This year Respawn proved that going up against Fortnite and PUBG isn't always a hopeless endeavour.
Here's one that we didn't see coming. Earlier this year we were called Stateside to check out a mysterious new game by EA, and that new game turned out to be a new Battle Royale-inspired shooter from Respawn Entertainment, the fledgeling triple-A studio that had previously given us a brace of Titanfall titles. Now the team was back for another bite at the apple, once again using their Call of Duty experience to try and craft the perfect online shooter. They came pretty close, too.
Apex Legends is set in the Titanfall universe, but unlike the campaign-driven Titanfall 2, there was no solo focus this time around and the studio instead built an online-only shooter that put its own unique stamp on the genre.
We've seen different variations since launch, but Apex Legends landed with a three-player mode and not a lot else. Players had to choose a 'legend' from a cast of characterful combatants, balancing their own needs with that of their comrades, before heading out into battle and attempting to be the last ones standing in an arena packed with proficient players.
If you wanted to be critical, you might argue that the game would benefit from a bit more variety in terms of the roster. Having made that gripe, however, those who arrived at launch and followed thereafter were very carefully and deliberately balanced against each other, and that sense of equilibrium has worked wonders for the game, keeping it competitive for all players. Some of the post-launch additions have been met with a bit of scepticism in some quarters, but overall we like the blend of abilities and how they dovetail. Indeed, teamwork is at the heart of the Apex experience, and using abilities in tandem with your teammates is a surefire way of staying competitive. You can't win them all, but smart thinking and coordinated teamwork will always give you an edge.
One of the standout aspects of Apex Legends is the arsenal that's put at your disposal. As is the case in many games of this ilk, you'll be grabbing your gear as you explore the map. There's a wealth of upgrades available that all make you a more dangerous proposition, plus shields and health packs to help you get back in the fight when you're looking down and out. The loot part of the game is very important, as having a good loadout is fairly essential if you're going to prosper. Still, we love the selection of weapons here and some of them have the kind of personality that keeps you coming back for more.
That personality extends to the playable characters, the so-called Legends. They're a sassy bunch, and thanks to some well-balanced abilities, they're all effective in their own special way. We've developed favourites during our time with the game, sure, but the whole gang is so well balanced that there are always welcome alternatives if someone else grabs your top pick in the draft.
It's not been a flawless year for Respawn's shooter, and some have criticised the monetisation of the game as well as the speed at which we get new content (Epic has truly spoiled us with the snappy updates made to Fortnite - but it's important to note that Epic is the exception and not the rule and games with more modest budgets can't be expected to keep pace), but generally speaking, the seasonal events and special game modes have all worked to keep the game busy and feeling fresh.
We just mentioned Epic and Fortnite, but you can throw PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds into the mix too, as the biggest challenge facing Apex Legends was the competition from these two giants of the genre. We've seen capable games fall by the wayside in the face of such fierce and relentless competition in recent years, but Respawn's effort has managed to stand tall and find itself a place among the big hitters (although we daresay that EA's backing certainly helps).
We esports plans forming, new content in the works, and rock-solid foundations to build upon, the future looks bright for Respawn and Apex Legends. Not only has it successfully gone toe-to-toe with the biggest games in the business for nearly a whole year, but it has come out the other end in great shape. And when you consider that it's completely free (unless you want to splash the cash on cosmetics), the whole thing becomes all the