Apex Legends Mobile Review

Apex Legends Mobile Header

The most striking thing about Apex Legends Mobile at launch is just how complete and fully featured it is. When the game launched in early 2019 for PC and console, it was a relatively straightforward affair with a compact selection of heroes, one map, and only half an idea of how to create a compelling Battle Pass. By contrast, Apex Legends Mobile is rocking up with more of the maps, the modes, and a much clearer idea of how to continue and evolve over the coming months. Not only that, but it’s got countless mobile-first tweaks to make it feel like a more natural fit. It’s impressive.

So yes, there’s the core battle royale game mode which will really remain the beating heart of Apex Legends Mobile, but right from the off, there’s also Ranked play and the Arena modes that were only created this time last year. A mobile-exclusive TDM mode joins this with some fun 6v6 battling. There’s also a firm grasp of how to build in missions, rewards and battle passes to keep people coming back and playing.

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A key factor for hardcore players will be that this is a brand new, ground-up rebuild of Apex Legends and a standalone experience. EA and Respawn turned to Tencent’s US-based developer Lightspeed Studios to handle the adaptation, and they decided to ditch the original game’s Source engine foundations in favour of Unreal Engine 4 – a very well established and optimised engine for mobile. What this means is that there’s no cross-play gaming where PC or console players could have a major gaming advantage, and there’s also no cross-progression for stats, unlocks or anything else.

Lightspeed has done a lot to ensure that it feels about as cohesive and native on mobile as possible. The UI has been shrunk, reorganised and tweaked to suit playing with two big fat thumbs obstructing your view of the screen, and there’s specific additions like noise direction indicators to help keep you oriented with the action that’s kicking off around you.

Apex Legends Mobile Third Person Combat

Not happy with any element of the default UI and layout? You can almost certainly change it. There’s everything from changing fire modes or turning on auto-fire, to fully customising the HUD and touch button layout for three finger or four finger play. Most fundamentally, Apex Legends Mobile also adds in a third person play option for the first time, helping to increase awareness of your surroundings (in addition to the noise direction ring). There’s dedicated queues for both FPP and TPP, to keep the purists happy, but it’s a good fit for mobile.

Apex Legends is relatively easy to pick up and play for a console gamer, with movement on the left, look on the right, and then touch buttons for every scenario you could imagine, but there’s screen clutter to necessitate all that. I constantly find myself having to reposition my left thumb, accidentally tapping the wrong button with my right, and end up relying on the game’s various automations for door opening, loot pickups and more in ways that I don’t on other platforms. It’s about as refined as it can be in this regard, and can lead to some absolutely intense firefights.

The game’s meta is absolutely different to the home console version. Without the precision and dexterity of PC or console controls, long-range sniping is less viable for the vast majority, and even in closer quarters, it’s far easier (with ADS and fire combined in a single button) to burn through ammunition with minimal effect. Fights have devolved somewhat back toward strafe-aiming, or doing one thing at a time instead of three – this, though, will have something to do with the skill levels of players.

Another factor will be the new Perks system. Each hero can equip three unlockable perks that tie into and buff their abilities. Octane can get a bit of extra health or faster reloads with his syringes, finishers can boost your EVO shield progress, downing an enemy can reset the cooldown on Bloodhound’s sonar ping. They’re relatively minor buffs, but to start with will only be a part of non-ranked play.

Apex Legends Mobile TDM first person

It is fun, though, and I’ve enjoyed some particularly hard fought matches. Hot dropping into Capital City on the World’s Edge map, I had a game where I literally just fought and fought and fought all the way through to being named Champion with 17 kills to my name. The best place to really improve your head to head combat skills will be in the TDM or Arena modes, which are unlocked at level 5 and 10 respectively.

That said, I do long for the ability to hook up a Bluetooth controller – something that is expected after release. Touch controls simply aren’t my idea of a good fit for a FPS, and can only be acceptable at best. This would, of course, introduce a control disparity for players that will need balancing, but Lightspeed will have to cross that bridge when they come to it.

Another factor could also be the game’s performance across a wide variety of phones. By default on an iPhone XS, it went with “Regular” image quality and a 40fps performance target. I could happily bump that up to targeting 60fps and it would stick to it, per the game’s inbuilt FPS counter and smoother gameplay fel, but the game pops up an intimidating warning about needing a cooling fan if you do so. Your mileage and phone may vary, but they will throttle performance if they get too hot.

Apex Legends Mobile Battle Pass

Between rounds, you’ll find yourself bombarded by experience, challenges, unlocks and more. There is, of course, the Battle Pass with 50 tiers to work through, but has a shortened 1 month run-time despite costing the same – it does include currency within the premium path, so you could earn each successive battle pass through dedicated play. However, alongside that you have Rookie Rewards, there’s a Season Event to tie in with mobile exclusive character Fade’s story, and there’s overarching Grand Prize rewards with the original cosmetic unlock crates to earn.

It’s all a bit much, to be honest, and the battle pass alone feels like it might demand your full gaming attention to keep on top of. We’ll obviously have to see how finely balanced it is across the coming months, but shame on you for wanting to play more than one game for the rest of time, I guess.

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Summary
Apex Legends Mobile does a fantastic job of converting one of the biggest, and for my money the best, battle royale shooter to smartphone. A great batch of characters are included to start, it's comprehensive in the modes it supports, and does a decent job of converting the gameplay to work with touch controls. More than that, it makes sensible gameplay tweaks and introduces a number of mobile-specific features and improvements.
Good
  • Great adaptation of Apex Legends to mobile
  • Some new and exclusive content
  • Decent and fully customisable touch controls
  • New perks system is interesting
  • Rock solid performance
Bad
  • The controls are decent, but it's still touch screen controls
  • Lots of overlapping reward tracks
  • Is the battle pass too frequent? We'll see.
8
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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!