

Apex Legends, a free to play battle royale game where 60 players drop on an island and kill each other until only one team remains, is the latest game set in the Titanfall universe, but Titanfall fans are not happy.

The Titanfall subreddit is full of memes making fun of publisher Electronic Arts and developer Respawn Entertainment for chasing the formula of the hottest shooter in the world, Fortnite, and lamenting the fact that Apex Legends seems to have abandoned what defined Titanfall: The giant mechs (titans, as the game calls them) players could call from the sky and climb into to crush their enemies, and the ability to nimbly run along walls.

I understand why they’re upset. Hell, I was upset when I first heard the news. Why make a Titanfall game without titans? But Apex Legends is so much fun that I don’t care anymore.

Apex Legends won me over by the 20th match, and three hours of playing without realizing how much time had slipped by. My squad of three started the game with a bad drop. In Apex Legends, as in other battle royale games, players fall from the sky into the battlefield and run around hunting for guns and loot. My team landed in a complex of buildings that a rival squad had already picked over.

My buddies ran inside a two-story building while I stayed outside. The rival team slaughtered them on the second floor. I had no weapon, but I was determined to rescue them. Luckily, I was playing a Bloodhound, one of eight characters players can pick, each with their own special abilities. The Bloodhound class class can track opponents. Little notifications on my user interface showed me where my rivals had stepped, bled, and fired weapons. I used that knowledge to get behind them.

They noticed me and began to fire, which is what I wanted. They were camping my squad’s corpses—you can resurrect your teammates in Apex Legends—and I lured them away from the bodies. I ran back to revive my buddies, waited for the enemies to start climbing the stairs before flinging myself out the window, and ran away. I got steps away from the respawn point before they finally shot me in the back.

We’d lost, but my heart was pounding. Even in defeat, Apex Legends was exhilarating. It’s not Titanfall 3, but it’s fantastic.

Respawn Entertainment released Titanfall 2 in 2016 to critical acclaim. It had a single player campaign that took the structure and bombast of a Call of Duty story into the future (before Call of Duty did its own future game) and a multiplayer mode where players flew around the map, wall running and flinging themselves with grappling hooks before calling down giant mechs. It was amazing, but players didn’t buy it in the numbers EA wanted.

Movement isn’t as fast and free in Apex Legends as it is in Titanfall 2, but it’s still faster than the other two most popular battle royale games, Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds . Zip lines dot the map, it’s easy to climb objects, and the map is small enough that it’s easy to to cross the distance quickly while jump and diving to avoid rival players.

Apex Legends also encourages teamwork with some features I want in every team-based competitive shooter going forward. The first comes right at the launch. Every squad has a jumpmaster who controls the entire team as they descend to the map. It’s easier in Apex Legends for the team to stay together than it is in Fortnite or PUBG. That said, players can still break off from the group if they want to. You’re never locked into the jumpmaster’s trajectory.

On the ground, a pinging system allows your teammates to point out enemy positions, weapons and ammo, and and forward positions with the quick click of a button. It works well and provides a way for teams to communicate without having to take a chance exposing yourself to the possibility of the toxic sludge that permeates most video game voice chat.

Apex Legends isn’t Titanfall 3, but it still feels like a Titanfall game. It uses the same engine (a modified version of Valve’s Source engine) and the movement feels similar. It’s set in the same universe and I can still slide past an enemy and put a revolver round into their face with the unrealistic speed and accuracy an anime action scene.

Where Titanfall 2 had different kits, Apex Legends has hero powers players can deploy, like holograms, poison gas canisters, and grapple hooks. There are also cool gadgets to find that aren't tied to specific characters, like a grenade that creates a wall of fire.

Apex Legends isn’t a game I was expecting, but I’m glad it’s here. I've played it for seven hours so far, four of which came right after I booted it up and stayed up way too late saying “just one more round,” something I haven't done with a multiplayer game in a very long time. It's not Titanfall 3, which sucks because I want that too, but Apex Legends is still good, and that's what matters.