It’s only been three days since Apex Legends dropped from Respawn Entertainment’s secretly hovering spaceship, but the game has already captured the time and attention of everyone I know that enjoys a good ol’ fashioned battle royale. Hell, it seems like it’s capture a lot more than just them.
And with good reason! The squad-based, class-based, free-to-play shooter does some extremely innovative stuff in the crowded battle royale arena — such as its brilliant contextual location/item call-out system and option to transcribe incoming voice chat as on-screen text. There are even two black women in this game, which is two more than in Blizzard’s squad/class-based shooter Overwatch, despite that game receiving eight new characters since it launched several hundred years ago.
Apex Legends does fail to innovate in one key sector, however, and that’s in its F2P architecture. Cosmetics are obtained through loot boxes, which are granted upon leveling up or purchased with a special currency. Said currency is sold for real human dollars.
Apex Legends now has 10 million players.
Has hit 1m peak concurrent users.
1m – 8 hours
2.5m – 24 hours
10.0m – 72 hourshttps://t.co/50i5c2z2ej
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) February 7, 2019
There’s also a Fortnite: Battle Royale-style item store selling cosmetics that can only be purchased with the real-money currency. Only unlike Fortnite, Apex Legends has no way for players to earn the real money currency in-game. There is an in-game currency, but right now it can’t be used to buy cosmetics or loot boxes. It’s only used to unlock new heroes.
That’s kind of a bummer! With as much attention as Respawn put into making accessibility and inclusion part of Apex Legends‘ core design, it would have been nice for the game’s F2P implementation to be a bit more progressive. The game is only a few days old, of course, so I’m willing to cut it some slack and see how it all shakes out.
That being said, Apex Legends‘ art direction does a great job of standing out in what is so easily a lifeless aesthetic. The game has seemingly thousands of cosmetic items to unlock, including weapon skins, costumes, voice lines, and “banner” decorations, which I’ll get to shortly.
There’s a good breadth of contrast with all these items as well — they’re not all the same kind of militaristic machismo. Although there’s still plenty of that to go around. Some of these are even quite metal, so I’ll be using this opportunity to rank Apex Legends‘ Top 10 Most Metal Cosmetics.
10. Bangalore’s “Fire and Fury” Frame
Your banner is your way of showcasing your prowess (or lack thereof, in my case) in Apex Legends. This card is shown to the rest of your team at the beginning of every match. If you happened to win said match, it’ll also be shown to everyone playing the next one. That also assigns a 500 XP bounty on your head, so stay frosty.
Pretty much every part of a banner can be customized. That naturally includes the frame that surrounds your character! Bangalore’s Fire and Fury frame, seen above, totally shreds in a 1970’s, “airbrushed on the side of my cousin’s van” sorta way. It may not be that metal by contemporary standards, but it’s still pretty radical, and it’s fully animated in-game. Your enemies get to watch that dragon breathe fire before you take ’em all down!
9. G7 Scout Sniper Rifle’s “Crimson Firedrake” Skin
The Crimson Firedrake features a highly-reflective golden dragon ornament. It arcs its way through the gun, claiming the gun’s barrel with its mouth as its tail wraps about the receiver. Of course, high visibility may not be the kind of thing you want in a sniper rifle, but that’s not the point. The point is that your gun has a sick dragon on it. Even if it does help someone spot your position, all that really means is that one more person got to see your totally sweet gun before you wiped their whole squad. Right? If power/fantasy metal groups like Dragonforce or 3 Inches of Blood were a sniper rifle, they’d be the Crimson Firedrake.
8. Devotion LMG’s “Lead Farmer” Skin
The Lead Farmer slots firmly into the middle of the “metal/military” Venn diagram explored by acts like Metallica in the 1990’s, thanks to its battle-worn skull and shells paint job, as well as its decorative belt of munitions. The tripod is also decorative, now that I think about it… There’s no way to go prone in Apex Legends. This type of hyper-masculine, Full Metal Jacket-style metal isn’t really my cup of tea, but I can still recognize a strong implementation of that style when I see it.
7. Longbow DMR Sniper Rifle’s “Big Game Hunter” Skin
Now this right here… This looks like the kind of sniper rifle an enemy in DOOM might carry. That, of all things, makes it undeniably metal. There’s no telling what kind of hell beast that skull came from or what kind of unholy powers the gun has as a result. It’s still no match for the Doom Slayer, of course, but neither is anything else. That’s that dude’s whole deal.
6. R-99 SMG’s “Alchemist” Skin
One could argue that the R-99 SMG’s Alchemist skin is more cyberpunk than it is metal. I can see where you’re coming from, but I think its arcane runes and inscriptions give it a decidedly dark, spiritual feel — albeit a futuristic one. Sci-fi metal is very real, of course, despite being more of a storytelling theme than a distinct musical sub-genre.
5. Caustic’s “Corrosive Agent” Frame
Caustic is one of Apex Legends‘ two unlockable characters. They can be purchased for both paid and in-game currencies. His whole deal is chemical warfare (as you might have surmised) and since he’s the only white male in the game, he’s quite literally a toxic white guy. This is hilarious to me.
Anyway, his Corrosive Agent banner frame is totally ghoulish in the most 80’s of ways. Therefore it has an obvious home on this list. If that burning, melting gas-mask skull doesn’t look like it belongs on a Megadeth album cover, I don’t know what does.
4. Wraith’s “Void Magic” Frame
Apex Legends‘ teleporting DPS character, Wraith, sits squarely in cybergoth territory — at least as far as her costumes are concerned — but her Void Magic banner frame would feel at ease on the stage of any death metal show. Skulls, chains, and half-melted candles are the giant elephants that support death metal’s discworld. And this frame even throws some tiny spiders in there for good measure. What more could you want?
3. Hemlok Burst AR’s “Lost Queen” Skin
Y’all ever listen to Opeth? This gun looks exactly like how Opeth’s 2001 progressive masterpiece Blackwater Park sounds. This gun looks like a remnant of a forgotten kingdom, lost to time and the living, left sleeping at the bottom of a tainted bog for centuries. What madness preserves its functionality after so long? Does it resent being loosed from its quiet isolation? What’s up with the little stick figure guy on the stock?
2. RE-45 Auto’s “Predator” Skin
Hell’s oldest shackles were melted to forge this abomination. Each bullet cries out with the anguish of an uncountable horde of tormented sinners. The ruby of the ram’s eye glows with each new addition to Hell’s army… and it has never shined brighter. This is the gun that Satan keeps in his bedside table — a gift from Mephistopheles during last year’s Secret Krampus.
1. Gibraltar’s “Dark Side” Skin
Gibraltar is a hardcore badass, but nothing about him is particularly metal. That is except for this skin — a skin so metal that it effortlessly claims the top spot on this list.
The first thing I thought of when I saw this skin was the “corpse paint” aesthetic common to black metal, but black metal by design is a nihilistic, misanthropic cesspool of actual, real-world violence and sometimes neo-Nazism, and… That’s not who Gibraltar is.
This skin isn’t a mismatch between style and storytelling, though. This is a case of my own ignorance as a white person and my failure to recognize what is (most likely) this skin’s actual inspiration: Traditional Māori body modification.
The proper term is tā moko. The custom was nearly erased by colonization and missionary practices in New Zealand during the 19th century, but the practice has made a comeback over the last 30 or so years, as Māori people seek to reclaim the parts of their heritage destroyed or altered by European colonialism.
Many forms of moko have been recorded over the last few centuries. Each has its own deep purpose and significance, expressed through placement and design. While contemporary moko may be applied with modern, needle-based tattoo guns, the moko of antiquity were carved with bone chisels dipped in pigment, making them a form of scarification/tattoo hybrid.
“Early forms of moko evolved during the period of mourning for deceased relatives, where women would haehae (lacerate) themselves using obsidian or shells and place soot in the wounds,” according to Te Ara, the New Zealand government’s official encyclopedia website. “Haehae was a common expression of grief, and adding pigment to the wounds served as a reminder of the death of a loved one.”