I’ve been having a blast playing Apex Legends and it’s in large part due to the versatile ping system Respawn has cleverly implemented. Being able to communicate with your team without voice chat has been a boon. If you’re like me, you hate the nonsense that can go on during some online games. People can be overbearing, barking orders and micromanaging, immature idiots can be abusive to everyone around them, and that can be discouraging to someone like me that really likes to communicate while playing online. Being able to call out points of interest, enemy locations, or point at loot crates for your partners really changes the dynamic of the game when the ping system is your only means of communication. So much so that I actually think Apex Legends is better without voice chat. Using only the ping button for communication creates this fun meta-game of pulling your teammates to places you think you should go or getting outvoted and going somewhere else someone suggests. No bickering, no back and forth, you make a suggestion, they make theirs and wherever the party goes is where you go. You really have to pay attention and think about your partner’s motivation. Are they going for loot or are they trying to beeline it to the ring to stay safe? When you’re under pressure, your communication and teamwork skills are really put to the test, and knowing how to ping is sometimes the difference between life and death.
I had this match last night that perfectly illustrates how useful the ping system can be. I was using Bloodhound and my teammates were Caustic and Lifeline. It started out as a typical ApeLeg run: rummaging through houses, gathering loot and making our way to the center of the ring. Eventually, we ran into some trouble. We’re going about our business and happen upon a yellow rope leading to a platform high above us, Lifeline and I decide to see what’s up there. She went up first and I followed. As I’m approaching the top of the rope I hear gunshots and see her bail off the rope falling back down to the river below (no fall damage ftw). I got to the top, saw the enemy team also and jumped back down myself. I land and see Caustic standing there, clearly looking up, perhaps trying to ping the enemy location and assess the situation. We were directly below their platform so for the time being, we were safe. But we had to find a way to escape. We run out to a nearby rock that would provide cover and immediately got trapped because the enemy began raining down gunfire and grenades trying to get us to panic. Well, turns out Caustic did panic and was quickly knocked down. I used that moment as a chance to run to a safer location. Once I got my bearings I ran back to him, slid to cover and helped revive him back to his feet. As soon as he was up, Lifeline was killed by a random grenade toss. Caustic goes over to grab her banner for a chance at a revival, while I return fire to cover him. Then their team’s Bangalore activated her Ultimate ability and missiles begin landing all around us and that’s when we knew we had to book. Me and Caustic who is already carrying Lifeline’s banner are now running for our damn lives while everything around us is exploding.
They say only cowards run from battle but we were cowards that would live to fight another day. In the midst of our escape, I pulled up my map and found the nearest revival station. I hit the ping, point to that location and watched as my partner saw it, confirmed it, and started running in that direction. Finally, we reach safety. Caustic revives our dead teammate and we set out to the ring once again, this time in a different direction. We need to hurry up though because the circle is getting tighter and we’re on the inner rim of it as it is.
They say only cowards run from battle but we were cowards that would live to fight another day.
But first, our newly revived Lifeline needs gear. She pings a nearby apartment complex, opposite of where we need to go, but we confirm so we head over there, loot up and then go back in the other direction to the ring. On our way there I find a shortcut through some mountains and redirect the team. I can see Caustic make an about face and start following me but then notice Lifeline isn’t moving at all. Apparently, she stumbled into a firefight. We turn around and double back to her location where she is hiding behind a crate pinging the enemy high up in the mountains. They’re attacking her 3 on 1. I catch sight of them and ping their movement as they make their way down to us. Someone on their team shoots a smoke grenade (Damn Bangalore again) and that’s when all hell breaks loose.
Since I’m using Bloodhound I pop my Ultimate ability and begin to ping them through the smoke as they get closer and closer to us on the bridge we’re on. We return fire and now they start taking cover. We slowly retreat to our shortcut as we exchange shots back and forth. Eventually, we make our way back but now this shortcut seems more like a deathtrap because of the choke point between the two mountains. Caustic begins setting up traps for them, they keep coming towards us, with only Lifeline and me trying to slow them down long enough for him to finish. Finally, they make it to our location and that’s when we, once again, turn and run for our lives hoping the trap works as planned.
We make it through the shortcut through the mountains and run into the safety of the ring. With only four other teams alive we knew things would get hairy. We start taking shots from all directions while behind us, the team we trapped barely made it through alive. At that point, we’re surrounded, wounded, and with almost no ammo between us. I emote to my teammates a wave, it was a good run, it was a fantastic journey. I’m lucky to have run into these randos, but now it’s time to die.
And die we did. We took damage from all sides and eventually lost that match. Even though we lost, I saw the true potential of the ping system in Apex Legends at that moment. This bond we formed came without ever hearing their voices. In an age where the majority of gamers play online games with their mics turned off, the ping system reminds us that there is more to communication than having a 15-year-old scream in your ear that they just had sex with your mother, and apparently she enjoyed it so much they are dating, in fact, their first date went so well they are now married, and obviously, he is now your father.
So I’m not sure if the ping system will catch on with other team-based shooters, and I’m sure if I thought hard enough I could find other examples of it used in previous games but the way Respawn has implemented it, as contextual as it is, it can feel downright magical when used the right way. Online communication is back in a very big way. Bravo, Respawn.