Here's an unusual choice for a battle royale game: Which character do you want to play? Respawn has injected hero characters into the shrinking circle genre, with a nicely varied, fun cast so far. Officially they're called Legends, not heroes, because some of them are bad dudes. Legends, heroes, champions, whatever you call them—this is the crew you'll need to learn to excel, and to know what your opponents are capable of.
There are only eight characters at launch, with more to come in the future. Here's a look at each one and descriptions of their special abilities, straight from the game. For more on Apex Legends, check out our hands-on impressions and breakdown of its loot packs and microtransactions.
Role: Holographic Trickster
Passive skill: Encore!
Automatically drop a decoy and cloak for 5 seconds when knocked down.
Active Skill: Psyche Out
Send out a holographic decoy to confuse the enemy.
Ultimate: Vanishing Act
Mirage deploys a team of decoys to distract enemies while he cloaks.
Mirage is a big jokester and seems perpetually at a loss for the right word, so he usually says something silly. I think that's Troy Baker makin' all the jokes? His decoy move is a great way to draw attention away from yourself or a teammate in a firefight; ideally you'll activate it from around a corner, so no one realizes it's not the real deal until they put bullets through empty air. Just remember that you're not actually cloaked when you use Psyche Out—that's reserved for the more powerful ultimate ability.
Role: Toxic Trapper
Passive skill: Nox Vision
You gain threat vision on enemies moving through your gas.
Active Skill: Nox Gas Trap
Place up to 6 canisters that release deadly Nox has when shot or triggered by enemies.
Ultimate: Nox Gas Grenade
Blanket a large area in Nox gas.
Caustic is Apex Legends' Reaper. Not because he plays remotely similarly, but because he's clearly a giant edgelord, with dialogue lines like "Everything dies in the end" and "I love being evil" (Okay, I made that second one up, but seriously he says something just like that in a character trailer). His abilities are appropriately evil, as they're all built around using poison gas to kill people. Caustic is Respawn's way of showing that no, Apex Legends isn't a hero shooter, cause these fighters ain't all heroes. Anyway, his gas canisters make for a rude surprise and are best hidden around corners or thrown at an enemy before triggering his ult, which can effectively zone control with a nasty damaging gas cloud.
Role: Professional soldier
Passive skill: Doubletime
Taking fire while sprinting makes you move faster for a brief time.
Active Skill: Smoke launcher
Fire a high velocity smoke canister that explodes into a smoke wall on impact.
Ultimate: Rolling Thunder
Call in an artillery strike that slowly creeps across the landscape.
Bangalore is a no-fuss weapons expert with cool hair and real straightforward abilities. She may also be Apex Legends' most reliable character and the most common pick for a damage-dealer. I saw her get tons of play from Respawn employees and testers, and her smoke grenades are way more important than you might guess at first. They're perfect cover for retreating to heal, or confusing and separating an enemy squad. The airstrike is devastating but takes care to use: You have to throw a marker down and then wait for the damage to arrive, so it's tricky to pull off once a firefight gets going.
Role: Interdimemsional Skirmisher
Passive skill: Voices from the Void
You hear voices when danger approaches.
Active Skill: Into the Void
Reposition quickly through the safety of the 'void' space, avoiding all damage.
Ultimate: Dimensional Rift
Link 2 locations with portals for 60 seconds.
Wraith feels a bit like Apex Legends' version of Tracer, but instead of a fast blink she can disappear into a grayscale dimension for a few seconds and run from point A to B safely. It's a useful move offensively and defensively, and her ultimate is a more dramatic version of that. You can run with your ult active for around 15 seconds before linking two ends of a portal, which is enough to cover some serious distance. It works both ways and can be used by your whole team.
I only played a couple matches with Wraith, and didn't notice her "voices from the void" passive cluing me into danger in either game.
Role: Forward Scout
Passive skill: Insider Knowledge
Scan a survey beacon to reveal the ring's next location.
Active Skill: Grappling Hook
Grapple to get to out-of-reach places quickly.
Ultimate: Zipline Gun
Creates a zipline for everyone to use.
Pathfinder is the less obvious support pick than the medic Lifeline, but Pathfinder is a robot, which is a very cool thing to be. Its grapple hook will probably be a favorite tool among pro players, though other characters can already mantle up walls pretty effectively. The zipline is also highly situational, but great for covering ground fast. Definitely a character for planners, thinkers, and robot thumbs-up lovers.
Role: Combat Medic
Passive skill: Combat Medic
Revive knocked down teammates faster while protected by a shield wall. Healing items are used 25% faster.
Active Skill: D.O.C. Heal Drone
The Drone of Compassion (DOC) automatically heals those near it over time.
Ultimate: Care Package
Call in a drop full of high quality defensive gear.
No character in Apex Legends feels like a must-have, but Lifeline is the closest. Her passive skill puts up a hugely helpful shield whenever she's helping revive a downed squaddie, which she also does faster than other characters. Her healing drone is just as useful, healing a teammate or Lifeline herself without consuming a precious medkit.
Her ult is an interesting tool: It seems like a pure support ability, just good for outfitting your squad with some better gear, but it can also be used as a lure to draw in nearby enemies. Just don't let them make off with your stuff.
Role: Shielded Fortress
Passive skill: Gun Shield
Aiming down sights deploys a gun shield that blocks incoming fire
Active Skill: Dome of Protection
Throw down a dome-shield that blocks attacks for 15 seconds
Ultimate: Defensive Bombardment
Call in a concentrated mortar strike on a position you mark with smoke.
Gibraltar's a big guy with big belly laughs, and the most genial, likable Legend of the bunch. He feels quite beefy to play as, with a noticeably slower move speed than some other characters, and a shield that deploys whenever you aim your gun. It can soak up enough damage to keep you in fights longer, as long as you're facing the right direction. But he's not as tanky as, say, Overwatch's Reinhardt, so don't stand there getting shot for too long.
Gibraltar's ult is similar to Bangalore's, but more focused. Good Gibraltar players will be defined by how effectively they use his Dome of Protection to save allies in a firefight.
Role: Technological Tracker
Passive skill: Tracker
Foes leave behind clues for you to find.
Active Skill: Eye of the Allfather
Briefly reveal enemies, traps, and clues through all structures in front of you.
Ultimate: Beast of the Hunt
Transform into the ultimate hunter. Enhances your senses, allowing you to see cold tracks and move faster.
Fun fact: Bloodhound's character design actually dates back to the early Titanfall days, though he didn't become the tracker he is in Apex Legends until years later. Good Bloodhounds will need to be quick at communicating information to teammates, as his abilities are all about picking up signs of other players and getting the drop on them. Beast of the Hunt turns your screen gray and lights up enemies and their footprints so you absolutely can't miss them. (Well, you can't miss seeing them, anyway. The hitting them bit's all you.)