The Titanfall beta was short lived but I was able to spend a few hours with it in order to bring you my impressions of the game. It was quite the sacrifice but I endured it, and I did it all for you, dear reader! Now, here are a few of my observations from the Titanfall beta.
Less is More
When Respawn Entertainment confirmed that Titanfall matches would be 6 on 6, a fair amount of gamers were disappointed. With games like Battlefield 4 offering up huge battles with 64 players it’s understandable that 6 on 6 would feel like a step backward, but the team at Respawn made the decision for a reason. Matches in Titanfall don’t feel small at all and that’s thanks to what I feel is the most underrated feature of of the game: the A.I. combatants on the field.
There are two types of A.I. running around during battles, human soldiers called grunts and humanoid robots called Spectres. Neither are particularly hard to kill and it for most players they barely register as a nuisance as they swarm around various parts of the map. What their presence on the battlefield does however, is give matches a large-scale feel without the sense of chaos that I often feel in games like Battlefield. The way the move around the map have the added benefit of keeping choke-points to a minimum and keeps battles feeling fluid.
There are small touches like having the grunts speak to the player during firefights that make the maps feel like lived-in places. If you pay attention they will let you know if there are enemy snipers in the area or thank you for saving their life. With Titanfall eschewing the traditional single player campaign for multiplayer focused matches supplemented by cutscenes and other material the A.I. helps flesh out the world of Titanfall. There were plenty of matches where I felt like an elite soldier with specialized skills taking part in one battle of a much larger war.
The Bigger They Are…
Let’s get into what is arguably the main draw for Titanfall and everybody’s favorite thing: Giant Frickin’ Robots. The mechs in Titanfall are a large part of the game and they’re plastered all over promotional material for the game and for good reason; they’re incredibly fun to use. From the moment you call in your titan and watch it descend onto the battlefield there isn’t anything disappointing about the mechs. That includes the potential for them to be overly powerful break the game.
The Titans are incredibly powerful and their weapons have no problems cutting down pilots in a direct firefight but they’re not invincible. The easiest way to battle a titan is with another titan. All titans are equipped with anti-titan weapons and special ordinances designed to destroy other titans and they can even battle each other via melee attacks. One of the most satisfying moments of the beta was when I went in for a melee attack after a dragged out fight with another titan and watch my titan’s fist punch through my opponents cockpit, wrap this giant fist around the pilot, and throw him aside like a rag doll. Even though titans are so big that they can literally squash pilots like bugs, their size is just as much a hindrance as it is an asset.
The titans’ large size forces them to move through only the largest of spaces and they have no vertical movement at all. The parkour abilities of the pilots allow them to traverse every inch of the map and this freedom of motion is what levels the playing field. Engaging a titan directly as a pilot means certain death but that’s far from the only option pilots have for taking titans down. Every pilot carries an anti-titan weapon that can deal significant damage to a titan. As a pilot the best strategy is to attack titans while they are busy dealing with other things and stay on the move so they can’t pin you down. If you’re feeling particularly gung-ho, and if you’re sneaky enough, you can jump onto enemy titans and ride on their shoulder as you attack them more directly and deal massive amounts of damage.
Balancing out the titans and the pilots was a key part of the game and it seems that Respawn has nailed it. As a player you feel very capable whether you’re scampering around the map as pilot or smashing your way through soldiers as a titan.
Let It Burn
There’s been a lot of comparison between Titanfall and Call of Duty and part of that is that the Respawn team is largely made up of former Infinity Ward employees. Call of Duty Modern Warfare began Call of Duty’s reign as the king of console shooters with innovations to the genre such as killstreaks. Now Vince Zampella, Jason West, and the rest of the Respawn crew found another way to spice of the genre: burn cards.
Burn cards are one time use perks that can give you an edge during a match. You can earn burn cards in a variety of ways. You can get them for winning matches, for destroying titans, or for completing other challenges. As you level up you’ll unlock up to three slots for burn cards. As you wait for matches to begin you can select three cards and load them up in the order you want to use them. Burn cards are activated while you wait to spawn. Once they’re activated the effects of the card will last until you die, meaning they’re as useful as you make them. Burn cards can provide enhanced weapons, extra abilities, and even cut down the time it takes for your Titan to be available. When used carefully burn cards can give a significant advantage to a player and his team, but if you’re too keen to get back into the action you might waste that advantage.
Multiplayer focused games can get stale if the formula is too rigid. For shooters it’s sometimes enough that no one firefight is exactly the same as another, but I like the addition of burn cards to spice things up. It also adds another way for the game to reward players beyond having good stats and leveling up.
These are just a few things that stood out to me from my time with the game, but there’s plenty more to dig into once the full game is out. I have to say that so far it looks like the fine folks at Respawn Entertainment have knocked it out of the park. The game feels well balanced and from a graphical perspective it looks phenomenal. According some of my friends the A.I. could use some fine tuning in order to make the game a bit more challenging. As someone who routinely fails spectacularly in most first-person shooters , I say leave them the way they are! All in all I think gamers are in for a good time once Titanfall lands in stores on March 11 for Xbox One and PC. The Xbox 360 version will follow shortly thereafter.