– Apex Legends is something of a zeitgeist stew, checking all the boxes of recent trends all the way to its grandiose but nondescript title. It’s one part battle royale complete with the descent, loot scavenging and shrinking playable area. It’s another part hero shooter featuring eight personable heroes called Legends with unique abilities built for steadfast teamwork. None of those borrowed ideas scream originality, but here they come together quite well as something new thanks to a lavishly-designed map, an innovative communication system, great gunplay and a degree of polish that’s all but unheard of in this genre. (dramatic electronic music) Set in the Titanfall universe but conspicuously lacking the signature Titans, a match of Apex Legends is relatively small scale. 20 teams of three compete in a last team standing competition it forces you onto a three-person team which sounds like a nightmare for solo players until you experience the intuitive contextual ping system. – Off to the right of you, heads up! – It’s a dream to use and makes teaming up and coordinating with mic-less randoms viable. With a tap of a button, you can call out points of interest whether that be supplies, enemy locations, or just a rendezvous location, and your character will intelligently translate that into verbal call outs.It’s revelatory. – Hostile over there. – Apex Legends’ emphasis on teamwork is also reflected in the ability to revive fully-dead teammates which is a unique twist within the battle royale genre. Even after a teammate has bled out, you can grab their banner within 90 seconds and trek to the nearest beacon to bring them back from the dead. The multi-step process is risky and draws a lot of attention, but having a greater number of intact squads toward the end of a match makes for a more exciting final battle with fewer players sitting on the sidelines.(dramatic music) The varied Legends add new wrinkles to the battle royale format and create lots of opportunities for teamwork. The eight Legends, two of whom are initially locked behind a grind or paywall, each have their own passive, active, and ultimate abilities. Some, like Bangalore’s devastating airstrike, are more spectacular than others, but all are fun to use and fit well into the dynamic battle royale space. (rapid gunfire) Since the majority of your offensive options are still dominated by what you find during the match instead of who you pick before, a Legend feels more like a personal expression of playstyle rather than the mandatory archetype. Like both Titanfall games, Apex Legends’ gunplay is impactful and precise. The guns from pistols to SMGs to assault rifles to shotguns all have a satisfying kick, sound and weightiness that make them feel unique and purposeful. (shotgun firing) They can be modified with scopes, extended magazines, barrel stabilizers and hop-ups which significantly alter weapons to make them even more versatile. (rapid gunfire) Exploring the King’s Canyon map for loot is always a joy. The layout is absolutely bonkers in the best way. It has elaborate multi-floor military complexes, airbases, grassy jungles, sandy wastelands, and settlements stretching across ruined embankments.Every area is rich with rewarding detail and full of things like horizontal and vertical zip lines to get around quickly and even relaunch into the sky. (jetpack engine roaring) The absence of Titanfall’s wondrous wallrunning is disappointing, but sliding down slopes is a great way to travel quickly, and the ability to climb over walls provides an extra dose of vertical mobility. Besides the two current character unlocks, Apex Legends follows the microtransaction models of popular games like Fortnite and Overwatch. It creates a level playing field by only charging for Apex Packs containing cosmetics such as skins and emotes.The process for unlocking the two characters, however, is somewhat laborious without spending money, and Respawn plans to add more Legends, cosmetics, and loot every few months. That said, the two that are currently locked aren’t any better than the six you have from the start, so there’s no pay-to-win scheme going on here at launch. (electronic music) Apex Legends makes squad-based battle royale work better than thought possible, even when playing with a randomly-matched team. Its intuitive communication system makes strategic gameplay achievable without a word, and the eight unique Legends each have cool abilities that are rewarding without feeling like restrictive roles.It all takes place in King’s Canyon which is a fascinating sci-fi map that leads to tense encounters filled with all the pristine gunplay and polish from the Titanfall series, and its free-to-play setup doesn’t press you to pay to keep up. Apex Legends has the goods to be a true challenger to Fortnite’s dominance. For more on Apex Legends, check out Seven Tips Everyone Should Know, our ranking of the eight characters, and watch our team become champions.Oh, and for everything else, stick with IGN. (electronic whirring) (metal crunching) (character groaning) .