Apex Legends (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Chris Leebody 14.03.2021

Review for Apex Legends on Nintendo Switch

Anyone who has followed gaming even a little bit, it's fair to say, will be aware of Apex Legends. Respawn Entertainment's free-to-play battle royale has been a smash hit since its launch last year. The developer is credited with the likes of Titanfall and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and it's clear this team knows how to make a thrilling multiplayer first-person shooter. Pitting multiple squads of super-powered heroes against each other on a huge map, Apex Legends has been praised for bringing high-speed and accessible fun to a genre that is saturated with the likes of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite. Despite having some lush visuals and running at a smooth frame rate on consoles and PC, a Switch port is surprisingly now available. Cubed3 has jumped into this version to see if it can hold a candle to the rest.

For anyone unfamiliar with the battle royale genre, Apex Legends fits into the faster-paced variety. Essentially, up to sixty players - split into teams of two and three depending on the mode - will hunt for loot and, more importantly, hunt each other as an ever-encroaching circle of death gradually pens everyone in, until only one squad survives.

Dumping the building mechanics of Fortnite and the slow-paced tactical combat of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Apex Legends is all about the action. Zip-lines, sliding, jumping, respawn points and unique abilities available across the 16 characters: all these things come together to make the core gameplay exhilarating.

There was a reason to be hopeful about this port. Panic Button - the team responsible for the ports of DOOM Eternal and Rocket League - was tasked with translating this graphical powerhouse to the more modest specs on the Switch. Those aforementioned titles might have sacrificed a good chunk of graphical fidelity but in turn gained more than respectable levels of performance.

Screenshot for Apex Legends on Nintendo Switch

It is unfortunate, then, that at the moment Apex Legends's performance on the Switch renders it very close to being unplayable, at least against other platforms when using cross-play. In theory, cross-play with PC and other consoles was a fantastic idea because it means there are always matches to be played. Sadly, with the current state of the Switch version, it is almost impossible to compete with people operating at much smoother performance and with slicker controls.

Let's dig into the issues here. Graphically, this port operates at 720p while docked and 572p when handheld. On its own, this isn't a major issue; from a static view, Apex Legends on the Switch actually looks decent enough. There are some fairly impressive shadow effects and, considering the size of the battlefield, the draw distance is pretty impressive. A consistent 30fps is the target here and when jumping into the game's tutorial, it seems like the title might actually run smoothly.

Sadly, it is when things actually start to move that there are some glaring issues. Textures are very blurry and muddy, meaning that the low resolution is a problem when playing on a big screen. The larger screen exposes how much of a compromise is being made here. Additionally, the Switch struggles on many occasions to load textures, at least all at once. On many occasions, objects throughout the battlefield will have a delayed load-in - or not load in at all.

Screenshot for Apex Legends on Nintendo Switch

When adding in the poor field-of-view, being able to see what is happening during a match is a struggle at times. In addition, while the frame rate does target 30fps, very often in the heat of battle this can dip below, and trying to function within such a fast-paced battle arena while being crippled with the frame rate makes things difficult. Playing Apex Legends portably is a super cool idea but it struggles even worse than when docked, making handheld play simply impractical.

When playing Apex on a console for the first time, especially when coming from PC, the controls would usually be one of the concerns. The funny thing is they are actually pretty decent here. The Switch version also comes with some gyroscopic control inputs which is handy for finer aiming. Unlike some other battle royale titles, there's not too much fiddly micromanagement here. Picking up weapons and attachments is so simple and playing on the Pro Controller makes the experience even better.

However, where the problems with the controls come in is again linked to the frame rate, which leads to some tricky aiming latency. In fact, aiming at distant targets is almost impossible on the Switch version at present. Then comes close combat encounters. While the built-in aim assist is generous, close combat fights are still rendered completely manic affairs in which any sense of skill is reduced. Ultimately, this amounts in combat that often amounts to who can cope with the poor performance the best.

Screenshot for Apex Legends on Nintendo Switch

To add to this, there was regular crashing throughout the time this reviewer spent reviewing this title. This is probably something that will be fixed with a patch, but it did make it very hard to actually sit down and play when matches were repeatedly interrupted due to being booted back to the Switch's home screen. Add in some rather strange audio bugs involving voice chat, and there is a lot on the technical side that needs addressing.

If there was one piece of advice Cubed3 could give the team at Panic Button, it would be to actually sit down and rethink what they are trying to achieve with the visuals. At the moment, the visuals operate within a 'half-way house' approach. The graphics can never compete with PC or the more powerful consoles but they still attempt to. The single best thing that could be done is to strip away some of the fancier effects in order to simply nail a consistent frame rate. A cleaner visual display and resolution would make a world of difference, even if the result looks more dated.

The crazy thing is, though, that even despite the multitude of issues, there is so much fun to be had here. The core gameplay is solid and the idea of playing it on the Switch is a dream. This could turn out to be a winner in the future, as other battle royales have managed to establish themselves on this more modest console. Shootouts and the wildly cool abilities of the characters, as well as how this all interlinks within diverse squads, can and should work very well. Indeed, the best and most consistent fun came after turning off cross-play and just playing against those also on Switch.

Finally, it is important to note that as of yet there is no cross-progression between systems. Anyone who was hoping to jump from PC to the portable Switch will be disappointed, but this may be remedied in the future.

Screenshot for Apex Legends on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Apex Legends is a live service experience, so there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of the title. The best advice at the moment to is to turn off cross-play and just compete against others with the same limitations. At its core, though, there is something really good here. Unfortunately, it's just hidden behind a wall of technical issues in terms of graphics, frame rate, resolution and overall stability. Panic Button is the king of Switch ports, though, and it feels like the developer deserves the chance to try and put this right. Fix the stability, adjust the graphics and work on cross-progression. If Panic Button can put things right, it will enhance its reputation to no end.

Developer

Respawn

Publisher

EA

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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