Since the dawn of Apex Legends, there has been a useless training mode. Sure, when you first boot up Apex, it's a useful tutorial. It litters guns everywhere for you to try. You follow Bloodhound as he directs you how to use your skills. But there's a downside: you can only play it as Lifeline, meaning you can only test out her abilities. For a hero-based shooter, it holds it back. For every new hero you want to try—whether a new character you've unlocked through in-game currency or one of the other non-Lifeline base heroes—the only way to see what they're all about is by playing a match itself.
It's been a major deterrent for me, and many others, in playing as some of the more complex Legends in the roster. Personally, I'm an Octane main—I like to run into situations, guns blazing, without much thought. The other two characters introduced since launch, Crypto and Wattson, are the opposite of Octane. They reward thought and strategy, not chaos. Because of that, I've barely touched the two.
Today though, Respawn has introduced a new "Firing Range" training area. It's the same as the Training level for the tutorial, only there's no Bloodhound looming in the background. Instead, you're all by yourself with some bright red dummies to shoot at, and all the lootable gear available to wear, along with each gun's attachments. Seeing everything laid out in an organized fashion as if it's a round of Wilmot's Warehouse is in itself oddly satisfying. The best part of the Firing Range though? The ability to toggle between Legends. No longer are you stuck with just Lifeline. You can actually test out characters in a non-combat setting now.
I've been thinking since Respawn announced a new training mode was coming to Apex Legends: Maybe this is exactly what we need to break out of our mains. Maybe this is how we spice up our playstyles and try new things.
Because competitive games, they're like a neighborhood restaurant that you eat at at least once a week. They're comforting, welcoming; consistent and good. You always know what that first bite's gonna be like, and how satisfied you'll feel when you've reached the end of a meal. It's your ol' reliable. Likewise, for me, nothing's more satisfying than speed boosting Octane, and then running onto a jump pad to shotgun a startled party of Apex players. As with so many others, I barely part with my "main."
The new Firing Range is an answer to that stifling view. It immediately reminds me of Splatoon's weapon testing area. There, you can reset the ink you've splattered all around if you want to, and change what weapon you want to use on the fly. It's maybe the best "try before you buy" option I can remember in games; and Apex Legends' own Firing Range has a very similar appeal to it. While I do wish the dummies in it moved around—even if it was in an arbitrary way just to give me the sense of a moving target—what's in the arena is enough to brush up on my skills and test out those ultra rare guns I only get to pick up once in a few supply drops.
The addition of different attachments and hop-ups to the arena is also a helpful addition to better gauge what sort of ideal loadout I should keep an eye out for. Of course, in an Apex Legends match, I usually just grab whatever and as the round progresses swap things out accordingly, but Firing Range gives all players an opportunity to test out everything the map has to offer loot-wise, so that on the battlefield, we can all stand to be a little more discerning. (Or at least, knowledgeable about what we're shoving in our backpacks.)
Mostly though, it's solid for learning how to play as newer heroes like Wattson and Crypto, as well as testing out maybe some of the lesser played characters of the rest of the roster, like Wraith for me. (Yes, I'm the only person in the world who doesn't main Wraith.) On the 3.1 Patch Notes, which also outlines other more minute changes and a new Duos mode, Respawn Entertainment notes that it will be monitoring all feedback and there will be "future improvements to come."
The new training area is working too. After messing around in the Firing Range for a while, I found that I'm surprisingly digging Crypto's Recon abilities. It's a shock, because I dislike playing as the other character that shares Crypto's class, Bloodhound. With Crypto though, I like hanging back and letting his drone fly around for a seemingly infinite amount of time. It's making me realize that maybe I've been playing Apex wrong this entire almost-year. Maybe I should be more cautious and thoughtful. This is all an exhaustive way of saying: Thank god Apex Legends finally has a proper training mode.