Well, looks like that leak from several months ago was correct once again. The 10th Apex Legend is set to be Wattson - a lady with a French accent, good grades and a serious obsession with electric fences. We got a brief look at her earlier during the EA Play livestream reveal, and she's due to arrive as part of season two kicking off on 2nd July - but after some queuing in the LA sun today I was able to take Wattson for a trial spin myself. Despite my time with her being brief, I'm already a fan.
As a recap, Wattson is a defensive support character who specialises in electrical equipment. She's got a particularly colourful backstory, as her father is the inventor of the Apex arena, and she actually helped build the fence holding everyone in. All in all, she's probably someone you'd want on your side in a battle to the death that she... er, helped construct.
In terms of abilities, Wattson's key mechanic is her tactical - called perimeter security - that allows her to place a generous 12 nodes to section off areas of the map with an electrical wall only your teammates can pass through. Enemies who walk through not only take a knock to their health, but their peripheral vision distorts upon entry, they get slowed down and your entire squad is alerted to their location. I did find that placing nodes around objects meant the ability could sometimes snap off before I was quite done, so you'll have to think carefully about where to plop the fences down.
Along with her tactical, Wattson has a useful ultimate called interception pylon which destroys ordinance and boosts your squad's shields. If you're feeling impatient, you can skip the waiting with the help of Wattson's passive ability, which means she only requires one ultimate accelerant to fully charge her ultimate ability. The pylon is undoubtedly going to be handy in the late game, when teams are looking to defend static positions and avoid "arc star spam", as the devs term it.
So, what were my main impressions when playing as Wattson? Almost immediately, the way I thought about the match changed significantly. To an even greater extent than characters such as Lifeline, I was consciously aware of where my teammates were at all times, and made a more active effort to guard them while keeping an eye open for enemies I could corral. Like a sheepdog, but more lethal.
The first enemy we encountered was in Bridges - on the actual bridge - which gave me the perfect opportunity to spin my electric web of death. By placing poles across most of the platform, I was able to section off the unwitting Octane and effectively force him into a small gateway, making him the perfect target for our bullets while preventing any silly ideas such as flanking. In retrospect, I reckon the Octane could have jumped over the fence with a launch pad, and I expect players won't take long to think of creative ways to counter Wattson's perimeters - making for some very lively gameplay.
When approaching fights, I also began to think more tactically and really plan out my approach. By Respawn's own admission, the meta for Apex has previously focused on hard-and-fast battles, with plenty of third-partying and charging in head-first. Not only will Wattson give enemies pause for thought, but her own playstyle offers a slower and more considered approach - in a good way, as a well-planned fence can lead to a satisfying result.
A little tip when playing as Wattson is to quickly get your head around the fact the fences stop bodies, not bullets. It sounds dumb when written down, but it takes a genuine mental shift from thinking about Lifeline's shield (which does stop bullets) to get used to Wattson's penetrable fences. Don't hide behind them without cover.
Of course, adding in a new Legend can always result in the need for some tweaks, and there a few areas which I think could potentially spark a balancing debate. The first is that the fences don't seem to deal massive amounts of damage, and I think this is something that players will soon figure out. Watching a player stepping through a fence (and over my corpse), their shield went from four bars to three, meaning the fences function as more of a mild deterrent rather than serious stopping force. Useful if you need to weaken someone before a fight, but not enough to stop someone coming through. On the other hand, if the fences were too powerful, it would seriously limit mobility - one of Apex's defining features.
Another potential issue is the interception pylon could be too powerful in later stages of the match. As the ultimate boosts player shields, speeds up Wattson's tactical (meaning more fences) and is a permanent structure, it's a seriously powerful ability, and could be hard for enemy squads to take down - particularly as it also blocks grenades.
Overall, however, Wattson seems like a true team player and should shake up the meta, and I'm intrigued by the alternative approach she provides. Pathfinder, I'm sorry, but I may have to put you on the shelf for a while.