Just over eleven years ago, Infinity Ward revolutionized online multiplayer games with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Last week, Respawn Entertainment released the Battle Royale shooter: Apex Legends, with many of the core teams responsible for the groundbreaking 2007 title. It is in the same world as Titanfall 2 and does not have the technological edge Modern Warfare had in its day, but the quality of the action is in a way that its competitors can barely match. Similarities with Titanfall 2 go beyond the setting – the heavily modified source engine used in Respawn's final title is rolled out again with some tweaks for Apex Legends ̵
In particular, the PC version shows how closely the Apex Legends build on the technology of Titanfall: The system requirements are very similar and the options menu is largely the same. Oddly enough, Apex Legends tweakables are a subset of Titan Case 2: HBAO + ambient occlusion is replaced by an SSAO variant, while Multi-Sampling Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) is gone. Temporal's super-sampling AA was Respawn's choice for Titanfall 2 on the console. On the PC, this technology combined with dynamic resolution scaling is the key to getting as close as possible to a 60 fps lock. This is the signature of Respawn – a commitment to provide the fastest visual feedback and lower input latency. It's all part of the right feel for the game. Again, Apex Legends feels very similar to Titanfall 2. This is not a bad thing.
Obviously, however, Apex Legends is moving harder and compromises have to be made. This is primarily due to the dynamic resolution of the window. Defining the upper and lower bounds for DRS is a challenge, but on the example of PlayStation 4 Pro, Titanfall 2 seemed to work mostly in the 1080p to 1440p range. We think that the upper bounds for Apex Legends are similar, but the resolution tends to spend more time in the 1080p range, and we've even seen the "charged PS4" hit 900p as well. The Xbox One X follows the same principles, but offers a climb, spends more time in the 1296p area and also offers a longer range. As expected, the base consoles have another hit, to the point where we even found resolutions of 720p on the PlayStation 4 and 648p on the Xbox One.
Suffice to say that the quality of the image depends very much on where your hardware is on the console's power ladder – PlayStation 4 looks fine, Xbox One's problems and the improved machines look better Shadow Cascades and possibly even higher quality textures (though clarity is more likely due to native resolution). Volumetric lighting also appears to be downgraded when comparing base and pro hardware head-to-head. Thanks to the DRS system, image sharpness is very tight with frame rate, and while most Apex Legends are locked at 60fps, they can break in – and they are much more noticeable on the base consoles.  It begins with the first entry into the stage of the carrier. Far-reaching views of card performance on upgraded machines and the hit on framerate on the vanilla consoles is such that Respawn drops completely by 60 FPS, with the full descent locked to 30 FPS before switching to 60 FPS once the view weapon is activated appears on the screen and the action starts properly. All console versions had GPU bandwidth issues. It's a disappointing sight when battle has powerful effects that affect performance when it's most needed. The users of the improved machines get a quieter ride and a clear advantage, while the owners of the base consoles even further increase the performance impact.
Even with the standard consoles, the frame rates are lower overall. The performance is more unstable even with a single pass and especially with longer train distances. Again, the Vanilla Xbox One is most affected – and there's another twist: the gameplay is riddled with occasional frame-time stuttering that sees everything up to a 180ms turn in the action – clearly and obviously in one title which is to aim for 16.7ms update per image.
What does all this mean? the PC version? Like the console games, Apex Legends is more demanding than Titanfall 2. Nvidia's flagship RTX 2080 Ti can not stand 4K60 at its peak settings and falls into more demanding areas in the 1950s. A GTX 1060 with similar settings is also worse at 1080p. The solution is to use the adaptive resolution technology that eliminates the kinks. The visual quality impact on the 2080 Ti is not really a problem, but the GTX 1060's resolution is more pronounced. Everything indicates that Apex Legends is more demanding than you would expect for a visual return – the Titanfall 2 Tech begins to show its age . And yet, Apex Legends is still scalable to a range of hardware.
When I looked through AMD's £ 90 / $ 99 Ryzen 3 2200G, I was amazed that I could run Titanfall 2 with a mix of low, medium, and high settings locked 60fps – thanks to dynamic scaling technology. Considering the additional requirements of Apex Legends, the same trick is remarkable – but with a 1500 MHz GPU overclocking (but still with the included cooler, I should add). The native resolution has to be set to 900p, and DRS is much lower in many cases (surprisingly uncommon!), But the game runs just as smoothly as on PS4 – but not anymore.
Fascinating too That means four Ryzen cores are enough to run Apex Legends at 60 frames per second – the utilization is around 50 percent down the line. Considering that the Ryzen 3 2200G does not have SMT hyperthreading and its memory bandwidth needs to be shared by the GPU, that's fine. The key to achieving good scalability in a PC game generally requires efficient CPU utilization. This means that optimizing the user experience can be done safely by scaling the graphics page of the equation. Apex Legends delivers here.
Visually, Apex Legends is a triumph of intelligent art direction over technology. The improved Source Engine has reached its limits in the face of hardware requirements, but the geometric density of the world and the quality of the artwork (especially the materials) look great. Of course, Respawn was now acquired by Electronic Arts. The most obvious way for the studio would be to embrace Frostbite – and to give one of the generation's most impressive engines a team that is talented for its future projects is a breathtaking view.