Is it another home run by Panic Button or a technical blotch on its remarkable record?
A few days ago, Respawn Entertainment and Panic Button released the Nintendo Switch port of Apex Legends. The game itself contains everything that the PC, PlayStation and Xbox versions do in regard to content, but considering the Switch is a less powerful piece of hardware, I wanted to know how the Switch version stacks up in comparison to the other platforms. As I intend to focus primarily on the performance and technical side of the title here, I'll be skipping all the new content that has been introduced in the latest season, but if you want to read further into that, be sure to check out our handy article over here.
Before we dive into the intricacies, it's worth noting that Apex Legends on Switch has a pretty rigorous logging in sequence. You will be required to link or create an EA account to be able to play, and for me that even meant creating a new password for Origin before it would allow me to jump into the action. After this is completed however, you will be shown the Season 8 introduction cinematic, which does look pretty good in either handheld or docked mode.
As was previously detailed by Panic Button's Andy Boggs, Apex Legends runs at 720p when docked and at 576p in handheld, and maintains a healthy 30fps frame rate across both modes. Obviously, you'll want to prioritise the docked mode because of this, especially since the game looks pretty awful when in handheld - granted it is on a pretty limited piece of hardware. In docked the game looks fine, although if you do play Apex on any other platform, it is still a rather noticeable change.
I never expected the Switch version to exceed or even equal the other versions of Apex Legends, but the handheld mode is something you should avoid. The world looks blurry due to the low resolution and the small screen doesn't do anything to help that out. As I mentioned above, docked makes for a reasonable port, but handheld still makes me shudder.
The biggest differentiator however, is absolutely the frame rate. If you play a lot of Switch titles, there isn't all that much to hammer home on, but if you know Apex, then this is a game changer, and not in the most positive of ways. It can feel like Apex is a slideshow at times, and since the game is crossplay enabled, it's especially prevalent when you come up against a squad of PC players sprinting at you with 144Hz monitors and enough computing power to make your Switch seem like a Tamagotchi.
Apex does play fine on the Switch, when we talk about controls in particular. Whether you like to play handheld with your Joy-Cons attached or docked with a Pro Controller, the game has been adapted well across the board - even if I do keep getting the A and B and the X and Y buttons the wrong way round. The gyroscopic controls on the other hand are a different beast.
While interesting in theory, in practice they are pretty horrendous. If you aren't familiar with it, this system allows you to control the aiming by moving your Joy-Cons or Pro Controller physically, and while it is pretty cool to use for the first ten minutes, you won't put up much of a fight against players using actual analogue sticks to aim, and won't stand a chance against mouse players. Likewise, if you don't turn the feature off entirely, it will constantly flicker between analogue stick and gyroscopic input, and unless you can play Apex Legends whilst remaining physically motionless, it will become a nuisance very quickly.
One of the genuinely best parts of Apex Legends on Switch is how you don't need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to play the game. You will still have to create or link your Origin account to your Nintendo account to be able to get into the game, but you can still play the title without paying for the online subscription.
Likewise, crossplay is enabled right from the get-go, meaning you can squad up with your pals on PlayStation, Xbox and PC whenever. However, as great of a feature as it is, I would suggest you turn off the crossplay option in general, unless you intend to play with friends on another platform, as you will get absolutely annihilated by players on other versions of the game - and believe me, it isn't pretty.
Cross-progression on the other hand doesn't exist yet, as is the case between different platforms anyway. So, if you grab the Switch version, don't expect to bring all of your hard-earned cosmetics over anytime soon.
Apex Legends remains as one of the most exciting battle royales out there and that has been translated to the Switch by Panic Button in a mediocre fashion, provided you keep your device docked at all times. If you decide to take Apex on the go however, be prepared for a grim experience capped at 576p. As the title is free to play and doesn't require a Switch Online subscription to dive into, it's worth downloading if you are an Apex fan who has 25GB to spare in your storage, but just be ready for a polarising look at the differences between the Switch and the other platforms.
5 / 10
Docked works fine. Doesn't require a Switch Online Subscription to play. Features all of the latest seasonal content.
Handheld mode doesn't look great. Big file size. Plays at a considerably lower frame rate to other platforms.