I’m enjoying my time with the newly launched Apex Legends Mobile, a fact thanks in part to my appreciation for big online mobile games like these, and partly because I’ve had a good year obsessed with the console version.
But I especially love it because I learned one key thing from the mobile gaming giant Call of Duty Mobile, which has a feature so useful that it’s now the basis I use to judge other similar mobile games.
I’m talking about one small aspect of the control system – and while Apex Legends Mobile doesn’t have the most intuitive controls of any of its competitors, there is one small thing it does well.
Cell phones are a lot more complicated to use for controlling games than a typical console, as the buttons are all on the screen, so you basically have to rely on your thumb to do most of the action (unless you have very clever fingers).
Since shooter games like Apex and CoD have the same main functions, all mobile shooting games have ended up with almost identical control system. You can swipe up on the right half of the screen to look around and on the left half to move around; Tap the button on the left side to aim your gun, tap the right to shoot.
This scheme worked, with PUBG Mobile being a prime example of it in action, but it makes the myriad other functions that much more difficult. If you want to crouch or stand, lie down, use a healing tool, change weapons, equip a grenade or something else, you have to move your hands – that means you can’t do it while aiming and shooting. In addition, if you wanted to move or look around while aiming, you had a hard time in front of you.
Call of Duty has simplified this in a small but essential way – when you hit the shoot button, you shoot automatically as well. This reduces the time it takes to press the two separate buttons, which could mean the difference between winning and losing in a frenetic shooting game.
With this little feature, CoD became my mobile game when I wanted this kind of gameplay – the whole gameplay felt much smoother and more intuitive, and it was hard to play PUBG afterwards.
Fortunately, Apex Legends Mobile copies this feature, and makes the gameplay feel just as crazy and fast as the non-mobile version.
But while Apex is a lot of fun, in part because of this feature, it stumbles on something else that has hit shooters on mobile, and Call of Duty is much better at — and that’s the rest of the controls.
a lot of buttons
While Call of Duty Mobile is inspired by the main Call of Duty games, Apex Legends Mobile is a direct port of the console and PC game, which means it should be more faithful to existing controls and features. The base game has a lot of subtle tricks, including things like sliding and using Ultimate abilities, which don’t fit well on the small mobile screen.
The screen’s touch controls section is cluttered, with lots of different icons for different things, making it hard to remember what it’s doing. What button do I press to slide down a hill? Can I remember to hit the “duck” button instead of the “reload” button? Often times, I end up tutoring the wrong icon, or had to remember which one did what.
The Ping system is a prime example. On console and PC, this is a great way to easily demonstrate features to your teammate – you can test the connectivity of distant enemies, loot useful items in chests, and areas to attack or defend. However, with the touch controls on a mobile phone, I find it hard to tell what the ping button will do – and sometimes things get pressed when I don’t even mean to.
The same can be said about picking up things – sometimes you’ll pick them up automatically, sometimes you don’t, sometimes you can’t pick up items at all even if you need them and have storage space, and I can’t work out a rhyme or reason why.
A good example of chests that drop when players are killed – allows you to pick up whatever gear they’re carrying, which is often the best way to upgrade your own weapons and restock ammo. In Apex Mobile, sometimes you automatically collect everything in the box that applies to you just by moving near you, but sometimes you need to press a small button on the screen to start the process – and sometimes you need to choose the items you want individually This last option is really time consuming.
Keep in mind I’m not a newbie playing my first mobile game – I’ve played a lot, as it literally is part of my job. Apex Mobile can be a little complicated, then.
Apex Legends is far from the first mobile game to have the “too many controls” issue, and I recently had it with PUBG: New State, which stop me from playing the thing. Thankfully, the easy shooting controls make up for the confusion, but I feel that some really easy tweaks would make the game more fun to play.
This is not to say that this is a bad game – in fact, I enjoy a lot, and it is one of the best mobile shooter games (and I have played a lot). But since I know I’ll be spending hours playing the game, I like that it makes more sense.