With 50 million players and counting, Apex Legends has finally given developer Respawn Entertainment the success it has deserved for the better part of a generation. Because the sad truth is that, while Titanfall and its successor, Titanfall 2, may well have been some of the best first-person shooters of this generation, both failed to find a mass market audience. Instead, they have become cult-classics, spoken about only in whispers between those who have known the joy that is Titanfall's high-octane action. That's finally starting to change, and we all have Apex Legends to thank for that. The only problem is: I'm absolutely rubbish at it.
This feature first appeared in Official Xbox Magazine. Get the latest Xbox news on your doorstep early and for a better price! Subscribe to OXM here.
Thanks to the quirks of the battle royale genre, fights are so few and far between that it’s hard to improve at combat. Luckily, I have a plan: revisit Titanfall 2, git gud there, and then bring my skills back to Apex Legends in an effort to truly dominate. Titanfall is a very different game – a traditional multiplayer FPS with an excellent solo campaign bolted onto its side – but the two share the same universe, and a lot of mechanical DNA.
As you might expect, then, a lot of Apex’s weapons are drawn from the arsenal of its predecessor. As I progress through Titanfall’s campaign, I’m reunited with the VK-47 Flatline assault rifle, Wingman revolver and, of course, our old friend, the useless pistol-shotgun known as the Mozambique. I study each weapon, hoping for tips on the best way to mow down my rivals in Kings Canyon.
There’s a fairly large elephant in the room here, and it’s one covered in steel plating and wielding a rifle the size of a small car: Apex is lacking the mecha companions who give Titanfall its name. Frankly, I wouldn’t have expected the game that doesn’t have giant robots to be the bigger success, but that shows what I know.
The campaign buddies me up with BT-7274, a Vanguard-class Titan with no sense of humour – he’s programmed to take every joke literally. Nonetheless, BT works his way into my heart as unstoppably as he ploughs through a line of IMC infantry.
As I progress, the game gradually unlocks new Titan loadouts, allowing me to switch from railgun sniper with VTOL capabilities to flamethrower-equipped pyromaniac to teleporting mech-ninja, complete with enormous sword. Which is the form I spend basically the rest of the game in because, well, wouldn’t you?
Naturally, having built this bond and handed over some cool toys, the campaign then constantly finds ways to separate me and my robotic BFF. But I’m far from helpless on my own. In fact, this is quietly Titanfall’s best bit: a chance to play with its parkour-inspired movement system. There’s a reason the game’s tutorial is an obstacle course, emphasising speed, agility and the ability to aim a submachine gun while jogging along a wall – the campaign that follows is equal parts Halo and Mario.
You can see traces of these acrobatics, diluted as they are, in Apex’s fluidity of movement: scrabbling up sheer surfaces, sliding on your knees like a kid at a holiday resort disco. But it can’t hope to match Titanfall’s momentum, which has me chaining wall runs and lining up headshots as the enemy tries to get a bead on me. It’s like being Sonic, if he was armed to the teeth and obsessed with The Matrix. Oh god, I’m Shadow The Hedgehog, aren't I?
The horror of that realisation brings me to another: all these Cirque Du Soleil tricks are never going to help my battle royale prowess. I reluctantly ditch the campaign – having made sure I completed the superlative time-travelling level Effect And Cause first, of course– and fire up multiplayer.
Playing online, Apex’s roots show through like a bad dye job. You’ve got the customisable character and weapon skins, unlocked by playing loads or buying credits, which let you deck out your futuristic one-man army with dappled pink. You’ve got loadouts which essentially function as a more flexible version of Apex’s hero characters – right down to the left- bumper Tactical Abilities, many of which have been pretty directly borrowed by Titanfall’s sister game. You know, that kind of borrowing a sister does, where you never actually get the thing back afterwards. Just my family? Okay… moving on!
The Pulse Blade, a throwing knife that sends out a sonar pulse to detect nearby enemies through walls, becomes Bloodhound’s tracking abilities. Holo Pilot, which sends out a fake version of you running ahead to draw fire, is a test run for Mirage’s powers. (There is actually an in-fiction explanation for this: Mirage’s mum was apparently the one who invented this technology – the more you know and all that!)
But I stick with the ability that seems most true to Titanfall’s pleasures: Grapple, a hook which can be fired at parts of the level to fly through the air towards it, or at players, to reel them in a la Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion – or, more to the point, Apex’s Pathfinder. This allows for some ridiculous acrobatics, pinging from rooftop to billboard to atop an enemy Titan, where I can pull out their batteries... at least, until they realise and swat me away with electric smoke. Titanfall’s batteries are genius.
They’re health packs for the Titans, and can only be picked up – whether from the ground or the innards of a rival mech – when you’re on foot. With the grapple, I can yank the battery out of one Titan, putting a nice big hole in its health bar, then swing away to redistribute the wealth to a friendly. It’s like being Tarzan, Robin Hood and the kid from The Iron Giant all in one.
I am legend
Returning to Apex Legends, ready to apply everything I’ve learned, I spot a descendant of this mechanic in the game’s Banners. You can revive a fallen squadmate by swooping over to the lootbox they leave behind, grabbing their Banner, and running it to the nearest Beacon. This process generally involves sprinting through gunfire and hoping for the best – something that is made a lot easier when you’ve got a grappling hook at the ready. Because, after my time with Titanfall, who else could I main but robotic acrobat Pathfinder?
Unfortunately, there’s some mental jet lag, and I find myself trying to run along the surfaces I’ve grappled to, instead just tumbling to the ground. It’s like if I tried a parkour move in real life, with the difference that the resulting injuries aren’t a broken leg but a bullet to the head.
Need some help in Apex Legends? Check out our Apex Legends guide: Everything you need to become a Champion of the battle royale
The truth is, while Apex Legends may have its roots in Titanfall's action it really is a different beast entirely. Perhaps that's a testament to just how good Respawn is at creating satisfying, electrifying first-person shooters. Trying to play Apex like Titanfall is going to get you unceremoniously shot down, and the same is true on the reverse – keeping your feet on the ground as you have to in Apex is a sure fire way to get absolutely slaughtered in Titanfall 2. If you want to get good at Apex, you're just going to have to get a little crew together and drop into the fray together.
My experiment hasn’t been a success then, but that isn't to say it has been a waste of time. Because while knowing every weapon’s history doesn’t stop every Apex encounter from ending in my inevitable death, it has reminded me of just how bloody fantastic Respawn's previous shooter is. Oh well, back to the Titanfall 2 servers it is then – the servers are packed once again, all with other players that have made a similar discovery. After everything the studio has been through, it only seems right that Titanfall 2 is finally getting the recognition and attention it always deserved.
Looking for more excellent games to play on your Xbox One? Then why not check out our list of the best Xbox One exclusives.