In a sense, Apex Legends is not the exact game that we reviewed back in February 2019–the roster of playable characters has doubled to 16, three full maps are in rotation, and several further modes (including ranked) are included.
There’s also a story that’s delivered weekly through map changes and comics that have built the game’s lore. Additional features have been added, like clubs for players to join, cross-play support, and limited-time events. On top of all that, seasonal content presents substantial meta changes, daily/weekly challenges, and rewarding battle passes, transforming Apex Legends into something greater.
And yet, despite these adjustments, the core of Apex Legends stays intact. It’s still a squad-based battle royale that inspires teamwork with an excellent ping system, where you begin each match picking from a roster of hero characters that possess unique abilities in order to perform different roles in battle. The core principles that made Apex Legends perform so well back when it first launched haven’t changed over two years later.
Apex Legends Nintendo Switch Review
All of which is to say Apex Legends is still really fun and worth jumping into if you haven’t yet. And now you can accomplish so on Nintendo Switch. But just because you can play Apex Legends on Switch does not imply you should. This port works, but only in the loosest sense of the term; this is the most ineffective way to play Apex Legends.
To the credit of developer Panic Button (a studio responsible for a dozen Switch ports, including Rocket League, Doom, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus), I’m shocked Apex Legends works on Switch at all. This is an online multiplayer game that hosts up to 60 players in a match, each of which takes a spot on some pretty large maps. I’ve only had one crash in my five hours with the port; it was during the character selection procedure, and the Switch managed to reboot the game fast enough for me to rejoin my squad only as we touched down on the ground. And if I can humble brag for a second, we still came on to win that match.
None of that alters the fact that it feels like the Switch is barely making it work. On Switch, Apex Legends targets 720p resolution while docked and 576p in handheld–numbers that nearly resemble the resolutions on baseline Xbox One, which also targets 720p but can fall short. However, it’s not the same. The Switch port seems to reach those resolutions just by compromising on graphical detail, draw distance and the speed at which assets are loaded. So on Switch, you might notice a building in the distance. However, it won’t have nearly the same level of graphical detail as other versions of the game. And on top of that, though the Switch port targets 30 frames per second, you can see that it dips below that.
That’s all a mere technical, gobbledygook way of saying that Apex Legends looks muddied on Switch, whether docked or in handheld. This is especially true when playing it on Xbox One X, PS4 Pro, Xbox Series X|S, PS5, or PC.
Now, on a surface level, this just signifies the Switch port is less pretty, which has no gameplay ramifications (but still makes me unhappy). When first turning on the game and looking down at Kings Canyon, I couldn’t resist but mutter, “Look how they massacred my boy.” But in a more substantial way, these drawbacks in resolution and frame rate put you at a detriment when you’re fighting against someone who’s playing on any other system–because, on Switch, it’s more difficult to see people from farther away and it’s more demanding to discern individual bullets. In a fast-paced battle royale like Apex Legends, wisdom is power and the ability to make split-second decisions with the information you have can be paramount for success–and that’s just more difficult to do on Switch, which can lead to frustrating losses when you’re put into a match with Xbox, PlayStation, or PC players.
As an example, let’s look at guns. In Apex Legends, guns that normally pack the most punch are those that can automatically fire. You’re getting a slower fire rate in exchange for increased firepower, prompting you to take your time with aiming instead of just squeezing the trigger. This offers you options: If, say, you’re carrying heavy ammo, do you want to use the M600 Spitfire and rush enemies with a flurry of bullets or rely on the 30-30 Repeater where each particular bullet can be charged if you wait for a breath between shots.