This past weekend saw the test drive of Respawn Entertainment’s upcoming Titanfall, and I consider myself lucky to be amongst those able to get to grips with it.
Titanfall is the first title developed by Respawn Entertainment, a company comprised largely of staff from Infinity Ward, the team responsible for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series, so the game already comes with an excellent pedigree, and the team’s roots are very evident in Titanfall.
Titanfall is, at its heart, a military shooter, and yet manages to stand out and be different in what is rapidly becoming a saturated genre.
Set in the near future, Titanfall sees war raging between the factions of the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation and the Frontier Militia. The player takes the role of a pilot, a rare person skilled enough to control huge mech-style robot walkers called Titans in a combat scenario.
And it is these, the eponymous Titans, which differentiate this game from the countless other military shooters which are so commonplace these days. Battles within Titanfall are a decidedly asymmetric affair; teams of six pilots will begin on foot, accompanied by countless expendable NPC grunts to battle over objectives. As the match progresses, players will be able to summon the massive titans and begin wreaking havoc on the battlefield.
Each player has a timer at the end of which, they can call for a Titan to be dropped from orbit onto the map. This timer can be accelerated by eliminating enemy players, or to a lesser extent, the enemy NPCs. So your performance will be directly tied to how fast you’ll get to play with the good toys. Even if the enemy beats you to the punch, pilots are still capable of holding their own against Titans.
Anti-Titan weapons will put a serious dent in their sides, particularly if they’re distracted and you can get an ambush. Additionally, an agile pilot with a high ground advantage can even leap atop one and ‘rodeo’ it, whilst shooting it in the circuits. In spite of the Titans’ size and firepower advantage, it never feels like an unfair fight.
Injecting a new breath of fresh air into the age-old run and gun formula are the pilots’ parkour abilities. Each player can easily run along walls and scale tall buildings, and combine these with a jet pack assisted double jump to get almost anywhere within the maps.
See a window high up that building? If you plan your path well, there’s a pretty good chance you can use that as your way in, giving you a tactical edge. It can be tricky to get to grips with, and personally, I’ve had more than my share of humiliating thuds as I land on the floor absolutely nowhere near where I was hoping to be, often in the midst of a pitched gunfight.
But when it goes exactly right, and for some people this will obviously be more often than for others, it’s an incredibly satisfying experience. This it seems, is the core of the whole thing, and what keeps me and many others coming back for more.
The spectacle of everything is such that you always feel like the hero. Whether you’re leaping gracefully across rooftops to reach a strategic position, hanging on for dear life to the back of an enemy Titan attempting to disable it before everything explodes. Even when you’re on the losing side, the game provides one last hurrah, as a dropship comes in to land to escort surviving players out and you’re given one last chance, a brief window of opportunity, to make your daring escape from the field of battle alive.
This would all be pretty compelling in and of itself, but the whole package is wrapped up in stunning visuals. The levels on offer were set amidst the wreckage of a disaster-ravaged futuristic city, and if you dared to tear your eyes away from the combat you would have been treated to some stunning landscapes surrounding the whole affair. The map designs themselves were equally well made.
Of the two on offer in the beta, neither of them was symmetrical, yet neither felt in any way imbalanced; the differing terrain never served to give any team a distinct advantage, and there was never a dead end in sight to interrupt your fast paced parkouring across the map.
In short, the Titanfall beta was one of the most compelling gaming experiences I’ve had in recent times, and now I, like everyone else, must wait patiently for the game to make it’s way into the world on 11 March. It will definitely be one of the most important titles this year.