Hot Drop is GameSpot’s weekly Apex Legends column, in which Jordan Ramée takes a closer look at Respawn’s battle royale to provide additional insight into the game’s evolution, as well as dive deeper into its episodic storytelling and characters.
In terms of the available content in Apex Legends, the battle royale game is in a really good place. As of Season 13, the game features 21 playable characters, four battle royale maps, six Arenas maps, 28 firearms, five game modes, and hundreds of unlockable cosmetics (including 14 ultra-rare heirlooms in need of some flavor). There’s a lot to enjoy in the game. With all that in mind, it’s time we got a season where developer Respawn doesn’t drop any new content into the game at all, and instead solely focuses on fixing Apex Legends’ lingering issues. Apex Legends needs an Operation Health.
Operation Health was the name of Rainbow Six Siege Year 2, Season 2. For those three months, developer Ubisoft Montreal pushed back all its planned content for the game–which included two new operators, a new map, and a new weapon–to the following season, allowing the studio to entirely focus on improving the player experience in Siege. During Operation Health, Siege saw drastic technical improvements, including better servers, one-step matchmaking, and an upgraded method for deploying future updates. Ubisoft Montreal also took those three months to address dozens of bugs and problems that had been pointed out by the community during the first year of the game, like game crashes, spawn killing, and audio issues.
In August 2021, Respawn said that cross-platform progression would be coming to Apex Legends. Nine months later, it still hasn’t been added.
Siege, which is now in Year 7, is still by no means a perfect game–new technical problems appear with every season. But the game runs significantly better than it did back in Year 1, and issues that pop up now are generally fixed quickly since all the long-standing bugs in the game were squashed long ago and the development team can entirely focus on new problems as they arise. Operation Health went a long way towards making Siege into as a good a game as it is today–I don’t think the game would be nearly as popular as it is without it.
Respawn finds Apex Legends teetering as the battle royale hits the midpoint of 2022, almost halfway through its Year 4. The long-promised cross-platform progression update for 2022 is still nowhere to be seen, and certain legends–namely Wattson and Loba–have had bugged abilities for multiple seasons in a row. And no, not bugged like something is a little bit off: They just do not work. You press the button to use them and the game (not always, but regularly enough) figuratively spits in your eye and says, “Nah, don’t feel like it.”
And new issues of varying severity continue to pop up all the time–the ongoing input lag bug on Xbox is an especially bad one, with the game sometimes reading an input seconds after you’ve pressed a button. For a game as fast-paced as Apex Legends, this bug has made firefights significantly harder to win on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, and a full week later, Respawn still hasn’t managed to implement a fix for it. My friends and I can technically play the game on Xbox (it still runs), but our fun is now being repeatedly interrupted by instances where the game isn’t immediately registering that we’re trying to reload or heal or shoot.
Ignoring those issues, Apex Legends is, at its core, basically fine. You can usually turn it on and play it. But as time goes on, more and more of these issues continue to pile up, making the experience a little bit more irritating for a growing number of players with each subsequent season. If allowed to fester, I worry that Apex Legends will eventually reach a state that is unplayable for just enough people that we see the playerbase turn on the game.
Loba’s tactical ability hasn’t consistently worked for nearly a year, heavily nerfing one of Apex Legends’ two support characters.
So, before that happens, Apex Legends should get an Operation Health, and considering how much content is available in the game, now feels like the perfect time to do it. Sometime in Year 4–so at this point, Season 14 or Season 15–Apex Legends should go a full three months where the game gets no new characters, weapons, maps, or modes. Maybe Respawn adds a new battle pass and limited-time events so folks have something to look forward to, but I’d err on the side of as little new stuff as possible so that the Apex Legends team can devote themselves to addressing issues. Maybe just bring back Season 1’s battle pass (which almost no one had a chance to finish since daily and weekly challenges didn’t exist back then) and recycle popular modes like Control, Shadow Royale, Winter Express, and Déjà Loot.
Or don’t even have that. I’d give up any and all opportunities to chase challenges or unlock cosmetics for an entire season if it meant Apex Legends’ many lingering issues were finally addressed.
I understand if Respawn is wary of pursuing this plan. The studio is not in the same situation that Ubisoft Montreal had the pleasure of being in back in 2017, with games like The Division, Watch Dogs 2, For Honor, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Just Dance 2018, and Assassin’s Creed Origins contributing to Ubisoft’s bottom line for the fiscal year. What does publisher Electronic Arts have going on to cover for a dip in revenue from its best live-service shooter? Battlefield 2042? Psh.
At least Apex Legends’ character-driven story continues to excel with each season.
Apex Legends is one of EA’s main cash cows alongside the publisher’s sports and racing simulator games–the battle royale has pulled in over $2 billion as of May 2022–and it likely wouldn’t make as much money as usual if there was a whole season where no new content was released for the game. But that might just need to be a bitter pill that Respawn and EA collectively swallow. It’s been increasingly frustrating to see Respawn continue to kick certain issues down the road, with promises that certain problems will be fixed eventually or that long-awaited features will be added one day.
I’m willing to give up seeing a new character or gun at the start of a season if it means that Wattson will finally be able to place her Perimeter Security on Storm Point without the nodes glitching, or Loba will be able to toss her Burglar’s Best Friend and regularly teleport for the first time since Season 8, or the game client will be adjusted so that future patches never outright break the game again. I understand that game development is especially hard when it comes to maintaining live-service games and updates can take time–all I’m asking is for Respawn to actually carve out the time that the Apex Legends team needs so that we can get these issues addressed and just move on to enjoying the game.