Titanfall Preview - PAX Prime 2013
We may be witnessing the next step for console shooters
When I saw Titanfall’s trailer during E3, I shrugged my shoulders and thought, “Hmmm, another way for us to shoot each other, is this what the next generation will be about?”
While hype continued to build and people continued to talk, I remained skeptical. I have played Battlefield, Call of Duty, Halo, and everything in between. Sure, mech suits are cool, but it still felt like an outdated concept that continued to pander to young men, another game desperate to take another slice of the fanboy pie. So when I got the opportunity to go hands-on with the much-praised multiplayer shooter at PAX Prime, I decided to go see what the hype was all about.
Titanfall is exactly what I thought it would be. It is a healthy mix of free-running, shooting, and mech driving. It revels in its Call of Duty-esque, fast paced, non-stop combat; a veritable teenage wet dream of sci-fi combat. As easy as it is to dismiss, much like I did after seeing the trailer, the game is still deserving of all the praise heaped upon it. Why? Because while it riffs off of a handful of already established ideas, Titanfall brings them together in a way that is unexpected and exhilarating. The game feels like no other first person shooter on the market today. It is not simply fast paced, it is brilliantly paced. The maps, the weapons, the loadouts, the drop points, it all is extremely well conceived and intelligently designed. If you hate first person shooters, if you are tired of Call of Duty, Titanfall is the game most likely game to lure you back to the first person shooter genre.
Jumping into the fray with eleven other players, my first impression was that Titanfall was pretty run of the mill. You can pick between a few different classes that offer preset loadouts, much like any other modern game of the same genre. Obviously this will be more customizable once the game hits stores, but for the purposes of the demo, players could choose between a stealth class, a support class, and a demolition class. So far, so generic, but that was when things got good. The game fades in on what feels like a large metropolis, washed out gray buildings, dirty alleyways, it all has a very urban vibe. My five teammates and myself are part of larger group that is being given special directives about how we were going to defend the city from the opposing force. The feeling that Titanfall is able to inspire, of acting as part of a larger cause, the feeling of playing a narrative in a multiplayer shooting experience is evident.
Without my Titan, I head to the tops of nearby buildings, attempting to get a layout of the land. The map features close-quarter city streets, and lots of two-to-three story buildings to provide some height variety. The sky above is littered with seeker drones that do not seem to do any damage, but are a quick way to pick up some XP. I take a couple of them out, and continue to scan my surroundings. While Titanfall features large scale battles on large scale maps, it does not have the chaotic nature that I was ready for. Strategy is the key, not simply being able to show off twitch-shooting skills. Getting the drop on your enemy is far more important than being able to put them in your sights. This is because a couple of hits will drop your enemy; headshots are great, but far from necessary to quickly put someone down. Those two-man games of cat-and-mouse that are so common in Halo have no place in Titanfall.
After taking down three of my opponents, I am notified that my Titan is done being built and is ready for deployment. This is where Titanfall is really onto something special. The cycle of shooting, success, and then wrecking shop in a Titan is an addictive and a rewarding loop of gameplay, all happening within the larger context of the battle you are fighting. Titans are the ultimate wild card in these matches, they can turn the tide in battles, they can rescue pinned down teammates. Alternatively, bringing down a Titan, or supporting a Titan teammate is just as exciting, as players can use special Anti-Titan weapons to avoid being helpless against the giant mechs.
As stated before, Titanfall manages to create a natural pacing between hectic combat where the opposing teams fire away at each other and quiet moments as you return to the conflict or look for strong vantage points. After a few peaceful moments, you come careening back into the fray, linking up with teammates and attempting to outsmart your enemy. The pacing continues to be impressive as after the thrilling match, where my team came from behind to dominate our enemy, the mission sports an epilogue, instructing us to rout the enemy as they attempt to evac out of the war zone. Much like the beginning of the mission, this adds an appropriate touch of dynamic storytelling to the multiplayer-only Titanfall. It keeps missions from feeling like a one-off scenario and making them into something more.
That is exactly what Titanfall feels like, something more. Make no mistake, this is the dumb, bang-bang, blown-’em-up, first person shooter it looks like; but if the genre of first person, multiplayer shooters is going to exist (and it is), it is nice to see games like Titanfall bringing something completely new and refreshing to the table. If you are interested in the next evolution of multiplayer, Titanfall is the exact game you are looking for, it may not be a massive departure from what we’ve experienced in previous generations, but the game feels like the next logical step. When it comes to console shooters the evolution has gone from Goldeneye to Halo, Halo to Call of Duty, and we may be witnessing the next step from Call of Duty to Titanfall. There’s a long way to go, we haven’t seen all the maps, guns, and options for character growth, but what from what I have seen, I know I certainly want to see more.