You played in the beta, or worse, heard about it from your friends. You’ve seen the leaks, the GIFs. You’ve heard the buzz. Now we’re in the calm before the storm that is Titanfall, the next game from the architects of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the current FPS boom. A lot about the game was kept extremely quiet before the beta began, which only added to the prerelease fervor. Going into the beta, it was easy to let yourself be overhyped for the game, and nothing can reach the lofty expectations that the Internet has for this title. However, having played a good chunk of it now, I can safely say that Titanfall is a hell of a good time. Here’s five reasons to keep your excitement going until the Titans drop on March 11th.
Just under three years ago, in the shadow of Mirror’s Edge, Splash Damage released BRINK, which was at the time heralded as a different kind of first person shooter. The visual style was striking, but perhaps more importantly, the game was heavily focused on traversal via parkour mechanics. Sadly, few people actually played the game once it was released, but I can only imagine that those few people included both myself and the developers of Titanfall. Both sets of developers figured out that running around the map like Spider-Man made for a more engaging experience than the plodding slow-paced action that has been the norm in FPSs since Halo LAN parties. Running around Titanfall‘s expansive maps, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, leaping into windows guns blazing, is enthralling and it brings something different to the table. Thievery of mechanics isn’t always a bad thing, and Respawn has taken a good idea and ran with it, ensuring that you’ve never played a deathmatch mode quite like this before. Unless you played BRINK, in which case you might remember me as the other human player in that one game you played on launch day. Moving on.
I love mech games and I’m amazed that it’s been as long as it has since I was rocking MechAssault on the OG Xbox. Whether it is the Japanese laser sword wielding humanoids or the American missile spewing tanks, piloting a giant robot in games is always enjoyable. The Titans control a bit less like mechs in past games and more like huge soldiers on the battlefield, but you can still feel their massive size as you walk around crushing drones and pilots underfoot. I personally found it hilariously fun to attempt to drop your Titan on enemy players and mechs. It caused quite a spectacle and the distraction from my mech gave enough to allow me to jump in and get away from the explosions for a moment. Although, going against the Titans on foot is arguably even more fun, ducking between columns and dodging missile strikes as you attempt to lock on with your own homing bazooka. The beta only had one kind of mech available, which made mech battles a bit easier to figure out than they will be in the full game, which has three different types of Titans to worry about. That combined with the unknown weapon and perk unlocks should make for an even more chaotic battlefield, which is exactly what you want from a game like Titanfall.
It’s good that Titanfall is coming to PC. Years ago, PC was home to twitch shooters. Deathmatch games like Unreal Tournament and Quake where aiming and movement were just as important as power weapons and objectives. As much as I love the original Halo, it changed the ways FPS games were designed in 2001, and its about time that we swung back in the other direction. Titanfall is all about moving, so much so that I didn’t see a single sniper in my time during the beta. Guarding a point involves not just keeping your eyes on hallways, but also windows, balconies and conveniently placed skylights where a pilot could stealth in and twist your neck at any time. Your best weapons while you jet around the arenas are rapid-fire SMGs that get the job done as you’re running at the target and shotguns that you can shove in the face of enemy pilots. If Call of Duty is your only port of call when it comes to FPSs, there will be a bit of a adjustment period, but old pros will barely need a tutorial. I could feel my old UT skills returning to me as the matches went on, and that’s definitely something to celebrate in my book.
For a long time now, games have been getting shorter. Part of this is the rising budgets for making content and part of this is the average age of gamers rising high enough that most of them don’t have entire weeks to plow through JRPGs. In Titanfall‘s case, matches are quick affairs, never taking more than fifteen minutes or so to complete. This doesn’t mean that they feel short . There is a natural flow during that time that is just as satisfying as any drawn out CTF duel on Chill Out. Games start as a race to be the First To Fall and evolve into match-ups of who wants to survive in their titan versus who wants to use it as a walking nuclear bomb. There is never a dull moment with the armies of AI running around; and even the end of the game is action packed as the losing team races to their extraction point. Playing two to three hours of Titanfall felt like a full night of Team Fortress 2 or Halo matches to me personally, which is great news for the social lives of gamers everywhere.
One of the unique things that Call of Duty innovated is the killstreak system. Players able to chain together double and triple kills no longer just got a baritone man announcing their victory, they also received in-game rewards that ranged from powerful weapons, to packs of dogs, to a nuke that prematurely ended the match. While it’s exciting to call in helicopters and radar drones in game, this lead to an imbalance where better players were able to access weapons and perks that other players newer to the game could never dream of accomplishing outside of a streak of luck. Titanfall has Burn Cards, a similar system that ensures that even the worst player in a given game has a few tricks up their sleeves. You earn these cards from completing challenges or picking them up from grunts and pilots you kill, and you earn them constantly. You can bring three of them into every match, and you get so many of them that it’s advisable to burn them all every time, as chances are you’ll get replacements almost instantly. This solves the inherent problem with killstreaks from past games and allows the developers to experiment with shifts in power, perhaps gathering data for a Titanfall 2.
March 11th is less than a week away, and for many who have gotten off the CoD bandwagon like myself, it’s the return of an interesting deathmatch experience to their gaming diet. Time will only tell if Titanfall can slay the giant that CoD has become in the marketplace, succeeding where so many other games have failed. If my time with the beta is any indication, all signs point to yes.
Alex Santa Maria
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