Titanfall recently concluded its Beta phase and is being universally praised within the media as an amazing game and hailed as the most anticipated shooter of 2014. Having played the Beta extensively myself, I can safely say that not only is Titanfall an astounding experience, it has all the right ingredients to revolutionize the multiplayer FPS genre.
Titanfall’s big hook is the eponymous Titans, hulking mechs that are drop shipped from orbital resource ships and are walking tanks that you, as an elite pilot, control. Leading up to playing the Beta, I dismissed the game as one full of gimmicks, you can wall run, double jump, hop into mechs, it all seemed like too much and would just not work. Well I was wrong — from the starting moments of the game, opening the training missions, it was clear that this was something different. The game is complex, but the ease of play was apparent right away. Once I completed training, which was an efficient 10 minutes or so, I felt prepared to enter the game and join the masses on the battlefield.
To really understand the flow of Titanfall, let us take a look at how a typical session progresses. Entering the lobby a popup tip suggested I start with Attrition mode which is essentially free-for-all deathmatch. The main starting weapon when you first play the game is a smart gun that auto-locks on targets, which I soon discovered is a mix between AI-controlled grunts and player controlled pilots. Grunts need one lock, pilots need multiples, I quickly racked up a few kills and almost forgot how mobile I can be in this game. I avoided an enemy by jumping, wall climbing and hopping through windows with no hitch in play; I cannot describe the satisfying nature of it all. After a certain period, my Titan was ready and I requested it be deployed. Jumping into the Titan (which has a wide variety of animations depending how you approach) I instantly felt both more and less powerful than I was before. Gone was the mobility I was greatly enjoying, but it was replaced with awesome power. Grunts and pilots (when you can catch them) fell quickly under the salvoes I fired from the hulking Titan. Before too long, I was faced by two enemy Titans and my mech was brought to its knees. Even though my Titan was fatally damaged, this still wasn’t the end, I was able to eject and switch to my anti-Titan weapon. Dropping from the air I was able to take out the more wounded of the two Titans, but was killed by the remaining one.
This series of behaviours and actions in any other game would be jarring and complex. In Titanfall the developer Respawn has somehow made actions like leaping from building to building while shooting, hopping into a Titan, ejecting and going on foot while the Titan follows in AI mode, or cloaking and sneaking up on targets, seem intuitive. As I played through the Beta (and hit the level cap I may add) I was never overwhelmed, in fact I found my strategies kept evolving as I leveraged these unique abilities throughout my matches.
To add to the stellar core gameplay, Respawn has also added a slick progression mode that unlocks new pilot and Titan loadouts that add further depth to the game. The unlocks evolve in a logical and well thought out ways. As an example, I found the starting smart gun to be quite powerful but the lock on times were a little long, so I started switching to the shotgun or rifle options. On top of the scaling weapon and equipment unlocks is a system called Burn Cards that you get as you progress. These cards can be equipped in your loadout and offer speed, weapon and other bonuses that can be a game changer if used correctly. The key is these cards can only be used after you die for your next respawn. It is so simple but adds a bit of a CCG mechanic to the game, again showing how the developer adds multiple components that function so well in practice.
All of these features, facets and implementations would be useless if the network code for this multiplayer-only game were faulty or if the game did not have a smooth frame-rate. In both cases Titanfall is exceptional, when they opened the floodgates for the open Beta I assumed that there would be long queues and load times, but I never had an issue joining or staying in a match. This is a far cry from the troubles that plagued a mature series like Battlefield. The graphics, while not ground-breaking, are effective and tick along at an impressive frame-rate, letting you experience all the action with a fluid smoothness that is hard to describe. All the components in this game are expertly crafted from the bottom up to deliver one of the most intuitive, and most importantly, fun FPS experiences to date.
Titanfall is easily poised to be the first game that breaks the dominant hold that the Call of Duty series has in the Multiplayer FPS space. It is launching across both Xbox platforms and PC shortly, and when it does, expect that all other games will be looking at its dust as gamers start to flock to this experience. While Battlefield and Call of Duty keep adding complex features and modes without making the core experience more intuitive, Titanfall, from the get go, delivers a game that has immense depth but is approachable at all skill levels. Even players who have basic skills will feel satisfaction as they take out grunts and land the occasional pilot kill. The game modes often reward defensive play as much as pure kills in a way that reshapes how we view leaderboards and the gameplay experience.
The founders of Respawn defined the current Multiplayer ecosystem when they launched Call of Duty Modern Warfare as Infinty Ward. Now with the imminent launch of Titanfall, they are poised to once again redefine FPS multiplayer gaming.
I cannot wait to get back into my Titan and go along for the ride. Titanfall is launching March 11 on Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows PC.