Apex Legends' Control Mode Is Chaotic Fun--And It Should Be A Permanent Mode
If Arenas is Respawn cranking up the tension of Apex Legends' firefights, Control is the opposite--offering the best of the battle royale without its steep learning curve.
Apex Legends Season 12: Defiance introduces "aggressive playmaker" Mad Maggie, a great buff for Crypto, and a whole lot more. The season also begins with the debut of a brand-new limited-time mode called Control, which is composed of 9v9 objective-based matches. I got a chance to play Control at a preview event, and came away enjoying it. The new mode is far more chaotic than Apex Legends' standard battle royale or Arenas modes but still brings the fun, and it deserves to be more than an LTM.
After three years, Apex Legends has evolved into a complicated beast that can be a bit off-putting to jump into if you're new. Control feels like it addresses that shortcoming, creating a space to see why Apex Legends is so fun without the do-or-die pressure of a battle royale or challenging CS:GO-like rounds of Arenas. I walked away from Control thinking about what a shame it is that it's only a limited-time mode--similar to battle royale and Arenas, there's a potentially high skill ceiling to Control, but the initial learning curve is far more approachable.
"One of the goals [for Control] is to really streamline the experience so players can focus on combat and playing the objectives," game designer David Swieczko said at a press event. "So we have things like infinite ammo, shield regen, and fast healing. We've done away with the bleed-out state too. So similar to [limited-time mode] Winter Express."
Control reminds me of Titanfall 2's Amped Hardpoint or Halo Infinite's Strongholds. Two teams of nine spawn on opposite sides of a map, with three objective points located in between. Standing near an objective captures it for your team--the more objectives your side owns, the faster your team accumulates points. The first side to reach 1250 points wins. The matches I played were like hard-fought rounds of tug-of-war as each side scrambled for majority control of the map.
And that's all you really need to know. There are additional considerations, but they're more so there for variety than complexity. "It's a really light looting system," Swieczko said. "The way you can gain new weapons is through our timed events, which occur every few minutes throughout the match. One of those is airdrops, which can have a rare chance of containing a better helmet or armor but are mostly focused on bringing in more ordinance and weapons. And the other timed event is the capture bonus event--that paints a target on one of the zones. If a team can control that zone until the timer runs out, they get a nice boost to their score."
Ultimately, most of the complexity tied to Apex Legends' battle royale and Arenas isn't here. In Control, you have infinite respawns, there's no need to loot (instead, there are predetermined loadouts that all players choose from), and body shields automatically recharge when outside of combat. Plus, you're not limited to playing as a single character for an entire match--you can switch your legend every time you spawn in.
And yet, Control teaches you the fundamentals of Apex Legends. It feels incredible to pull off a stylish play with your character's ultimate ability or upgrade your gear and feel your weapons firing with a bit more of a kick than they did before. And Control doesn't make you work all that hard for these sensations, allowing you to enjoy them and see how using the right ability or finding the right attachment can lead to rewarding play. So when you go to battle royale or Arenas, you'll understand how important legend abilities and gear upgrades are to Apex Legends' gameplay.
"[A player's personal] ratings are the way players can earn their ultimate [ability] and also upgrade their weapons," Swieczko said. "So when you perform actions that benefit your team--like neutralizing or capturing objectives, or taking out enemies--you gain ratings for those actions. And when you reach a ratings tier threshold, your weapons evolve on the spot--if you have a starting blue-tier weapon, it'll go to purple and you'll get all the attachments that come along with that."
Stripping Apex Legends of most of the mechanics and features you normally have to consider does decrease the level of necessary strategy that has brought me back to Apex Legends for 1,234 hours and counting (I love this game, okay?)--in a timeline where Control is a permanent mode, it's not replacing battle royale for me. But removing all of that complexity means that the entire focus of Control is Apex Legends' superb movement and gunplay mechanics. And stopping to just enjoy that, without having to scour for loot, is a relaxing (in relative terms--this is still a fast-paced first-person shooter) and welcome change of pace. For as long as the mode is live, I foresee Control acting as my go-to means of starting the evening and warming up before diving into Apex Legends' battle royale.
"We've always tried to use our LTMs to give players unique gameplay experiences while also preserving the competitive nature of our core modes," Apex Legends game designer Mark Yampolsky said. "We view them as an opportunity to try new ideas, whether that's introducing players to new items or mechanics or even testing changes to our game meta. We knew from the get-go that we wanted Control to carve out space for casual play with Apex. We heard a lot of feedback from our players that even our non-Ranked cues can feel pretty sweaty at times."
I hope Control returns as a permanent mode following its conclusion (like Duos) or at least becomes a regularly occurring limited-time mode (like Shadow Royale or Winter Express). Respawn has no plans to make it permanent right now, but it sounds like the team is open to it depending on the playerbase's reaction.
"It's something we can explore in the future," Swieczko said. "The decision is to keep it an LTM for now. It's a very different way of playing Apex. We love it. And we've had a ton of fun with it internally. We really wanna see what the feedback is from players and how they engage with it."
If Control were to ever return, the one aspect about it I'd hope to see changed is its maps. Control doesn't have mode-exclusive maps; instead, it partitions off points-of-interests from existing maps (Olympus' Hammond Labs and Storm Point's Barometer). It's serviceable for a limited-time mode, but it keeps Control from having its own identity. Right now, it feels like a temporary spin-off of the battle royale (which, admittedly, is exactly what it is). For Control to endure as a compelling mode that stands apart from the battle royale, it needs to follow Arenas' lead and have its own maps that are specifically geared towards an objective-based team deathmatch as opposed to just a battle royale hot-drop location.
The problem, of course, is that doing so would take development time and resources away from battle royale and Arenas support. "As of right now, we are just putting Control maps inside of the [battle royale] maps," Yampolsky said. "We think there's an awesome amount of experiences there we can deliver within that constraint. That's what we really want to explore first. And, you know, at the end of the day, when we're not building Control-exclusive maps, that's resources that we can put towards making bigger and better map updates."
So Control's future is a little bit up in the air right now. Better to be safe than sorry and just play it when it goes live--there have been incredible limited-time modes that Respawn has never brought back (like Déjà Loot and Ring Fury), so don't automatically count on Control's return. It's a fantastic on-ramp for folks looking to understand why Apex Legends is such a superb experience or simply wanting to take a break from the far more intense battle royale and Arenas modes. Control is now live in Apex Legends and will remain in the game until March 1.
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