Apex Legends launched on Nintendo Switch overnight, bringing yet another high-octane first person shooter and take on the battle royale formula onto Nintendo’s plucky handheld. How does the port hold up? And is it worth playing for newcomers and veterans from other platforms? We dropped in to find out.
What is Apex Legends?
Put simply, Apex Legends is a battle royale, an intense form of last man standing where dozens of players drop into a map and must loot, scavenge and fight to survive as they are pushed ever closer together on the large map until only one team remains. It’s a game mode that rocketed in popularity in 2017 with the launch of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, with big names like Call of Duty cementing the format in the following years.
Apex Legends launched in early 2019, bringing with it some fresh innovations for the time. It focussed on having distinct characters with abilities and launched purely with a mode for sixty players split into 3-player squads – there are solo and duo queues as well now. It’s biggest addition was the context-sensitive ping allowing for effortless communication and teamwork without voice chat.
Apex Legends Switch resolutions and frame rate
Squeezing the game down to Nintendo Switch has been the task of experienced porting house Panic Button, who have pulled off plenty of “miraculous” ports in the past. For Apex Legends on Nintendo Switch, this has meant the game runs at 30fps instead of 60fps, and it’s 720p when docked and 576p in handheld mode.
Thankfully, they’ve also been able to squeeze the game file size. What is 60GB on PlayStation 4 is just 19GB on Switch, so while you’ll probably still want to have a microSD card for added storage, it’s not absolutely essential.
How does it perform?
Pretty well! In our testing, the game certainly looks noticeably blurry compared to the game on base PlayStation 4, but that’s to be expected. There’s also noticeable pop in for shadows and scenery as you go around the world, and where there’s alpha effects for a grate on the floor, these fade in close enough that you might think it’s just a hole.
The game also manages to hold to 30fps in quite a few situations, though there are weaknesses to this and it will falter. Dropping into the map, for example, has a wobbly high 20s when in the dropship, but resolves to 30fps as you actually drop. During moments of calm, the game happily sticks to a solid 30fps as you’re exploring and looting, and it can also often handle fights with another fireteam with only minimal dips in performance, maybe in the high 20s.
However, there seems to be certain scenarios that act as pinch points for performance. Bringing up your quick-select HUD is one such thing, whether it’s the HUD overlaying on the screen or the extreme memory optimisations needed to get the game to run. The frame rate will also really suffer when there’s a lot of other players nearby, and not just the living ones. It seems to be that if there are a lot of downed players crates, any kind of battle will cause the frame rate to suffer – the above screenshot was a fight between two teams, while there were at least six death crates in the immediate vicinity.
Does it feel good to play?
The frame rate can be an issue, but a bigger factor is adapting to the game’s feel on Switch – I’m calling this ‘hand umami’ as of today. This is partially down to the switch to 30fps and performance issues, but it’s also partially down to the 3/4 size analogue sticks on the Nintendo Switch and perhaps a need to tune the in-game sensitivity settings – the game feels a bit detached on Switch. I don’t really think there’s a way around this, as even playing with the Pro Controller gives me a little bit hand umami and I find myself using strafing to play and aim because my right stick movement’s are too sharp and overshoot my target. I’ve tried a few settings, but as yet have not found the one that lets me swivel 180º and shotgun blast a jumping enemy, as seen in the Switch “gameplay” trailer.
The game does tailor itself to how you are playing, though. For one thing, motion controls are enabled from the off, and they’ve settled on something a little different from the norm here by having the vertical range and sensitivity be much higher than the horizontal one. There’s a lot of verticality to Apex’s Kings Canyon map, so this makes sense. Additionally, there’s a much larger version of the HUD that renders when you’re playing handheld compared to when you’re docked. It’s tucked right to the corners of the screen, so doesn’t feel bigger, but it is!
Thankfully for me, the game is full of complete newcomers (which can be frustrating if you’re knocked down and you have to watch your teammate stumble around like a newborn deer). Apex Legends supports full cross-play, but unless you team up with players on PC using the in-game friends list, you will be matched up with other Switch and console players instead – I’ve typically found myself with Switch players so far, and there feels like there’s some light lobby management in the background. I’m still getting plenty of kills, at least. You can also completely disable cross-play if you wish.
Can I carry over my progress from PS4/Xbox/PC?
Sadly, there’s no cross-progression to be found in Apex Legends, which means that if you’ve dropped dozens of hours into the game on other platforms and unlocked all of the characters, a bunch of sweet skins and cosmetics, you’ll be starting from scratch on Nintendo Switch. It also means that any seasonal progress you make will be locked to a particular platform.
Quite simply, this sucks.
While not a guaranteed feature, for games that do have cross-progression or cross-saves, it would be a great feature for playing competitively on PS4 Pro or PC, but then also get to hop in for a few casual matches on Switch to check off some daily, seasonal or event objectives. If you’re chasing progress through the battle pass, for example, you’re locked to a given platform.
Is Apex Legends on Switch worth playing?
Bringing Apex Legends to Switch is another quite remarkable accomplishment for Panic Button. They’ve made the necessary compromises to get a decent high 27-30fps in most situations, and the game stays at that target for large portions while playing. The game is still one of the best battle royales out there and having it on Switch is great, but the added input latency, the inherent feel of the Joy-Con analogue sticks in an intense first person shooter, and the lack of cross-progression mean that if you’re already playing the game on another system, you should probably stay there.