There's already a lot to appreciate about Apex Legends: the performance is solid, the movement is smooth, the gun mechanics are rock solid and the environment has plenty of variety. But by far and away the game's best aspect? The pings.
Pinging locations isn't new to shooters - it's a staple of the Battlefield series, an absolute necessity when it comes to managing firefights over wide ranges and coordinating movements between larger squads. But a good, fast system for marking locations in-game while you're in the middle of a firefight, as opposed to simply putting markers on a map in your downtime? That's another story.
The pinging system works like this. If you point at an object and hit the middle mouse button (the game is fully setup for those who want to use controllers on PC too) you'll place a contextual marker on the map, and screen, for your whole team.
Holding down the middle mouse button brings up a larger wheel, which lets you be more precise: you can place markers for general objectives, markers to indicate what lines of sight you're covering, what buildings or areas you're defending, a marker to indicate you're looting a building, and a marker to note that an enemy has been in the area. (The last one is more character specific: Bloodhound, one of the six unlocked legends from the off, has an ability where they can 'sense' tracks left by other enemy players, but anyone can use the ping.)
A small circular motion then lets you pick from any of the options in the radial menu, but you can assign specific keys toeach of the callouts if desired.
But the ability to bring up markers quickly, in the middle of a firefight, does wonders for communication. It's extraordinarily difficult, without practice, to effectively communicate while you're in the physical process of trying to gun someone down. Most people usually focus on one or the other - making the shot or making the call, and typically the call comes second. It takes an awful amount of practice to relay info verbally in the middle of a firefight without being a burden to your team.
But being able to tap a button and have a quick and fast visual prompt - and one that doesn't interfere with the visual aesthetic or other necessary information - makes a world of difference. Newer players are the ones who will see the most benefit too: communication relies on words, and it's difficult to know what to call various aspects of a map when you're still learning where everything is.
And even then, some people just suck at good comms. You've probably teamed up with a few: the people who can't help but seem to call 'behind' whenever they get shot, or other directional references that make no sense to the rest of the team because they're off alone somewhere.
Here's a helpful example. Still learning the ropes in my first few games, a friend suggested we head up a nearby balloon. There's an obvious risk to this - you can get shot along the way, for one - but the balloon will launch you skywards once you reach the top, allowing you to redeploy your glider and traverse the map a lot more quickly.
It's handy if you're stuck out of the circle. But in this instance, my friend recommended we stop at the top of a nearby rock to survey the area. We only had 30 seconds to do so - the game deems that area "out of bounds" - but it was a useful tool to quickly flush out the location of a couple of squads, one of which I marked quickly and effectively above.
After jumping off the mountain - there's no fall damage, another neat choice that fits with the Titanfall world - the ping allowed me to make quick calculations about the distance and how much space my friend and I would have on our retreat. It was a handy piece of info to have on the fly, something we could both understand without adding to the noise of voice chat or disrupting the others' concentration.
It's a system so well implemented that I wish every battle royale game had a system this good. It's a small touch, and doesn't shake up the genre quite as much as the three-player squads, the Overwatch-esque hero picks, reviving your teammates, dropping personal shields while you're looting or the Titanfall-style movement, but hot damn does it make a hell of a difference to your team.