I’m enjoying the time with the recently launched Apex Legends Mobile, and that’s partly thanks to my appreciation for great mobile online games like this, and partly because I spent a good year obsessed with the console version.
But I especially like it because I learned one key thing from Call of Duty Mobile that has such a useful feature that I now use it to rate other similar mobile games.
I’m talking about one small aspect of the control scheme – and while Apex Legends Mobile doesn’t have the most intuitive controls among its competitors, there’s one small thing it does very well.
One button approach
Mobile phones are a little harder to use to control games than a regular console controller, as all the buttons are on the screen, so you basically have to rely on your thumbs to perform most of the action (unless you have very dexterous fingers).
Because shooters such as the Apex and CoD have the same key features, all mobile shooters have gotten an almost identical control scheme. You can swipe your finger on the right half of the screen to look back, and on the left half to move; click on the button on the left to aim with the gun, click on the right to shoot.
This scheme has worked, and PUBG Mobile is a key example of it in action, but it makes many other features a little more complicated. If you wanted to dive or get up, lie down, use a medical item, change weapons, equip a grenade or anything else, you had to move your hands – it meant you couldn’t do it while aiming and firing. Also, if you wanted to move or look back, aiming, hard times awaited you.
Call of Duty has simplified this small but key way – when you press the fire button, you also automatically aim. This reduces the small amount of time it took to press two separate buttons, which in a crazy shooter game can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Thanks to this small feature, CoD became my mobile game when I wanted this kind of gameplay – the whole gameplay was a bit smoother and more intuitive, and after that it was hard to play PUBG.
Fortunately, Apex Legends Mobile copies this feature, and it makes the gameplay as insane and fast as in the non-mobile version.
But while Apex is a lot of fun, in part because of this feature, it stumbles upon another thing that excites mobile shooters, in which Call of Duty was much better – and that’s the rest of the controls.
Too many buttons
While Call of Duty Mobile was inspired by the main line of Call of Duty games, Apex Legends Mobile is a direct port of console and computer gaming, which means it needs to be more loyal to existing controls and features. The basic game has many nuances, including for things like sliding and using the best abilities that do not fit well on the small screen of a mobile phone.
The touch screen section is overloaded with many different icons for different things, and so it’s harder to remember what and what it does. Which button to press to slide down the slide? Can I remember to click “duck” instead of “reboot”? A lot of the time I end up erasing the wrong icon or I have to remember what I did.
The Ping system is a key example. On consoles and PCs it’s a great way to easily show teammates features – you can check out distant enemies, useful loot items in boxes, areas to attack or defend. However, with sophisticated touch controls on my cell phone, it’s always hard for me to know what a ping button will do – and sometimes something is sent out when I don’t even mean it will be.
The same can be said about collecting items – sometimes you 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 come up with a rhyme or reason.
A great example is the boxes that fall out when players die – they allow you to pick up any equipment they carry, which is often the best way to upgrade their weapons and replenish ammunition. At Apex Mobile sometimes you automatically collect all the things you need in a box just by zooming in, but sometimes you need to press a tiny button on the display to start the process – and sometimes you have to individually choose which items you want and this last option really takes a lot of time.
Keep in mind that I’m not a newbie playing their first mobile game – I’ve played a lot since it’s literally part of my job. Apex Mobile can be a bit confusing.
Apex Legends is not the first mobile game to face the problem of “too many controls”, and I encountered it recently in PUBG: New State, which put me off the game. Luckily, the simple shooting controls make up for the confusion, but I feel that some very simple settings will make the game a lot more interesting.
You can’t say it’s a bad game – in fact, I have a lot of fun and it’s one of the best mobile shooters I’ve played (and I’ve played a lot). But since I know I’ll be playing the game for hours, I’d like it to make a little more sense.