We flew to LA to try the new content ahead of release, spending a whole day with EA and Respawn's battle royale title.
Apex Legends has had a busy year. Well, it didn't exist at this time last year, but after a surprise launch in February the first-person battle royale title has been a worthy entry in the packed genre, releasing seasons to bolster the appeal as the year went on.
A few trailers and teases have confirmed that Season 3 is coming on October 1, called Meltdown, and we actually got to try all of this early during a trip to LA last week, where we sat down for hours with all the new content. There's a lot to talk about as well, as Respawn is going big with this particular season.
At the centre of Meltdown is the brand new map, called World's Edge. After rummaging through the various parts of this map, it's safe to say that there's a lot to see, but conceptually it won't take too much adjusting for existing players. It's not a total rehaul of the style we know and love, mixing urban buildings with verticality and natural spaces, but there are some key differences that are worth noting.
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Respawn's Project Lead Drew McCoy told us at the opening presentation that the aim is to create more long-range battles in this area, and that's helped by the wide, open spaces for snipers to utilise. With a height advantage as well, this should let players see far and wide and fear the open areas a bit more, especially when it comes to the final moments of a match.
There are also a few key visual themes contrasting here, especially the molten lava and the frozen tundra. Both are present here, with the latter revolving around a giant tower in the middle, and the inclusion of a loot-filled train chugging around the entire map also makes for some rather chaotic scrambles, since every match we played saw a large group descend on the train from the drop.
Of course all the features you'd expect are still there, like ziplines, balloons, loot-filled rooms, item boxes, but the new map gives a breath of fresh air and new areas to explore and learn about, including a tunnel that runs underground with a mysterious vault inside, although unfortunately we weren't allowed in.
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With Meltdown comes Crypto as well, a new Legend that's similar to Bloodhound in the sense that he's all about detection and reconnaissance. His LB ability (we used an Xbox One controller on PC) throws out a drone that works as a sort of mobile camera, automatically detecting opened doors and enemies with a huge range, making it the perfect thing to spot bad guys and dangers in these open spaces.
It comes with a price though, as not only is the drone loud, but leaves a green trail behind so other players can easily know when it's around and shoot it down, a task that's far easier said than done. Once destroyed, it needs to cool down before activating again, but when in use it can be called back to keep it safe, otherwise it remains where you left it as an open target. It also takes a few seconds to throw the drone out and access its cameras, so you're left vulnerable during these times.
The drone can also remotely hack doors as well, and when your Ultimate is ready, you can deploy an EMP from the drone which disorientates and stuns enemies, making it the perfect tool for when you're going in for the kill. The EMP also disables traps as well, which gives it another tactical use.
As if all this wasn't enough, Crypto has plenty of really cool skins to unlock, as we were able to see with the plethora of currency given to our testing accounts. One of these dresses him like a yakuza boss, while others include cool masks and moving camouflage on his jacket, so he's worth personalising.
Also with Season 3 comes the Charge Rifle (which Titanfall fans may recognise), a weapon that McCoy describes as a mix between Quake's lightning gun and Halo's Spartan Laser. It's not as powerful as that name might suggest though, so don't expect any one-hit kills, but it's certainly an interesting weapon, dealing damage immediately before the main laser kicks in.
It's built for longer ranges, with scopes equippable as well, but it requires some serious skill to get a proper hit, as you might have guessed considering the charging time. This charging delay also makes it less than ideal in close combat, when you really have to deal damage before your enemy kills you. If you can use it though, it's worth a place in your arsenal.
These are the main features of Season 3, but there's more inbound, as Ranked Season 2 is also on the way, resetting all players down 1.5 tiers. McCoy also told us about leaving penalties coming as well, starting at five minutes an increasing, to try and make the competitive scene healthier. At the end of Season 1 you can also expect rewards too, like gun charms, badges, dive trails, and more.
The presentation talked about balance changes with Meltdown as well, and while it's not worth mentioning all of the nitty-gritty details, weapon buffs include the G7 Scout's damage, Hemlok's damage, Mozambique's spread and recoil, L-Star recoil and projectile size, shotgun projectile sizes, and sniper projectile sizes and distance. As for nerfs, the R99's extended mag size is affected, as is the recoil of the R99 and Prowler, Longbow DMR's rate-of-fire, Hemlok's rate-of-fire, and L-Star damage.
When it comes to Legends, Gibraltar is getting a buff to Domeshield and Bombardment, with Eye of the Allfather and Beast of the Hunt also getting buffed for Bloodhound. Bangalore's Rolling Thunder is to be buffed as well, with Wraith's Dimensional Rift behind nerfed alongside Pathfinder's grapple and zipline.
We don't have long to wait until we can experience all the new content in Season 3 - with a Halloween event also teased by Respawn - and Meltdown should be a nice mix between old and new for fans, spicing things up while also making adjustment slightly easier. With ranked changes also coming in for competitive players as well, it's clear that this is being built with long-term health in mind, and it bodes well for the future of Apex beyond this season.