You may have heard the news that Respawn Entertainment - now a subsidiary of Electronic Arts Global Megacorp Inc. - has released a free-to-play battle royale game entitled Apex Legends. It is, apparently, set in the Titanfall universe, but without the Titans which gave that franchise its name. That would be why they've given it that meaningless, self-consciously cool-sounding, focus group-tested, title.
Here are some alternatives they might like to consider for their next game:
Frankly, put any screenshot of Apex Legends next to one from EA's next big release, Anthem, and you'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart. Whatever happened to games having their own identity?! But that's okay, because people don't like to be startled by new and interesting things. They just want to be spoon-fed the same old lukewarm roadkill ad infinitum, apparently.
You know what a battle Royale game is dontcha, kids? It's a big, massive, online fighting game, and - often - encourages you to spend loads of monies on loot boxes, because that's how they recoup their investment. You know: like PUBG, Fortnight and Warfare.
EA? Free-to-play? Loot boxes?
It's only February, and this is already the worst news of 2019. Yes: and I include anything to do with Brexit, and nuclear arms races, and Donald Trump, in that.
You see, Respawn is the studio behind Titanfall and Titanfall 2. The former was a decent enough online shooter, with a perfunctory single-player mode, but its sequel boasted the best FPS single-player campaign since - and this is no exaggeration - Half-Life 2. So, of course EA shoved it out in-between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, where no amount of critical acclaim could save it.
EA? B-EA-ve yourselves!
That was okay, though, because Respawn was known to be working on Titanfall 2 - and surely that would've have built even more upon the brilliance of its predecessor's campaign. Except: now we know that Titanfall 3 is no longer in development, and instead we've got this ruddy Apex Legends thing, and it's Buy! Buy! Buy!
Electronic Arts? You are dead to me. I have buried you in a shallow grave, purely because it'll be easier to dig you up from time to time, so that I may get a random dog to do its fetid bottom-business on your meaningless corpse.
It takes me ages to realise that a relationship isn't working. I've clung onto friendships and marriages years past their sell-by date due to the weight of history, but once I hit that tipping point... there's no going back. Sadly, it's no different with Electronic Arts.
See that big slope there, EA? Now watch as you and I go sliding down it. Wheeeeee! Watch out for those rocks at the bottom! Actually; don't. I hope you break your legs.
My history with Electronic Arts goes back to the Mega Drive days. Some of the first games I bought for my Mega Drive were from EA, and though Rolo to the Rescue, Budokan and Sword of Sodan weren't very good, I'm easily pleased, and liked the unique cartridge design with that weird yellow tag on them.
Then John Madden Football came out, and though I didn't really know how to play an American Football game, I liked the sort of 3D effect on the pitch - or whatever they call it - and believed all the reviews which insisted it was the best sports game on the Mega Drive.
Furthermore, EA was pretty good to us in the Digitiser days, when the majority of publishers wouldn't even return our calls. We never had the relationship with EA's PR department that we had with some of the PR folk who pretended to like us, but they were always civil in a business-like fashion, and would invite us to EA HQ to see the latest games in development. That somehow instilled a bit of loyalty in me that I admit I've struggled to shake off.
Indeed, most of the criticism levelled at EA in recent years passed me by. Loot boxes? Yeah, annoying, but I had no intention of buying them, so how was that going to affect me? Don't get me wrong; I loathe Star Wars Battlefront 2 - but that's down to how scrappy and thrown away the single player campaign felt. When EA cancelled Amy Hennig's story-led Star Wars game I'd already started to question their handling on the Star Wars license.
Foolishly, perhaps, I gave EA the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the game wasn't as good as Hennig's track record suggested it would be. I continued to roll my eyes at every criticism levelled at EA, dismissing it as the usual "All-big-companies-are-bad" schtick that idiots spew out in order to look edgy.
But now this: no more Titanfall, and some free-to-play battle royale thing instead, which I've absolutely no interest in playing.
Please, EA, attend closely to the following statement: I'm with the rest of them now. You're an awful, greedy, corporate monstrosity, with no interest in art or harnessing the creativity and imagination of your employees.
Admittedly, I'm not entirely despondent.
Respawn is also working on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - which will, by all accounts, be a primarily story-led game. Yet at the same time, there will be limits to how far Respawn can push Star Wars, whereas Titanfall was its own property, and Titanfall 2 was so great precisely because they'd rip up the rule book from one mission to the next.
But I think this is it. This is the moment when the veil has dropped. Between Apex Legends and Anthem - another online multiplayer thing from EA, which will be laden with lootboxes - I no longer feel the company are making games for me, and is taking the piss. It has narrowed its focus to a myopic degree; Apex Legends, Anthem, A Way Out, Battlefield V... all are primarily online experiences, and the rest of EA's slate is made up of sports games.
Yes, there's the occasional indie gem - Sea of Solitude or Unravel - but gone are the days when EA would release the likes of Road Rash, Desert Strike, or Syndicate. Their slate is made up of games that are only distinguishable by the relative grittiness of their theming.
I get it: games are expensive to make, and a company isn't going to pump money into something that it doesn't think will make it more money, but it's depressing nonetheless that EA won't invest in the imagination of a company like Respawn. What's the point of purchasing creativity, if you're just going to tell the artists to make the sort of stuff that everybody else is doing.
"Yeah, er, nice sunflowers, Vincent - but what I really wanted was a moody painting of a female tennis player hitching up her skirt so you can see her bum crack... Actually, don't worry about using a brush. Here; borrow my camera."
Apex Legends feels entirely designed to tick a box on a spreadsheet, at the expense of a game which could've contributed something meaningful to video games.
Electronic Arts? More like Electronic FARTS!!!!!!!!
I'm so cool.