Update July 5th, 2:30PM ET: On Tuesday afternoon Respawn and EA released a new patch saying it should address the issue, and after playing a bit I can confirm it has fixed input lag with all the controllers I used on Xbox Series X.
Last week, EA’s battle royale shooter Apex Legends launched a “collection event,” which is shorthand for a limited-time setup that is mostly about players buying a bunch of cosmetic items from the in-game store. The only problem is that this time, the massive update has made the game nearly unplayable for many people on consoles.
Without warning, the battle royale shooter’s usually tight and responsive controls — a known quantity for Respawn Entertainment games since Titanfall and a reflection of its Call of Duty heritage — have become slow, laggy, and frequently unresponsive. Even worse, simply playing the game can make your control inputs feel altered even in the dashboard, and while using other games; restarting the console seems to fix this issue.
Players found one way to reliably address the issue, by rolling back firmware on certain Xbox wireless controllers, which I’ve confirmed works and you can read on to find the steps on how to do it.
Finally, on July 5th around 1PM ET, after the collection event and limited time mode ended, a new update arrived that appears to fix the problems. Other than the length of time it took to fix the problem, I also wish there were an in-game notification of some kind to tell players what’s happening. As it is, there’s nothing on the message boards that appear when you log in, and many people on Xbox have noticed something wrong but didn’t know it was broken due to a patch, and may not know that it’s fixed now.
Players found their own fix before a patch arrived
Players on Xbox Series X consoles appear to be complaining the most, especially when paired with one of Microsoft’s Elite gamepads. Without any specific information about what the problem is, I can only describe what I’ve experienced, which is a combination of lag, as well as failed input detection that can make it hard to do things like use burst fire weapons, change directions, or even pick up items from the ground. After trying it out a bit over the weekend, I noticed input lag as an issue the most while playing on Xbox Series X and Series S, using both an Elite 2 gamepad, as well as newer Xbox Series gamepads that include the share button.
Acknowledgment of the problem by developers has been limited to a couple of reply tweets last week and one Monday afternoon saying the team is continuing to investigate. However, not everyone who plays the game follows its official Twitter account or dug into replies to find the initial statements, leaving many players in the dark about what might be going on while they try to play a competitive shooter using controls that just don’t work.
As it is, people who play the game have been left to discover the problem on their own and pass around possible solutions. I tried some of them, like updating the controller firmware or not updating it or plugging the pad in with USB instead of playing wirelessly. . Of those, plugging the gamepad in seemed to help a bit, but it still wasn’t as responsive as it used to be. What I saw was consistent with some reports posted on Reddit, where plugging in seemed to fix the failed input detection issue without resolving the lag and stuttering. This post highlights how, after playing Apex, they experienced input lag system-wide on the dashboard and in other games, which I also noticed.
Prior to the release of a patch that resolved the problems without player intervention, players found at least one thing that reliably mitigated the issue. For people who have a second-generation Elite gamepad, rolling the controller back to an Xbox One version of the controller’s firmware, for some reason, restores the inputs to a playable state. I tried this myself, and while the problem is so hard to perceive that I can’t tell if it’s completely fixed, the game felt noticeably better and is completely playable.
This Reddit post has the instructions on what to do, and following them solved the problem of input lag while trying to play Apex Legends on my Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. You’ll need a PC running Windows 10 or 11 (if you’re on a Mac, installing Windows in Boot Camp should work), where you can install the Xbox Accessories app from the Microsoft Store.
Once you have it, just use a USB cable to plug the Elite 2 controller in. Then you won’t actually use the app itself, as it doesn’t have a built-in button for the function you need. Instead, open the Windows run menu (you can do this by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard and the letter r at the same time), and type in this entire string, without anything else around it:
Press the OK button. Then the app will open, and ask you to confirm if it’s what you want to do. Say yes by pressing the button shown above labeled “Revert Firmware,” and it will install the older firmware on the controller. When you use your gamepad with your Xbox, it will tell you there’s a newer update available. You can skip that by pressing the Xbox button on the controller and play as normal, and if it works as it did on my system, then you should have a much better experience, and I didn’t notice any issues with other games either.
My Halo Edition Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 showed version 5.13.3143.0 when it was updated to the most current firmware available. After using the downgrade command to revert the firmware, it listed the version as 4.8.1908.0.
I tried the same process on two standard Xbox Wireless controllers, both newer models with the Share button. The software wouldn’t allow a rollback with the command, and trying to play Apex Legends with either one still exhibited input lag. One has been updated to the latest firmware available (5.13.3146.0), while the other is on an older version (5.11.3118.0).
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
The Xbox Elite Series 2 is easily one of our favorite controllers at The Verge. It’s an improvement on the already excellent Elite Controller, with deep customization, optional rear paddle buttons, and a swappable D-pad and analog sticks that allow you to tailor its layout to suit your play style.
Oddly, this may not be the only game with this issue on Xbox, as MLB The Show 22 players have complained about similar problems, but it was one that didn’t exist within Apex Legends prior to last week’s update.
The Awakening event included an opportunity to play the well-liked Control mode again, which serves as a chance for new, or new-ish, players to give the game’s characters a spin in a more forgiving team deathmatch-style setting than the game’s standard battle royale or 3v3 arena options.
It also tweaked one of the game’s original characters, Lifeline, with greater healing abilities to go along with a specific section on the World’s Edge map dedicated to her and, for those who collect all of its items, access to a special heirloom item for the Valkyrie character. The developers also laid out some much-anticipated changes to the game’s ranked system that will take effect soon. It would all be great if only playing the game on Xbox wasn’t such a painful experience, which feels like insult added to injury after the update last week also cut off Xbox players for hours in the morning. For some reason, the new version of the game started downloading to consoles early, and since the servers weren’t ready, that meant you couldn’t play this online-only game at all, and even trying to launch it on Xbox was enough to initiate the update.
Meanwhile, over on Apex Legends Mobile (which is developed by a separate team), players have more than just working servers and controls. They’ve got access to a mobile-exclusive legend, as well as features players on the main game have been asking for. That includes abilities added to characters like the thief Loba, who is able to grab respawn banners for vanquished teammates using her Ultimate ability, or the “holographic trickster” Mirage sending out decoys that look like his teammates instead of just himself.
With Apex stricken on the platform I usually use (and where I’ve unlocked many in-game items), I gave the mobile version a try. It isn’t really enough to hit the spot — even while using a real controller via Bluetooth — but I appreciate what the team behind it has been able to accomplish. Right now, it just reflects where the base game is failing, both in terms of usability and communication about whatever the problem is that’s going on.
The downside of the rollback fix was that it only worked with Elite 2 gamepads. A workaround that requires skipping through update menus, and a $179.99 controller isn’t much of a fix at all, even if it works for now. Respawn’s first patch since the troublesome didn’t fix the input issue, and the only noticeable change was a new $5 tier to buy in-game currency.
As some people responding to this post on social media have pointed out, this isn’t even the only problem facing Apex Legends at the moment — in-game audio appears to be more broken than usual, Loba’s teleportation bracelet fails more often than it works, voice communications from players on Xbox are almost entirely useless with compressed and jittery audio, plus assorted complaints about the matchmaking, hit registration, scoring for ranked play and more. Some people have called for a boycott of the game throughout August to push for changes.
Now the input lag problem has been patched, and players can keep up with the team’s progress in addressing various problems via a Trello board. As noted above, however, the list of issues players are complaining about still has quite a few entries, and we’ll see if calls for #NoApexAugust outlive this particular problem.