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Respawn launches Apex Legends, a free-to-play battle royale shooter

That escalated quickly. After making fans sit through a four-hour stream that featured little more than still scenery, Respawn Entertainment officially unveiled Apex Legends — and announced that it's launching today.

Actually, right now. You can download the game for free right now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Apex Legends is a free-to-play, first-person battle royale shooter that apes the shooting mechanics from the Titanfall series, while also introducing new multiplayer wrinkles that Respawn's other franchise lacks. In fact, Respawn has stated that the game actually takes place in the Titanfall universe, in some other corner of the world after the events of Titanfall 2. But you won't find giant mechs here. Instead, the focus is on shooting, surviving, and making use of each character's unique abilities.

That means B.T. is staying home. But in a battle royale game, that's probably for the best.

The characters in Apex Legends, by the way, also have quite a bit of personality to them — at least at first glance. The banter and snarky comments feel heavily inspired by Overwatch, and are welcome sounds when compared to the mute avatars found in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite. There's definitely some story potential there, should the game prove successful.

But what we're really looking forward to seeing with Apex Legends is how different the game feels compared to its battle royale competition. There are interesting little twists, like assigning a squad a "Jumpmaster" so that when you jump from the starting airplane (yes, Apex Legends has that), your team isn't spread out all over the map. There are Jump Towers, which let you get out of a sticky situation and shoot back up into the sky. And respawning is not only a part of the Apex Legends experience, but is very much encouraged. If a teammate can't revive you in time, they can pluck a card from your body and take it to something called a Respawn Beacon, bringing you back to life (but without any gear).

It's too early to say how Apex Legends will fare, now that there are so many other battle royale options on the market. But the Titanfall games have always been solid-feeling shooters, even if they haven't been the most popular. If Apex Legends can rope in some of the Call of Duty crowd, and also entice players from other games to at least give it a go, it has a fighting chance.

Apex Legends is available now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.