Titanfall Hands-On Preview – Mech-Romance
Written Wednesday, February 12, 2014 By Dan WebbView author's profile
If you’ve had chance to speak to anyone who’s played Titanfall or read our previews here, it’s safe to say there’s a considerable amount of praise being heaped upon Respawn’s debut multiplayer shooter. I’ll be the first to admit that all of our gushing has been based on very little hands-on time: one mode, one map and a handful of matches, to be precise. That’s not to say it hasn’t been warranted, it’s to say: approach with caution. Well, that was my advice prior to last week, but since then we’ve gotten some considerable time with the game – three whole hours, in fact – across the training mode, three modes and two maps – which is effectively the game’s upcoming beta – and as a result, I stand by all of my Titanfall gushing to date.
The two maps being shown off at the hands-on event recently were Respawn’s ever-faithful, Angel City, a map that has been given more airtime than Shia LeBeouf and his paper bag recently – go away, Shia, no-one cares, you attention-seeking whore – and the previously unseen, Fracture, a map that puts a former and now dilapidated human colony in the centre of the map. I’m not going to dally too much on the maps, mainly as we’ll let our gameplay vids do the talking later, but I will say this: if these two maps are an indication of the overall map quality then we’re in for a treat. They’re so carefully hand-crafted that it makes playing on them a joy. Whether you’re free-running with your jetpack from ground floor to roof in mere seconds, or strafe-boosting around a corner in a Titan, there’s a lot of fun to be had and an array of nuances to appreciate.
From a mode perspective, Respawn was showing off three very different modes: firstly, Attrition, a points-based, destroy everything affair; Hardpoint, your traditional capture-the-territories style mode; and finally, the very interesting and tense Last Titan Standing mode, a mode that gives you one life and one Titan, with the first team to destroy the other team’s Titans winning. Think Gears of War’s Warzone mode, but with mechs and plenty more carnage. There’s nothing truly innovative or special about the three modes, but because the minute-to-minute gameplay is so strong, it really doesn’t matter.
After playing for a decent amount of time, it doesn’t take long before you realise that tactics play a significant part in Titanfall, no matter what mode you’re playing. Being able to disembark from your Titan and have them follow you or guard a specific point changes the whole scope of the game and means you can approach different modes with varying tactics in mind. Disembark, lure in an enemy mech and then jack it, yup, that’s a popular tactic. Jump out and shoot other Pilots off your mech, yes, you’re going to have to do that too. Jump out, become more vulnerable but double your unit’s firepower, guess what? That’s an option too. Rather than just relying on skill, players can actually outsmart opponents on the field, a refreshing trait for a multiplayer game in the 21st century.
Throw in ‘Burn’ cards that are one-life only special boosters – like extra weapons, less of a cooldown on your Titan, and so on – as well as the opportunity to unlock extra abilities and create custom classes, and customisation and strategy is where Titanfall excels. Want to go with the Smart pistol and rely on stealth and agility? You can. Want to unlock the perch ability and hide in nooks and crannies? Yup, you can do that too. Want to run around with a shotgun and a cloak? Again, that’s an option. That’s the beauty, there are so many options and so much flexibility within Titanfall’s walls that you can play the game the way you want to.
There’s a handful of people already calling it next-gen’s Call of Duty 4 in terms of multiplayer – which isn’t too much of a stretch considering that Respawn’s roots are steeped heavily in that title – but I think it does a lot more to make it more accessible to the masses who don’t have every waking minute set aside to devote to one game. There’s two key ways this is achieved.
The first of which is by empowering the player, which is done by throwing AI-controlled fodder their way. Before this extensive hands-on with the game I personally was concerned about the AI-which isn’t the brightest, but you realise that’s not the point of their inclusion: they’re there to empower the player, give them chance to rack up points and ultimately feel like the player is achieving something.
Secondly, and more importantly, the inclusion of Titans. “But, Dan, that’s frickin’ obvious…” Yes, it is, but it makes it accessible not by just giving you a huge, monstrous mech to wreak havoc in, that’s too obvious. It makes Titanfall seem more accessible by extending the average lifespan of the player, thus making them feel like they’re actually accomplishing something, other than just adding to the misery of your team.
That’s not to say that the game isn’t balanced, far from it. In fact, from a balance perspective, it’s looking like it’s shaping up rather well. When you’re in a Titan, you have to be careful because you feel that at any time you could meet your maker if you become careless. On the other hand, if you’re a pilot looking to take down a Titan, because of their incredible agility, as long as you don’t try to take it head on, you can easily take one down. Wandering into a street as a Titan surrounded by large buildings will often end up with you being boarded and losing your ride. My point is, neither side is invincible and both have their foibles.
And that whole 6 vs. 6 malarkey... You know when people were getting upset that Titanfall wasn’t catering for more players? Well, it turns out that 6 vs. 6 is actually spot on. If you ever get embroiled in a battle of more than 3 vs. 3 mechs, it gets incredibly overwhelming and chaotic – in a good way… now imagine what happens when it’s 6 vs. 6 and everyone is in Titans. It’s mental and actually proves that 6 vs. 6 is the optimum number of players.
As of now, my only concern is that Titanfall is not really going to appeal to players who are looking for anything other than a competitive multiplayer experience. Despite what Respawn says, like Brink, the mingleplayer “story” is largely throwaway. You’re coming here for the multiplayer action, and if you have any other illusions, you’re barking up the wrong tree. If you are after a truly next-gen multiplayer experience, Titanfall on the Xbox One is looking to be something to treasure.
Titanfall is scheduled for a March 11th and March 13th release on Xbox One in North America and Europe respectively, while the Xbox 360 release date is set for March 25th and March 28th in North America and Europe respectively – we have no idea how the latter is going to shape up! The beta meanwhile, commences on February 14th. Behold, a video!