As with many free-to-play games, Apex Legends relies on microtransactions and loot boxes to make its money. Every weapon and character has a host of cosmetic options you can unlock and choose from, which range from different colours to huge redesigns. Most can be unlocked at any time – provided you have enough in-game currency or a slice of good luck – but some are limited edition, available only for the duration of a season or during specific events.
That’s all largely fine, albeit a little predatory in places. However, problems arise when some weapon skins offer an in-game benefit. That’s the case with two Flatline skins in particular, the Heavy Metal and Heat Sink. The two skins have the exact same design in different colours (a common occurrence known as a ‘recolour’ in Apex), and were the rewards for reaching Level 100 and 110 on the Season 4 battle pass respectively.
You may like the designs or not, but it’s when you aim down the sights that everything changes. The iron sights on these Flatlines offer unparalleled and unobscured vision when aiming down the barrel. Look at the image below – the gap below the reticle may look small, but it gives a major advantage if the opponent you’re aiming at ducks beneath your line of fire. That one little gap helps you track enemies better, and can be the difference between securing a kill and letting that pesky Wraith get away.
Some guns are better than others (the Rampage being a personal favourite this season) – much as some Legends are better options if you want to win. Valkyrie is climbing the ranks in the Apex Legends esports scene for good reason, but none of these offer an advantage simply for spending money. You unlock every weapon just by playing the game (but importantly, not every skin), and you can unlock every character just by grinding out Legend tokens. These Flatline skins are a different story, however.
After featuring in the Season 4 battle pass, the Heavy Metal and Heat Sink skins were made permanently unavailable. They’ll never be available again, thanks to Respawn’s commitment to not repeating skins locked behind battle passes (this was the case for everything prior to Season 10, when the developer changed its own rules). So, if you didn’t pay real money to buy the battle pass back in 2019, you’re at a competitive disadvantage. These aren’t cosmetic items, they are superior upgrades that tangibly improve your weapons.
What can Respawn do? It can’t pop out a recolour of the battle pass skin because that counts as repeating content that some players paid for. However, it can make a new skin with the same ironsights and make it available with Crafting Materials, a free currency earned by playing more games. The developer declined to comment on the skins when TheGamer contacted it.
While most pro players have completed every battle pass, this becomes a more pronounced issue when applied to the esports scene, where competitive integrity has massive financial implications. If pros have switched from console to PC for a better framerate, for instance, their previous cosmetics are unavailable.
Although the impact is smaller, the same goes for regular players, too. Some players can’t afford to buy the battle pass every season and new players are automatically at a disadvantage to those who spent money years ago. It is not fair that paid skins grant a competitive advantage in Apex Legends, and Respawn needs to do something about it quickly.
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