Apex Legends came out in February of 2019. The kids and I started playing from the first day, and we still play regularly. The kids play almost every day, while I probably put in a few hours a week. No other free-to-play game has captured our attention before. Even Fortnite, which the kids played even longer, couldn’t keep them logging in day after day. They needed frequent breaks. But with Apex Legends, they’re playing 6 or 7 days per week, and twice on weekends.
My older son, Rhubarb, tries to stream Apex and post clips of his best matches on his YouTube channel, Rhubarb City. At school recess, he and his friends used to play something called Manhunt. Now they play make-believe Apex Legends. After chatting with the kids, both on and off the microphone, I think I’ve figured out the formula that keeps them hooked on Apex Legends.
Apex Legend’s Sound is Incredible
Every shooting game has gunshots, and they mostly all get it right. But Apex Legends sound is on another level. Each character’s voice oozes personality in everything they say. Just check out this example from Caustic:
Respawn recently added a quip wheel to the game, allowing you to assign quotes you’ve picked up along the way and recite them in the match to add more character to the game. It’s what sets it apart from the competition—characters banter, rather than just calling out tactical information. Other games have tried to implement banter and personality to their voices, but Apex Legends succeeded more than any other. Overwatch could probably give Apex Legends a run for its money, but nothing else comes close.
Apex Legends also manages to have the right sound for every interaction with the map. You never wonder if you heard the train, a cargo bot, a respawn ship, or a Pathfinder grapple. Every sound is distinct and defines itself every time. Even explosions sound different when they are indoor or outdoor. If people are fighting in a cave, you know it long before you see them because of the echoes. You need to have good headphones to utilize this, but that’s true of any game with outstanding sound.
In Apex Legends, Distance Matters
A lot of shooters have problems with snipers. Apex Legends has some great sniper rifles, but they’re well balanced. Sniper nests and rooftops have multiple entry points. The map design limits wide-open spaces and puts plenty of cover to zip between. The wide-open spaces the map does have are intended to transition from one zone to the next, so there should be an element of danger in traversing them, and Apex Legends does this perfectly.
But it’s not just snipers. Respawn has found a way to make distance important in a variety of ways. In close-range combat, shotguns and SMGs reign supreme. But characters who can change the engagement range quickly—like Pathfinder and Octane—can quickly move away from someone using shotguns, or advance towards someone with a sniper rifle. Characters like Caustic and Wattson, on the other hand, excel in close-range combat but struggle to close the distance. Wraith, Mirage, and Crypto do well at long ranges, providing cover and support to their more aggressive teammates. And like most shooters, Assault Rifles and Scout Rifles are right there to play a safe middle-ground in close-to-mid and mid-to-long range fights, respectively.
Apex Legends is Not Violent
I know it’s a bold statement to suggest that Apex Legends is not violent, but I’m going to defend my argument. A little over a year ago, I did an article and video on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s graphic content setting. Black Ops 4 is a game where shooting someone with a rocket launcher causes the character’s legs to fly off in a bloody spray of dismembered parts. That sentence was horrible, but I’m leaving it because everyone gets a bad sentence once in a while.
Apex Legends doesn’t have any of that stuff. When you shoot people, there is some blood spray, but it’s small. Players don’t bleed on the ground, even when in the knocked-down state. You don’t need to dial down the violence in Apex Legends, because it’s already dialled down. Putting Fortnite and Apex Legends side by side, one could easily argue that their violence is at the same level. The only real difference is that Fortnite looks like a cartoon, and cartoon violence is usually rated less severe than realistic violence.
It’s not Fortnite
Last Christmas, my son asked for the Sun Wukong skin in Fortnite. My wife and I haven’t pushed him very hard on his Chinese heritage, but something about Wukong spoke to him. At the start, he split his time between Apex Legends and Fortnite pretty evenly, maybe even favouring Fortnite a little at first. But while the kids at school were still doing Fortnite dances on the playground, he was starting to feel Fortnite fatigue. Once Season One of Apex Legends began, he dropped Fortnite completely. His little brother had already quit Fortnite.
When September rolled around, I thought I’d see a resurgence in Fortnite playing, but my son started promoting Apex Legends at school, trying to convince his friends to download and try it. Now, he has a circle of friends, all former Fortnite players, who have all moved onto Apex Legends. He enjoys coming up with video and stream concepts and has started to explore video editing with the PlayStation 4’s SHAREfactory software.