Apex Legends on Nintendo Switch needs a trip to the opticians.
For the last four years, the Nintendo Switch has impressed by offering a hugely improved on-the-go gaming experience from its 3DS predecessors. With titles like Breath of the Wild, the capabilities of the hardware were being tested from day one, and it was exciting to see how far it could go. Yet with the release of Apex Legends, it is obvious that King’s Canyon may be located a little too close to the sun.
Apex Legends is all about manoeuvrability. Keeping your character on the go as you weave and navigate your way around 57 other players with hostile intentions. Taking the best elements from Titanfall 2, Respawn Entertainment created a Fortnite-alike battle royale with a skill-level to its gameplay. Melding your character abilities with your squad required on-the-spot thinking and snapshot reflexes. The Nintendo Switch port strips Apex Legends of all the elements that made it a delight to play, by delivering a muddy, cack-handed, and eye-straining experience that had me questioning whether I was even playing the same game I had sunk 200 hours into on other consoles.
Let’s get into the technical, then, because this is a two-year-old game that everyone is familiar with. It’s information on the quality of the port that you’re here for. Apex Legends runs at a blurry 720p docked and drops to a head-ache inducing 576p in handheld mode. It allegedly runs at 30fps, which sounds optimistic when you actually start to play the game. The game on consoles and PC is a looker, with steep ravines and looming ships floating overhead, and while I am utterly willing to accept a graphical downgrade – it comes with the territory of carrying the game in your pocket – its loss of draw distance and blurred graphics make long-ranged combat disastrous. Too often would I await first fire, just to get a general impression of which direction enemies are coming from, and searching for distant foes is near pointless.
Looting my way around King’s Canyon may have fooled me for a moment into thinking that this was a successful handheld version of Apex Legends. The frame rate stutters from time to time, and I never felt like I truly came to grips with the feel of a Switch over a controller, but these moments felt the most familiar. Landing a pin-point crack shot with a Longbow or bursting your way to victory with a trusty Hemlok are among the immensely satisfying gameplay moments often experienced in Apex Legends.
On Switch, however, they are completely absent. In their place are scatter fire moments akin to holding the trigger and hoping for the best. Frame rates make it easy to become disorientated and the inaccuracy of its controls feel like playing through treacle. While on consoles I love to switch up my loadout, from long-range weapons to submachine guns. on the Switch version, I was almost exclusively leaning towards shotguns and subs, purely because they compensate for that inaccuracy in close combat – and considering how most gunfights went, I think the same could be said for other players.
Other players introduce yet another issue, however, as Apex Legends on Switch features cross-play. I cannot emphasise enough that crossplay must be turned off immediately. Graphics aren’t everything, but the lower frame count, resolution, and awkward controls directly contribute to a sub-par experience that is compounded when matched with players on more capable versions of the game. I doubt I would even sniff the scent of a PC or console player before I was sent packing. While playing with Switch players levels the playing field however, it still delivers something comparably bland.
Things may improve for those that decide to try out the docked experience, and the stilted gameplay can be aided somewhat by the use of a pro controller. However, lining up next to its console counterparts – even on last-gen hardware – the Switch is the least optimal of the bunch.
It may be abundantly clear by now that I do not like Apex Legends on Switch. Its release highlights that there are lines between platforms that should not, and at this point, cannot be crossed. While I’m not discouraging anyone from trying the game – it is free after all – I am warning that the Switch port has to make so many sacrifices that the meatless bones left are barely representative of the body they belonged to.
This is Apex Legends only by name.
Game: Apex Legends
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Respawn Entertainment / Panic Button
Release Date: Out Now