I feel lonely in Apex Legends. While the game is based around 3 person squads, the sprawling maps are desolate. The unoccupied expanse is part and parcel with the Battle Royale model, the wide open maps made for exploration and scavenging rather than busy firefights. It’s up to you and your squad members to parse the landscape for items, enemies and geography to set yourselves up in the optimum position to win. Apex Legends hits those marks and hits them well but I miss the more high intensity firefights of its predecessor. I liked getting lost in urban environments trying to find other player pilots amongst the population of automated soldiers. I liked quickly zig zagging between buildings and wall running to get the jump on enemies. Most of all, I liked when the giant mech games plummeted from the sky. My god what a sight that is. It’s hard to overstate how good Titanfall 2 looks and feels. Titans crashing to the earth literally do and the environment buckles and shakes accordingly. It feels destructive because it is, literally tons of metal hitting the ground after a free fall from orbit. They’re hulking monstrosities and you as the pilot are just an ant compared to it.
I’m not here to say Apex Legends isn’t amazing, but I crave another spin at the Titanfall formula. Apex is the best Battle Royale on the market for good reason. It carries over satisfying shooting mechanics into a wide open setting. The mobility is fast making covering large distances fun. Apex has a colorful cast of characters, taking cues from games like Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch (and is slightly less racist), all with unique abilities. It’s primarily played in squads of 3 allowing for a fun mix and match of said characters’ abilities. It takes place in the Titanfall universe (future techno capitalist) with maps in urban cities, factories and desert landscapes (with dinosaurs for good measure). And perhaps greatest of all it introduced to the world the “ping” system allowing players to easily point out things in the environment.
Apex is great but I’m finding that I’d rather be playing Titanfall. I’m not saying I want to play a team deathmatch shooter; there are plenty of active games that fall into that more traditional model. It’s the aesthetics of Titanfall that draw me in. Titanfall is more subdued than Apex; think less highlighter streaks and more dark and brown hues. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have color (I get it, mid aughts blockbusters really wore the association down), but the more subdued look fits with Titanfall. You’re in a futuristic battleground filled with unpolished pieces of machinery. Nothing is built to be sleek rather it’s built to be functional. The easiest reference point is the original Star Wars tech. Spaceships from civilians and the rebels look used and repaired over. They’ve built up dirt and grime but have been kept up internally to function. That’s what Titanfall’s guns and robotics look like, weapons that have to be repurposed after numerous battles.
The size of Titanfall is a huge draw point as well. I’m referring to literally the size of your pilot within the map. Maps not only extend horizontally but vertically and the move set helps you play with traversing the levels of a building or skyscraper. You’re also just one soldier amongst dozens of respawning AI. You feel more like a part of a big battle as automated troops bash against each other. That gives a unique feeling of being small just another worker ant amongst the horde. Of course players are stronger than the AI counterparts, a specialized member of the squad. It makes the battles feel frenetic with lots of firefights and player abilities all popping off at once.
Speaking of feeling small: Titans. They’re both a glaring omission from Apex and the item that would completely ruin it. Titans don’t make sense in the more scrappy gameplay of Apex Legends but they absolutely make Titanfall work. They completely shift the flow of battle and are an incredibly imposing presence. They are multiple stories tall and tower over your perspective as a pilot. They’re hard to take down on foot; your best bet is to try and rodeo it by flinging your body onto the back of it (which feels amazing to do btw even when your chances of success are slim). Their massive weapons obliterate soldiers left and right and their hulking structures barely fit in between the architecture of the maps. Titan on Titan combat has a completely different flow. Their bulky structure limits maneuverability, forcing pilots to rely on strategically using jump nets to out flank enemies. The different Titan classes offer unique abilities based on weight class; hop in a light mech and you’ll have to balance dodging in and out of combat rather than a heavy mech that can sit and dole out damage. You have to adapt your strategy to edge out your enemy based on your Titan’s strengths and weaknesses versus the enemies.
It’s the interactions with your Titan that stick out in my mind. Getting the notification that your Titan is ready is so exciting. I will always opt for a Titanfall, picking the spot where your Titan will land, rather than opting to spawn in one. Picking the landing spot and seeing it careen down from the sky is incredible. As mentioned up top, Titans plummet fast and the free fall reverberates across your screen. Entering your mech is so stylish too. Depending on how your approach the Titan your pilot will enter into it differently. The Titan’s AI anticipates your move; walk up and it’ll bend down for you, jump high it’ll catch you and place you gently inside, slide and it’ll scoop you up. The animation for it is frankly very cool. Someone in a Discord recently called out the monitor desync as you enter the Titan, another perfect touch that really places you inside the mech. Little touches like that really make you feel like a pilot before you completely take control of it. It calls the artifice out to give you a sense of place.
Apex Legends shouldn’t be Titanfall but it’s hard to see the latter series continue with the success of the former. They’re two completely different flavors but one actually sold copies and has an active player base. I would love for a Titanfall 3 but also realize that there is not the same push for it from a business and audience sense. For now I’ll have to content myself with replaying Titanfall 2 with the small but dedicated player base that’s still there.