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Best Games Of 2019 - Apex Legends

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The champion of battle royales.

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Over the next few days, we will reveal what we believe are the 10 best games of 2019, organized by release date. Then, on December 17, we will reveal which of the nominees gets to take home the coveted title of GameSpot's Best Game of 2019. So be sure to come back then for the big announcement, and in the meantime, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub.

Going into 2019, you'd think we'd have seen it all in terms of the battle royale subgenre that burst into popularity in the recent past. To name a few, we've had PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout, and even Battlefield V's Firestorm, so who thought we needed another one? Respawn Entertainment, apparently--and it was right.

The developer of the highly-regarded Titanfall series took its strong gameplay foundation and put its own spin on the battle royale formula for Apex Legends. By streamlining many of the genre's core mechanics, masterfully weaving in hero-shooter elements, and introducing systems that make it hard to go back to other battle royales (or shooters for that matter), the genre is the best it's ever been with Apex Legends.

It's in the little things, like how the game has encouraged teamwork and communication. Take the ping system for example--with one button, you can mark targets, key locations, specific items, or other events happening in a match. Callouts are all context-sensitive and the game is smart enough to recognize what's what. Character voice lines are also tied to the callouts, doubling as visual and audio cues. Even something as simple as knowing who's getting shot at can help the team quickly shift focus in a moment's notice. It's easy to contribute to victory whether or not you're playing with friends or have a microphone to speak.

And the clunky inventory management of other games? Gone. Apex is, again, smart enough to know which gear and attachments you actually want by accounting for its item-tier system and instantly equipping loot accordingly. You still have full control over what you loot if you want, but you're no longer forced to micromanage the game's systems. These quality-of-life improvements in Apex allow you to better focus on getting back to the best part of the game: the high-stakes firefights.

Everything around the edges is significant for Apex Legends as a whole, because its combat is much more fast-paced than anything else in the battle royale space. It's less about hiding in desolate buildings, the element of surprise, or the unnerving tension of enemies approaching. The brisk pace of matches is supported by traversal mechanics like speedy sliding, ziplines, redeployment pads, and a number of legend-specific abilities that let you move around the arena in clever ways. And with pitch-perfect gunplay, combat is no longer something to dread, but rather the thing you're eager to find.

That fast pace extends to how Apex moves between matches, so even when you're down on your luck, you can quickly pick yourself back up--though sticking around after getting knocked out may be best. Apex incorporated a risk/reward setup for respawning teammates and bringing them back into the fight; this can shift the dynamic of matches, but it keeps players invested even if you think it's over for yourself.

It's as if Respawn thought of every issue battle royale games have and created a proper solution for them in Apex Legends.

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The game enjoyed a strong launch in February, showing just how innovative Respawn can be in what seemed like a genre that had already run its course. However, expectations as an evolving game meant that if Apex Legends were to leave a lasting impact, it would need continual support with new content and consistent updates. Although its initial Season 1 battle pass left a lot to be desired, Respawn seemed quick to learn and bounce back with subsequent updates, namely Season 3: Meltdown. Along with a revamped battle pass, a slew of extra cosmetics to earn, and a new legend, we received an entirely new map called World's Edge. Not only did it provide fresh and varied scenery, it encouraged different styles of play with bigger fields, increased verticality in city-centers, and map-based elements like the running train and vaults. The first map, King's Canyon, was good, though World's Edge provided a welcome jolt of excitement.

Even with all the streamlined mechanics, solid gameplay feel, and strong updates, Apex Legends really revolves around its characters. It's clear that hero shooters, such as Overwatch, have been a major influence, but Apex has made the dynamic roster its own. You see it in the diversity of its characters' backgrounds--shown subtly in their designs and bits of lore--who've been made in earnest, exuding charisma across the board. And since its launch, updates to Apex have brought us three additional legends: Octane, Wattson, and Crypto.

It's as if Respawn thought of every issue battle royale games have and created a proper solution for them in Apex Legends.

What's just as important is that the whole cast brings something worthy to the table when it comes to gameplay. Each legend has their own unique sets of abilities that can turn the tide of battle in the right situations, and allows for tactical creativity. The fact that no legend feels outright superior to another is also a testament to Respawn's ability to balance the game properly. Sure, some weapons have had their time to shine (like the Charge Rifle and Peacekeeper), and the competitive space will gravitate toward optimal squad composition, but each character always has their place with opportunities to excel and contribute to the team.

Apex Legends was one of those games we kept coming back to throughout the year, whether it was to dig into new updates or just enjoy the thrill of claiming to be champions. Never have we, the staff at GameSpot, been this excited to ask the question: where we droppin'?

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highammichael

Michael Higham

Associate Editor at GameSpot. Southeast San Diego to the Bay. Salamat sa iyong suporta!

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