BioWare’s new loot shooter Anthem really nails the feeling of flying around in Iron Man-style exosuits, except when dive-bombing. As players have learned, it turns out the fastest way to get around in the game’s world is by simply falling.
While it’s nice topause every once in a while and take in the beautiful sights, of which Anthem has many, the fact that it’s a game based on grinding for loot means players spend a lot of time doing the same stuff, in the same places, over and over again. Repeatedly playing through one of the game’s Stronghold missions, like the Tyrant Mine, means getting to know it like the back of your hand and figuring out how to finish as quickly as possible. So it didn’t take long for players to discover that falling in one of Anthem’s Javelins is a lot faster than flying.
How much faster? I did a handful of tests of my own in the initial starting area in free-play right outside of Fort Tarsis to find out. Every area in Anthem has an invisible ceiling. Fly up to it and the game will eventually envelope you in a wind tunnel and redirect you back toward the ground.
Going up to this point right above the first waterfall in the Ranger Javelin, I used the stopwatch on my phone to track how long it took to hit the ground. In free fall it took 4.84 seconds the first time. Pointing my Javelin straight down and using its thrusters at max throttle it took 9.72 seconds. I did this four more times and got similar results. Based on these preliminary tests, falling in Anthem is about twice as fast as flying.
It might not sound like much, but Anthem’s world has a ton of verticality. A lot of the map is divided into high plateaus abutted by large canyons and just about every underground cavern has at least a couple of large plummets. Of course, some players have found even more exotic means of getting around faster, like linking together canceled melee attack animations to conserve momentum. Where there’s loot, players will find a way.
Logically it doesn’t make much sense, but that hasn’t stopped a number of players from debating science fiction physics on the game’s subreddit. Some argue that of course the pull of gravity aided by a rocket should be faster than gravity alone. Others claim that since flying downwards in Anthem cools off your engines, the added air intake is probably what’s slowing the Javelins down.
Either way, the end result is that no one piloting a Javelin’s going to be able to save someone falling from a crumbling building anytime soon. Unless they start falling, too.
January saw the release of two of the year’s most anticipated titles, Kingdom Hearts III and Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 remake, and both unsurprisingly had strong debuts in the US. According to the NPD Group’s latest sales report, the two were the best-selling games in the country last month, with New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe following at third.
While the NPD Group doesn’t disclose sales numbers, it notes that Kingdom Hearts 3 was the US’s best-selling game for January. Furthermore, the title’s total launch month dollar sales were two-and-a-half times higher than the series’ previous best, Kingdom Hearts II.
Resident Evil 2 took the runner-up spot last month and similarly had 2.8 times higher dollar sales than the original, which released on PS One back in 1998. New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, meanwhile, generated 30% higher launch month dollar sales than the original Wii U title did when it released alongside the system in 2012.
While Kingdom Hearts may have been the best-selling game, the Nintendo Switch was the US’s best-selling console last month in both units and dollars. Moreover, NPD says Switch was the only platform to grow year-on-year, and the Switch Pro Controller was the best-selling accessory last month.
Despite these strong sales, NPD reports that overall video game spending last month was down 19% compared to January 2018. That’s not all bad news, however, as the group notes that January 2019 still had “the second highest market total achieved in a January month since the $917 million reached in January 2013.”
Respawn Entertainment has said it intends for Apex Legends to be a live-service game, and that means we’ll see changes and events pop up in the future. What exactly those are isn’t quite clear yet–the game’s first season, and the new content Respawn has teased with it, doesn’t come until March–but players are just getting their first taste of long-term Apex Legends today, along with a new update that makes a few fixes.
In a new trailer, Respawn showed off the first new gun it’s adding to Apex Legends since the game’s launch earlier this month. The weapon is the Havoc energy rifle, which looks to be a fully automatic assault rifle that handles in a similar way to current weapons like the R-301 Carbine or the Devotion light machine gun. The Havoc is live in the game now–check it out in action in the trailer below.
The most interesting thing about the Havoc as seen in the trailer is that it’s different from the rest of the guns in Apex Legends. It accepts two kinds of “hop-up” attachments; these are rarer items you can add to certain guns that change the way they perform, but usually guns only support one kind of hop-up. For the Devotion LMG, for instance, you can add the Turbocharger hop-up, which speeds up the charge time when the gun begins to fire. The Prowler submachine gun can take the Select Fire hop-up, which can switch the gun from its default burst-fire mode to a fully automatic mode that makes it even more deadly.
The trailer shows that the Havoc can handle either the Turbocharger hop-up or the Select Fire hop-up, and each has a different effect on the gun. The Turbocharger speeds up the rate at which the gun hits its top speed in fully automatic mode–like the Devotion, the Havoc seems to have a short charge time before it gets up to its full energy bullet-spewing potential. With the Turbocharger, the gun looks pretty effective at short and medium ranges.
The Select Fire hop-up allows you to switch the Havoc to a single-fire mode, which fires one charging shot. In the trailer, Select Fire makes the gun effective at longer ranges and, from the looks of things, can turn the Havoc into a sniper or scout rifle.
That’s a whole lot of versatility in one gun, and more than we’ve seen so far in Apex Legends. The Havoc also suggests that future additions to the Apex armory could offer even more customization depending on the attachments and loot you find in the game once you drop into a match. That could make the potential changes coming with Apex Legends’ first season pretty powerful, but we’ll have to wait until March to find out for sure.
Dreams draws closer to its long-awaited full release, with a private beta most recently giving players a chance to test out the virtual creative suite. Next up is an early access version of Media Molecule’s game-creation game for PlayStation 4 in the spring.
The early access period is aimed at those most eager to create things in the world of Dreams. For $29.99, players will “get 100% of the same Dreams tools that we have used every day at MM to make our content. As well as fun, deep interactive tutorials catering for all skill sets and levels and Mm-crafted arcade games ready to play and remix,” the developer wrote in a blog post.
Expect the available options to mirror those from the recent beta, although Media Molecule will expand the offerings along the way. Content published during the beta will be included at launch.
I like free games. And I’m not just talking about freeware or open-source titles that are either maddeningly complex or of occasionally suspicious quality. Triple-A titles, when discounted to the low price of zero, are great.
To clarify: I’m not against paying developers for their incredible work. I am, instead, completely in favor of taking advantage of any promotions that get you today’s top games for absolutely nothing. They’re out there. You just have to be diligent about finding and responding to them, or else your gaming gravy train will pass right on by.
Here’s a brief look at the places I go to for free games. If I’ve left any out, let me know in the comments and I’ll update this post with your recommendations.
One of the best resources for free games (and free goodies for your games) is Twitch, but with a caveat. In order to take advantage of Twitch’s frequent giveaways, you need to be an Amazon Prime member. That gets you Twitch Prime, and Twitch Prime gets you free stuff.
If you’re a teenager, you don’t even need your own costly Amazon Prime account. If your parents have Amazon Prime, you can take advantage of that by linking your “Teen login” to their account. You’ll get Twitch Prime, they’ll get their usual Amazon Prime bill, and all will be well with the world.
To keep tabs on Twitch’s offers, I bookmark Twitch’s handy hub. There, you’ll see the full, free games you can add to your account and play forever. You’ll typically get new titles once a month, but I like to check back every other week or so just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. (You could also subscribe to Twitch’s various social feeds to receive announcements when Twitch adds new titles.)
Additionally, Twitch also gives you free add-on bundles for games you might be playing—typically skins, loot boxes, mounts, virtual currency, et cetera. These just tend to appear on Twitch Prime whenever, so you’ll want to make sure you’re visiting the site decently enough (at least once a month) to catch them.
One of the newest digital distribution services on the block, Epic Games’ online store has a sweet setup for the frugal: You get one free game every two weeks. Simple. Check back every two weeks—it’s worth making a recurring calendar reminder given the quality of the offered titles—and you’ll be able to add a new game to your account.
The newsletter, as well as GOG.com’s social feeds, is the best place to hear about any one-off free games the service offers from time to time, which has included titles like Shadow Warrior 2, Full Throttle Remastered, and the ever-creepy SOMA.
You can also bookmark GOG’s search results for free games on its service and revisit that regularly. And there’s also the sprawling “free games” thread on GOG’s forums that’s worth checking.
Though primarily a storefront for all sorts of deep discounts on packages of games, Humble Bundle will occasionally toss out a free title as part of its limited-time sales (or as a solo offering). You typically have a tiny window to claim some of these free titles, so it’s worth signing up for Humble Bundle’s newsletter, following its social feeds, or checking out a simple Google search every now and then to make sure you don’t miss any awesome, free games.
It’s tough to keep track of every free game that drops on these services (and others). Thankfully, there are plenty of people willing to put in the legwork so you don’t miss out on anything free—be it the latest Assassin’s Creed game or some random indie title you’ve never heard of before. I recommend following these subreddits (or this multireddit) for all your free gaming needs:
Alita Battle Angel is an adaptation of the beloved Gunmm manga, and it’s a movie where everything that could happen in a movie happens. It’s got fights, a fake sport, a romance, and at the center of it all an amnesiac cyborg and her adoptive dad. I sat down with Tim Rogers to talk about all the things we unexpectedly loved about this movie.
Gita Jackson: Hey Tim! I don’t know what you expected when you went to the theater to see Alita Battle Angel, but I wasn’t expecting much. What I saw completely blew me away and motivated me to immediately buy the manga. I think we talked about this before the movie came out, but were you expecting this movie to be as good as it was?
Tim Rogers: I was expecting it to be, at the very least, generally not bad and additionally, uh, something I personally was going to like! I mean, I have a pretty excellent track record for knowing I’m going to like something. Usually this involves a complex variety of factors, though every once in a while I see a thing that some people around me are hating on and I decide to put on my Good Time Hat and go in ready to love it. I feel like I saw a lot of people hating on it for like a year before it came out. People were yellin’ about her eyes being too big in that first trailer. Around then I had a feeling like, “I am pretty sure I’m going to like this no matter what.”
Gita: Well we’re both director Robert Rodriguez fans, right? I was definitely skeptical when I saw production stills, but I was willing to give it a shot. I really enjoyed From Dusk Till Dawn, El Mariachi and Sin City, so I felt like I owed him at least a viewing.
Tim: I’ve gotta say, I liked El Mariachi when it was playing at the arts theater in Indiana in 1993, though I’ve honestly sorta mostly disliked everything I saw by him after that. I just think From Dusk Till Dawn is a disaster start to finish, and Sin City is a nightmare. I do like Planet Terror, though! That lady has a gun for a leg!
Gita:Planet Terror was super fun. I kinda wanted to watch that right after I got out of Alita.
Tim: Yeah, I like that idiotic movie.
Gita: It’s out of control and knows it’s out of control, so the stakes get so cartoonishly high. Just pure fun. I feel like that’s why I liked Alita so much. It had the tone of a CW show, but one where people get their limbs cut off.
Tim: Yeah, I saw your tweet about that! “It’s like Blade Runner if it were a CW show.”
Might I propose this, though: CW shows are just live-action 1990s animes on TV in the 2010s. So I’m saying with Alita it was either that CW texture or bust, imo.
Gita: You read Gunnm right? How does the movie compare?
Tim: Well the movie squeezes a whole lotta that manga in there, for one thing. The manga is nine volumes and the movie covers, uh, most of them? They reduce nearly an entire volume of the manga to one three-minute segment of the story. I mean, they had to for budget purposes. They probably knew that the prospects of a sequel were grim, so they loaded it up. Personally, if you showed me a dimensional portal and told me it’d warp me to the world where James Cameron got to make his five-part Alita movie series in 1997 I’d jump right in.
Gita: Right, that was the original plan, after Cameron saw the Alita animated movie? Unfortunately, the world wasn’t ready. What’s interesting to me is that even though this movie speeds through the plot and hits all the important beats, it doesn’t feel like a checklist adaptation. The first two Harry Potter movies felt like everyone was just going through the motions to get to the shit fans want to see. Instead I was able to get really engaged in Alita’s melodrama.
Tim: I think part of the reason it’s such a good adaptation of the manga is that it’s not based on something most people in their target audience know about. Their target audience, we should be clear, is “everybody,” or more specifically “everybody who watches Marvel movies.” Clearly many Anime People know, love, and revere Alita. They condensed as much of the manga as they could into one two-hour movie (it easily has two and a half hours’ worth of stuff in it!) so that they could wow the audience with a shotgun blast of all the relevant details and plot points and sub-plots. You’ve got the amnesiac robot girl whose destiny it is to overthrow an evil regime; you’ve got an altruistic doctor who repairs people’s cruel-future-necessitated biological limbs for free by day and hunts rogue cyborgs with an engine-powered axe-hammer by night as a “Hunter Warrior;” you’ve got the punk kid with a one-wheeled motorcycle who rips limbs off hapless citizens at night to make a living, who falls in love with the amnesiac robot girl; and you’ve got the futuristic rocket-powered-rollerblades sport of Motorball! That’s a lot of stuff, man! Maybe it’s my familiarity with the source material talking, but I feel like it wasn’t presented in too disorienting a way.
Gita: There’s a romance plot in there, too.
Tim: Yeah the romance is the part I see people ripping up on Twitter. Dudes in my mentions love telling me that they hate the guy Alita falls in love with.
Gita: I haven’t read Alita or watched the animated movie, and I felt like I was perfectly following along. I’m actually super excited to read it now to see all the extra plot stuff they had to cut, because the world itself was so interesting to me. The plot is basically what you just said: you start with an amnesiac robot, and then about a thousand things happen. Maybe it’s because I didn’t read the manga, but I personally loved the romance subplot. It was the perfect teen movie twist for me. It’s not deep, but it’s horny and single-minded in the way that teenage romances are.
Tim: I am a 39-year-old man and I thought the romance was good! I was like, “Hmm, I do not approve of this guy,” and that qualifies as an “interesting feeling.”
Gita: This is a whole other conversation, but sometimes I get confused about what people want from their movies. In a movie about a robot with knife arms, are you really expecting a Very Smart Plot?
Tim: As far as robots with knife arms go, the plot was plenty smart for me, anyway.
Gita: Besides, the characterization are mostly placeholders to get to the action. I don’t need to know the inner workings of Alita’s mind to know that she’s clashing emotionally with her adoptive dad about her identity. It works just fine to establish a conflict and then use the action to work things out. And the action was… pretty friggin good.
Tim: The action was so legible. It was so easy to tell exactly what was happening in every scene. It’s almost as though some movies make the action extremely up-close and illegible because they aren’t 100% sure of how their movies look overall. And Alita looks great! The design of the world was great!
Gita: I loved the small details on the body Ido gives her after he found her in the dump. The engraving!
Tim: One of my dumb friends (he’s reading this: hi) was saying on Facebook that he hated how happy everyone looked in the dystopia. How sunny it was, how everyone was wearing cargo shorts. I just appreciated how different and colorful it was from other stereotypical dystopias. I feel like it rings true with 1990s anime in general. And dudes wearing cargo shorts in the background while Alita walked around with her super-ornately engraved ceramic robot limbs just reminded me of Final Fantasy XV, where regular NPCs are all wearing polo shirts and khakis while you’re four dudes running around in your $2800 runway fashion outfits.
Gita: Even in shitty places, people still live and thrive. It was nice seeing people try to make a life even though the world was so hard. People don’t just give up hope when a ruling class has taken over. You still try to get by, have a family, fall in love. So much of this movie is about class and trying to survive in a very stratified class system. I liked how that fed into, but did not distract from, the awesome scenes of people hitting each other with giant hammers and swords. Or, like, Alita kicking a giant dude in half.
Tim: Some of the owns were ferocious! Persons involved with directing or choreographing action scenes in films these days have to one-up the competition constantly, and I love to imagine these “Hmm, how can this be different from [similar scene in another movie]?” conversations behind the big hard punctuation marks in action scenes like those between Alita and her Big Buddy Rival Guy. What I mean is, wow! Nice owns.
Gita: It was nice that the camera didn’t confuse the action and used some digital effects like artificially slowing down time to enhance the action. Sometimes fight scenes in movies are really flashy but also really confusing—I want to know who’s getting hit and why. Here, you occasionally get these single actions, like Alita kicking someone, slowed down to almost a full stop so you can see the full force of the action, not as a way to show off or “look cool” but to help guide you to the next time someone’s getting hit. Man, those owns were good.
Tim: There was a good sticky weird heavy semi-unrealistic stylized physicality to it, like what the Marvel movies go for, except tuned by and for a slightly more demanding connoisseur. Which kinda describes a lot of this movie, I think? It’s like, clearly they’re trying to appeal to Marvel fans, because if you’re not appealing to Marvel Cinematic Universe fans In Today’s Economy, whose money do you actually want? And though people love to yell and cry about too many sequels or remakes or whatever, the numbers show that the sequels and elements of enormous connected universes make All The Money and “new” things like Alita don’t make any of the money. You can sense some idealism in this movie, like some producer (James Cameron himself?) is saying, “We’ll make a movie in the style they like, except we’ll wow them with story and quality and originality.”
Gita: Given the surprise in the very last moment of this movie, I super, super want a sequel. It seems like the entire cast is having The Best Time with this movie. Mahershala Ali seemed like he was having a blast. I hadn’t thought about the Marvel connection, but you know what, you’re right. If this came out every summer instead of a Marvel movie I would be really okay with that. I want action movies that are this fun, this stylish and with a cast and crew that loves the project as much as everyone working on Alita clearly did.
Tim: Mahershala Ali! I have seen that man with four different haircuts playing technically five different roles (two of them in Alita) these past couple weeks and I still can’t get enough of him. That guy is a Real Movie Star. I really wish there were an Alternate Cinematic Universe. Maybe Alita can band together with John Carter and Speed Racer! and Valerian.
Gita: And Jupiter Ascending.
Tim: And Cloud Atlas. And let’s throw The Fifth Element in there! And Luc Besson’s Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, who was in that Ghost in the Shell movie.
I think anime fans, game fans—I think they overreacted and yelled too much negativity about this movie way before it came out. I think they were so busy being scared it was going to be hideous like that Dragon Ball Evolution movie from 2009, or boring like ScarJ Ghost in the Shell, that they forgot to consider that it could be like Speed Racer from 2008. I think this contributed to a bad buzz, such that every person replying to me on Twitter when I said the movie was great genuinely asked me “What, really?” However, if one shows up 30 minutes early to the Alamo Drafthouse showing of life, one gets to see their expertly-curated pre-show reel of vintage anime trailers. This is a metaphor and also reality: before the show, they showed a bunch of vintage anime trailers, many of which included critic quotes from James Cameron himself.
On the 2001 trailer for Rintaro’s Metropolis, written by Katsuhiro Otomo, there’s a James Cameron quote saying “Images from this movie will stick with you for the rest of your life.”
Like, wow, he was there, man. Him and Guillermo Del Toro were there, watching anime in 2001 like it was a thing for normal people to do. And Metropolis is a mash-up of Tezuka Osamu’s manga and Fritz Lang’s movie, written by the guy who wrote Akira! That’s an interesting, weird, beautiful combination of things, proving, if nothing else, that anime isn’t totally sacred. So what I’m saying is, trust James Cameron to trust Robert Rodriguez to direct Alita. Go see it today, or, I don’t know, watch it on Netflix later.
Square Enix is developing a game called Last Idea, according to a very sparse Twitter account that has the super-informal reveal.
A tweet from the Last Idea page repeats the account’s bio: “SQUARE ENIX’s new game『LAST IDEA ラストイデア』official Verified account.” Square Enix is using “verified” liberally here, since the Last Idea account doesn’t have the requisite blue checkmark; but the logo, October join date, and a trademark for the name found last November all suggest that, yep, this is a Square Enix game, alright.
The trademark application doesn’t give us any more to go off of than the Twitter does, and Square Enix has yet to officially reveal Last Idea. But one more hint: Among the users that the account follows is an artist known online as Wind. The artist has worked on mobile games by well-known studios like Capcom, GREE, Cygames, and Square Enix. Wind contributed art and character designs to Grimms Notes, a free-to-play RPG that the company launched in 2016. Wind retweeted the single Last Idea message, so it seems that the artist has again hooked up with Square Enix to work on Last Idea.
We’ve reached out to Square Enix for more on Last Idea, but for now, we’re happy to note that it joins a legacy of needlessly conclusive RPG names. Others in the pantheon:Final Fantasy, The Last Remnant, and The Last Story.
“This is a moment for change,” wrote secretary-treasurer Liz Schuler. “It won’t come from CEOs. It won’t come from corporate boards. And, it won’t come from any one person.”
“You have the power,” she continued, “to demand a stake in your industry and a say in your economic future. What’s more, you have millions of brothers and sisters across the country standing with you.”
Polygon reached out to Schuler by email to learn more about the AFL-CIO’s position on unionizing the games industry, and about what it feels is its role in supporting a group of workers that feels increasingly pushed to the brink. We’ve added links to provide additional information and context where needed.
Polygon: Why is now the right time for the AFL-CIO to reach out to workers in the video game industry?
I’ve been thrilled to see that same energy building in the games industry. Game Workers Unite is showing exactly how workers build power — by organizing on the ground, person-by-person.
I wanted to make clear that, if you’re looking to make changes in your workplace, a union is the single best tool you have for doing that — they’re different in each industry, and members get to decide how to shape them. And if you decide that’s the right choice for you and your co-workers, we’re going to have your back.
The games industry is far from an emerging market. Why do you think it’s taken so long for them to even consider organizing?
Executives know that when workers join together, those employees will have exponentially more leverage. So, they try their best to spread fear and make unions out to be the bad guys. And when talented employees are deeply and personally invested in their work, as developers are, there’s even more pressure to “be a team player” and fall in line.
But when you continue to face mistreatment and injustice at work, there comes a point when you realize that you have to stand up with your colleagues for your own best interests. I think we’re seeing that happen right now.
Your statement goes to great lengths to call out the prominence and success of workers in the industry. But they clearly feel isolated and like they’re breaking new ground. What other industries should these workers look to for models of how to successfully organize on their own behalf?
Developers don’t have to look too far away. It’s pretty incredible that games’ voice actors have union contracts through SAG-AFTRA, yet the folks building those games don’t enjoy the same protections. There’s a strong history of unionism in the entertainment industry, and it’s about time the fastest-growing part of that industry gains the rights and dignities that come with a union card.
Video games are produced by international teams that are non-centralized. Their situation feels unique. What strategies can these workers use to organize and how might they differ from other similar efforts?
It’s certainly not a unique challenge. Flight attendants and airline pilots work in and travel to every corner of the globe. Other entertainment fields, by their nature, create and distribute content around the world. Auto manufacturers’ production chains cross international borders multiple times. Geography hasn’t stopped all of those industries from building strong unions.
The process for negotiating a contract is democratic and can take into account all sorts of specific situations. Digital journalists have made some exciting breakthroughs using new technology, tools and organizing strategies, and I suspect developers are in a great position to do the same. The constant is the fact that, by joining together, you can have more leverage in making the improvements you need in your workplace.
How would a video games industry union look like traditional unions? How would it be different?
The truth is that every union is different. Every industry and every workplace has their own challenges, and unions are a flexible tool for tackling those challenges. Members get to decide for themselves what their union looks like and what they want to negotiate for. There’s one key thing they all share: Building strength and increasing leverage by joining together.
Does a single monolithic union make sense for video game development, which can often contain dozens of discrete roles focused on unique skills and job responsibilities? Are there analogs to this in other industries?
That’s an age-old question in the labor movement. Should we organize based on craft? Plenty of unions are built on that philosophy, including my own, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Others, like the United Auto Workers, organize by industry. Both are valid approaches. Developers have a unique set of skills and their own identity, so part of this process will involve figuring out which approach makes sense for them.
It feels like there’s a lot of anger right now, directed at the larger companies, among the workers and the fans of the work they produce. What would you tell people in the industry to channel that energy into productive next steps?
That kind of anger, and the sort of injustices we see in this industry, are precisely the reason unions formed in the first place. History certainly seems to be repeating itself.
The first step is simple: Talk! Don’t just simmer in silence. Have conversations with your colleagues. Talk about the challenges you’ve faced and what you would like to see change at your job. Out of those conversations, you’ll find a group of people ready to fight for that change.
Battle royale games can feel, particularly for newcomers, like a monumental challenge. Even the most talented players will marathon through sessions in which their best efforts are laborious but futile. Forage for weapons and armor, scramble to eliminate other players for a momentary shot at glory, and push forward into danger to escape the rapidly shrinking circle — and then, more often than not, get killed and start the entire process over.
Skill is of the essence, as are patience and good communication. When playing in squads, the need to speak into a microphone, if only to facilitate teamwork with complete strangers, adds a dollop of anxiety to each scenario. Battle royale games can almost feel like a host body rejecting its players, allowing only the absolute best to enjoy victory.
Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends is no less challenging, but it is more inviting.
Apex Legends’ robust ping system allows squad members to communicate with startling ease and clarity. At its core, it’s a single button I can tap to let everyone know what I’m up to. It renders voice chat with internet strangers largely unnecessary. Want to suggest a location to land on from the dropship? Just point to that area and ping it. Wish to tell your teammates about a nifty weapon upgrade you spotted among the desert dunes? Just aim your crosshair on the attachment and ping it. Want to suggest camping in a nearby bunker? Just ping it.
This feature adapts to the context of situations both in and out of combat. For instance, one player can simply agree to another’s suggestion to head in a general direction by clicking on their ping. Among teams, this voiceless setup becomes a beautiful, seamless, and unspoken tango.
Now, playing with strangers in other battle royale games, the alternative proves to be unbearable. I suspect you’ll get what I mean when you inevitably get paired up with that one player who can’t stop yodeling commands and pointless exclamations into their microphone.
The ping feature is emblematic of Apex Legends’ accessibility and savviness as a multiplayer shooter. Building upon the successes of progenitors like DayZ and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the game doesn’t stray too far from the tried-and-tested formula, but still offers a flavor distinct from those of its peers.
One of Apex Legends’ biggest draws is its emphasis on cooperation, particularly its refreshing twists on permadeath. While reviving squadmates on the brink of death is now a conventional feature among shooters, getting knocked out doesn’t spell the end of my round in this game. Instead, I can gain a second wind if someone picks up a banner that my avatar drops upon death, and then brings it to one of the many beacons dotted around the map. Not only this does this give less experienced players some breathing room to pick up the basics, it incentivizes working together. I’m going to get far on my own, since other squads will have the opportunity to revive their team members, too.
Unlike its competition, Apex Legends also tosses character classes — common in hero shooters like Overwatch — into the mix. The game still sticks to familiar archetypes from such shooters; I have the more combat-focused Bangalore, the defensive tank known as Gibraltar, and the stealthy skirmisher called Wraith. The notion of choosing and learning a character (or Legend, as they are referred to in the game) can seem like an intimidating prospect. For many shooters, picking a different class can offer a wildly different experience, but it also corresponds with a steeper learning curve.
Conversely, the legends in Apex Legends remain on equal footing. This is largely made possible due to their abilities, which are unique enough to differentiate the classes, but slight enough to complement rather than overwhelm one another. Not only does this make switching between classes a lot less complex, it further accentuates teamwork rather than individual skill.
Take Pathfinder, an automaton that’s handy for mapping out shortcuts and unconventional paths out of danger. Its abilities mainly revolve around its grappling hook, which lets the character quickly reach areas that others can’t easily access. Meanwhile, the soldier Bangalore has a passive ability that allows her to sprint faster while taking fire, or call in an artillery strike that’s more useful at scattering opposing squads rather than eviscerating platoons of enemies.
Instead, my lethality in combat has more to do with the array of weapons I can get hold of in this sprawling battleground. Here’s another clear example of Respawn’s meticulousness. Coupled with the aforementioned ping system, these traits work in concert to deliver an exhilarating battle royale experience — one that’s hyper-focused on elevating teamwork.
It would be remiss of me not to point out the small but diverse roster of characters in Apex Legends. Out of the current band of eight Legends, the presence of four people of color and two LGBTQ characters is a heartening first step. In particular, the mysterious hunter Bloodhound is probably the most — if not the first — prominent example of a nonbinary character in a mainstream shooter. Yet Apex Legends also faces the same narrative challenges that the relatively progressive Overwatch had with inclusivity. In a genre that carries a greater emphasis on gameplay rather than storytelling, injecting meaningful representation can admittedly be a trying process.
For instance, Gibraltar’s character biography on the Apex Legends website casually mentions a boyfriend, but players who mostly just interact with the core game can easily miss this detail. It’ll be interesting to see how — or if — Respawn will expand upon Apex Legends’ lore and stories. Perhaps that’ll come through comics or short films in the near future, if the studio follows the formula established by similar competitive online games that use other media to carry the bulk of the story.
The very concept of becoming the last combatant standing is a core tenet of battle royale games, but it has also kept the genre intimidating for rookies. Even with a significantly smaller number of players per session in Apex Legends, the game features a steep learning curve, while its tutorial level is a tad inadequate in familiarizing newcomers with the game. Yet Apex Legends’ astute take on squad cohesion and its brilliant communication system have made it enormously playable not just for veterans, but newcomers too.
Apex Legends is now available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. The game was reviewed on PC via Origin. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.
Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.
New York Toy Fair descended on the Javits Center this past weekend, bringing us a new look at all the spectacular new toys (and games!) just waiting to plunder our bank accounts over the next year. As always, the show was a great and financially ruinous time for fans of Star Wars and Marvel—here are a few of the favorites we spotted.
Bandai Model Kits
Bandai and U.S. distribution partner Bluefin were all in on Star Wars this year, with models covering everything from small-scale models of iconic ships and vehicles from the movies, larger model kits for Rebel fighters like B-Wing and X-Wing, and then model kits to make fully articulated action figures.
Movie Realization Figuarts
The East-meets-West melding of Samurai armor with Star Warsheroes and villains has been trucking along for the past few years, but also on display were some more additions from the sequel films—a First Order Stormtrooper, Captain Phasma, and also a very spiky Kylo Ren.
Lego Star Wars
Lego had already shown off its line of special sets celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Star Wars line—complete with exclusive minifigures harkening back to the original releases of Han, Luke, Leia, Darth Vader, and Lando—but also on display were two new ships from Star Wars Resistance: Major Vonreg’s red TIE Interceptor and Griff Halloran’s Black Ace.
Hasbro Black Series
A lot of the Black Series figures on display from Hasbro this year were figures already revealed, and just about to come out—everything from prequel characters like Mace Windu, Padmé, and a Battle Droid, Solo characters like Dryden Vos and Han in his Mudtrooper uniform, the long-awaited release of The Last Jedi’s Admiral Holdo, and even Rebels characters like Ezra and Chopper.
Coming later in the year however are three new additions from the world of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars creations: specifically, the galaxy’s favorite smuggler/archaeologist/former best buddy of Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra. Aphra will also be joined by 6-inch scaled versions of her killer droid companions, BT and Triple Zero.
Also later in the year for the recently-started “Archive” line of Black Series—which revive earlier figures from the line which are now harder to find with new paint detailing—there’ll also be releases of Empire Strikes Back Yoda, Revenge of the Sith Anakin, and a Scout Trooper.
Lastly, for the Black Series, 2019 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Prequel Saga, so to celebrate, Hasbro’s exclusive action figures for the upcoming Star Wars Celebration will be Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul as they appear in The Phantom Menace. For Celebration, they’ll have a few exclusive accessories as well as packaging that harkens back to the original Phantom Menace toy line. If you’re not heading to Celebration however, good news! Versions of the figures without the special packaging and a few of the accessories will release as part of a wave of figures later this year.
Retro Kenner Style Figures
The original Star Wars action figures might be some of the most iconic toys ever made. But if you were too young or missed out on the classic figures and don’t want to spend oodles of dollars collecting vintage toys, Hasbro is going to start re-making the original toy line for a special new series, complete with versions of the original packaging.
But interestingly, the line won’t just resurrect classic toys, but add in figures in a similar style for characters who were never part of the original line—like Grand Moff Tarkin, who will exclusively be found in a new board game called Death Star Escape that will form part of the line’s non-figure additions.
Hyperreal Action Figures
Black Series not fancy enough for you? Well good news for you, bad news for your wallet: Hasbro is now launching an even fancier line of Star Wars toys in an 8-inch scale, two inches larger than the typical Black Series toy. The “Hyperreal” line will use an internal articulated skeleton to avoid showing joints in the sculpts of character clothing, as well as include extra detailing, more alternate accessories, and display stands to really highlight them as presentation pieces. All that swank comes at a hefty cost though: Darth Vader, the first in the series, will set you back a whopping $80 when he launches later this year.
The Vintage Collection Figures and Playsets
The recently returned Vintage Collection line of 3.75″ hyperarticulated action figures was out in full force at Toy Fair this year, with looks at upcoming figures like Luke’s force-projection appearance from The Last Jedi, but the big focus was on both new figures and new Playsets that could build upon the ginormous Jabba’s Sail Barge scaled vehicle Hasbro announced and crowdfunded through its new HasLab platform last year.
Two new playsets and accompanying figures were revealed: a skiff to display alongside the Sail Barge (and in scale with it, to match), and a set based on the interior of Jabba’s palace. If you love Return of the Jedi, you’ll want to start saving your pennies now.
Hot Wheels Jar Jar Binks
Look. What do you want me to say about this beautiful, beautiful thing? It’s a Jar Jar Car Car. I love it. The best thing I saw at Toy Fair.
Marvel 80th Anniversary Collection
2019 is a big year for nerdy anniversaries, as we’ve already discussed, but it’s a huge one for Marvel Comics too—80 years since the publisher first started, originally as Timely Comics. To celebrate, Hasbro’s Legends line of action figure is releasing a range of standalone figures and two-packs that encompass takes on characters from the comics—like first-appearance versions of Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk—to figures based on the movies, like Thor: Ragnarok’s Grandmaster and Korg, and a two pack of Steve Rogers and—at long last—Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger.
Although there could be no figures tying into Avengers: Endgame on display just yet, the Marvel Legends line still had a few more movie-based offerings to reveal, like Black Panther’s Shuri and Infinity War’s Ebony Maw, who will be joined in Avengers-themed lines featuring comics characters like Beta Ray Bill and Living Laser, as well as eventually Endgame-themed toys when they’re revealed.
Meanwhile for Spider-Man: Far From Home a new wave of Spidey-themed figures will include both designs from the movies—like Peter’s updated, darker-colored suit and the “Stealth Suit” briefly glimpsed in the trailers—and throwbacks from the comics, like Hydro Man, as a nod to the film’s more outlandish interpretation of the character as a ginormous water elemental.
Elsewhere for Legends, Mutants are on the rise again, with another wave of figures dedicated to the X-World, culminating in a build-a-figure of infamous villain Mister Sinister. Meanwhile for nostalgia fans is a new series of throwback designs based on the old Uncanny X-Men toy line from the ‘90s, complete with retro packaging.
Ant-Man Light Up Helmet
The latest addition to Hasbro’s line of collector-and-cosplayer-friendly Marvel props is another helmet, based upon the updated design worn by Scott Lang in both Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man and The Wasp. The helmet, available to order now for $100, includes light up LED strips alongside the exterior.
Captain Marvel Dolls and Roleplay
Captain Marvel merch may already be out ahead of the film’s release in just a few weeks, but Carol Danvers was still proudly on display at Hasbro’s Toy Fair booth, encompassing a line of action dolls based on Carol’s different looks from the films, and a series of roleplay items meant to let kids pretend that they too can fire blasts of photonic energy or…have a faux-hawk, just like the mighty Captain Marvel.
Mezco One:12 Captain Marvel
For Carol Corps members looking for something a little more high-end though, Mezco’s big reveal for its One:12 line of hyper-details action figures was none other than Carol herself. Due out later this year, the figure will include multiple heads to show Carol in both her unhelmeted and helmeted forms, as well as other accessories.
Spider-Man: Far From Home Roleplay Gear
Back at Hasbro, also on display from the movie front was the first look at merchandise for Far From Home, primarily in the form of a variety of wondrous web blasters for you to pretend you’re also a globe-trotting web-slinger. If the Legends figures weren’t enough for you, there were also a few more basic figures highlighting Peter’s two new suits from the film, as well as accompanying vehicles that are a) really weird for Spider-Man to have to use and b) almost definitely not in the final film.
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