Over the past few days, I had the opportunity to spend an extended period of time experiencing a small selection of multiplayer maps and modes from the upcoming Titanfall. What did I think? Read on to find out!
My initial thoughts on Titanfall were far from positive. I booted up the game and was greeted by the training tutorial which appeared to be a black screen full of polygons. I managed to progress a few lessons into the tutorial, but noticed with growing alarm that weapons were missing, textures were wonky, and the final straw was when enemies would be covered in strange twisted wire sctulptures. My gaming rig can play most games at max settings, so I knew something was wrong. After spending several fruitless hours searching for solutions, I was directed toward a YouTube comment that solved my problem. In some instances on PC, Titanfall will default to use the integrated PC graphics rather than the actual graphics card users have installed. So, if you want to save yourself a great deal of frustration when you boot up the retail version of Titanfall, make sure that you check to make sure it is running on your graphics card.
After resolving that issue, I managed to complete the tutorial, which consists of both pilot and titan training. In a number of ways Titanfall seeks to improve the established multiplayer FPS gameplay established by the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty. One of the most prominent being the emphasis on mobility and verticality to level design and combat. While on foot, players can run on walls for a limited time or jump from wall to wall indefinitely. The inclusion of jet packs also means that reaching higher ledges is easy and juking enemies becomes a valid option. This mobility comes in very handy once enemy titans enter the fray.
Called down from orbit, these giant robotic suits can kill players simply by stepping on them without even bothering with their array of rockets, giant chain guns, reflective bullet shields, and dashes. Stepping into the cockpit of a titan or seeing them sow destruction across the battlefield is always impressive. When a match starts, all players begin with a certain amount of time to wait before they can call down their titan and eliminating enemies reduces the timer.
This system might seem to favor teams who receive their titans first, but on-foot players aren't completely defenseless. Armed with an anti-titan weapon and the ability to cloak, players can make themselves undetectable to titans while also packing a punch. But be warned, while cloaking is very effective against titans, it doesn't work quite as well against other enemies on foot. Titans are also limited to ground. They can't climb on buildings or jump, so sometimes having the higher ground can be a very effective way to fight against their overwhelming force. Titans can also be exited and made to follow the player or to guard a position, which can be useful if you want to provide a big distraction or hold a position. If this all sounds impressive and fun, that's because it is very impressive and fun.
Three game modes were available during the beta: Attrition, Capture Point, and Last Titan Standing. Attrition was by far my favorite, which pits two teams of six against each other with each player or Titan kill deducting from a team total. If your team loses, all surviving players have to make a mad dash for an escape shuttle while the enemy team hunts down the survivors and attempts to destroy the shuttle. An interesting factor in attrition is that, even though there are only six players on each team, there are large numbers of AI soldiers who also participate in the battle, shouting to each other for back-up, calling out the positions of enemy pilots or titans, and respond to various combat situations relatively well. They aren't all that bright, but they lend every battle a feeling of scope that would be lacking otherwise. Capture Point is very similar to Attrition, but with the tried and true systems we've seen from other multiplayer FPS games before. Last Titan Standing is a single-life death match between two teams where every player starts with a titan, and the team to eliminate all enemy titans first is the victor. In a nice twist, even if you happen to lose your titan, you can still help your teammates while on foot.
Titanfall rewards players with experience following each match, allowing players to feel a sense of progression. Each level brings with it an unlocked weapon, mod, ability, etc. and completing certain challenges can unlock more gear to test out on the battlefield. While the level cap during the beta was fourteen, it is expected to be much higher for the full game with many other goodies unlocked later on like different titan chasis. Eventually, players will unlock the ability to use burn cards, which are cards that can be activated in-game while respawning to give a limited, one-life advantage in the form of a more powerful weapon, faster movement, etc. which serve to spice up the combat even more.
It is worth noting that while most of the weapons are different takes on weapons we've all seen before in FPS games, there was one that I found enjoyably different. The smart pistol lines up headshots automatically, requiring more time to target more powerful enemies. Once all shots are locked on, the pistol can fire and each bullet will hit, provided something else doesn't get in the way. If this seems cheap, it can be, but the downside is that with all the movement enemy players are capable of, locking all your shots can be a difficult task, especially if your opponent has a more conventional rifle or sniper rifle and has noticed your approach.
Overall, my experience was overwhelmingly positive. Discovering small things like the several different animations that play depending on how you approach getting into your titan, or that you can hitch a ride on friendly titans, or calling down your titan on an unsuspecting enemy are all amazing little touches that give Titanfall a feeling of depth and excitement I haven't felt while playing online multiplayer since the original Halo. My first thought upon coming out of my first online match of Titanfall was that Respawn Entertainment has crafted the next big thing. It is fun, slick, responsive, creative, and you get to punch the snot out of giant robots. What's not to love?
Titanfall releases on Xbox One and PC on March 11 with an Xbox 360 coming March 25.