UPDATE: Over Apex’s first week, it reached a total of 25 million unique players and more than 2 million concurrent.
While it is too early to tell if Apex Legends will stand the test of time, or even sustain its ridiculous popularity, I feel it is safe to say this: When it comes to guerrilla marketing, surprise, polish, and execution, few multiplayer titles have released with such aplomb.
Just before the Super Bowl rumors started stirring. Vince Zampella had been abnormally active on Twitter in the last week, streamers were talking about trips to California, in the days leading up to the weekend keywords were being tossed in the air. Free-to-play, Battle Royale, Titanfall. All of them interesting separately, but together, a potentially amazing surprise. Then, during the Super Bowl, Vince sent this tweet:
“Looks like everything is unlocked now? Fun.
So, if you like Respawn, our games or even me, you should tune in tomorrow. Our stream starts at 8am pt and we’ll tell you everything about Apex Legends. Everything.”
There it was. A name. The Apex Predators were a mercenary group in the previous Titanfall games. What does this even mean. Fast forward 18 hours and we got to see Apex Legends, and at the end of the trailer? Available now. Almost literally overnight we got a AAA Battle Royale. For Free.
The number of times something like this has happened can be counted on one hand (I searched for the actual number and I couldn’t find it). The number of times a AAA title has done this? I am at a loss. What’s more? Apex Legends launched STRONG. With over a million unique players in just the first 8 hours, Apex jumped out of the gate, with barely a hiccup in server consistency. 72 hours in? 10 million players, 1 million concurrent. Dominance.
For players weary of the Battle Royale craze, this title has an answer for your complaints of there being a lack in originality. Rather than being plain, straight up BR game like PUBG, or having a mechanic as divisive as Fortnite’s building, Apex gives its players Overwatch-esque heroes. Each character (of the 8 present at launch) come with their own Passive, Active, and Super abilities. From Gibraltar’s Mortar Strike to Wraith’s Dimensional Rift to Pathfinder’s Zipline Launcher, the Supers are unique to the BR space. Used well, they are goddamn game changers.
Thirty-nine hours in, Apex is a bundle of nearly endless joy. The controls are buttery-smooth (as per usual Titanfall), the team mechanics are choice, and the map design is solid. I was apprehensive when I heard there were no Titans, and even more worried when I realized there were no jump packs (no wall running). After my time with Apex however, I am glad they aren’t a part of it. Frankly, I have no clue how they could balance a Titan, and the wall running would turn into a mechanic as divisive as Fortnite’s building.
It is understandable if Titanfall diehards find themselves a little disappointed with this offering. After all, Apex does appear to have come at the cost of Titanfall 3 in 2019 (though Mr. Zampella is trying really hard to confuse us) and, for some, the Titans and free-running are essential to the experience. All of those gripes make sense.
What I can say is this: Apex takes the Battle Royale game mode in a surprisingly refreshing direction, and it’s one of the most structurally sound shooters released in the last 8 months. They plan to release new guns and characters every three months alongside a battle pass as well. The future of Apex is intriguing, and if its present popularity is any indication, it isn’t going anywhere any time soon.