PAX Prime 2013: Titanfall Hands On

By: Michael Dao
Titanfall certainly has a storied history. It’s creators, Respawn Entertainment, are at it’s core, Jason West and Vincent Zamepella, the former President of Infinity Ward, and the former CEO of Infinity Ward. They were fired, according to an SEC filing from Activision for “breaches of conduct and insubordination.” This was March of 2010. One month later, the LA Times reported that they were forming their own studio under the name of Respawn Entertainment. They were to receive funding from Electronic Arts’ Partner Program,

Not much was heard from them since, until they announced their first game at June 2013’s E3. It is to be called Titanfall, and will be on the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and the PC. Titanfall is a science fiction first person shooter. The centerpiece of the game is it’s eponymous Titans, which best described as giant mechs that a player can get into in the heat of combat. Not much is currently known about the single player campaign, as unsurprisingly, the focus has been on the multiplayer component of the game.

At PAX Prime, we were able to get some hands on time with the title. It plays just as good as everyone’s been saying it does. The game is both fast and slow in all of the right ways at all of the right times, and that’s a part of what makes it such an exciting game to play. Movement is quick, and respawning is near instantaneous – you always spawn close to the fight so you can get right back in there, with an absolute minimum amount of time spent in travel. When you add in the fact that each player is equipped with a jetpack, combat quickly enters the third dimension, and retains its frantic, delightful pace. The actual combat and shooty bits of the game aren’t as fast as one would expect from a Call of Duty title, it’s definitely slower, and takes more to kill an opponent. In this regard, it plays more like a Battlefield title, and in a quite interesting feature, there are also NPCs involved in multiplayer maps.

What really separates Titanfall from the rest of the pack was the objective based multiplayer scenarios, the one we had to complete required the rescue of someone or other while our opponents had to prevent as such. To be honest, both sides really just turned the game into a deathmatch as we reveled in the refreshing gameplay mechanics. The game starts as most modern shooters do, on a screen that asks the player to choose their class/loadout. The first difference is that after selecting a loadout, the player must then select a loadout for their titan. The game plays as one would expect, except with the addition of jetpacks, which makes the game more vertical than one would expect. After a certain amount of time passes, the player can call down a Titan, which is a giant mech that they can call down from the sky, and which gets dropped after a few seconds. The wow moment of the game was when a piloted Titan took an extreme amount of damage. I was forced to eject, which shoots the player into the air. The really cool part was that I happened to land on the back of the Titan that had destroyed mine, and was able to rip away an armor plate and shoot inside it. It did not survive the encounter. Revenge is indeed sweet.

Gameplay when on foot and mounted are quite different experiences. My time without a Titan was spent running from cover to cover, taking out what militia, or NPCs I could, while hunting other players and and avoiding enemy Titans. A person on foot is not much good against a Titan without the aid of cover or elevation, and I was none too good at using my jetpacks to gain some air. Gameplay in a Titan is fantastic. In certain situations the mounting animation of the Titan has it grabbing you and stuffing you inside the cockpit. It was certainly startling the first time it happened, as I thought I had done something wrong, or perhaps the enemy had hijacked my Titan. No, it was just awesome occurring. Though the encounter ended with my team losing the match, the game wasn’t over, in defeat, we had to evacuate to a rooftop location where a dropship would pick us up. Of course, this is not immediate, and for a few tens of seconds, it was quite tense, as the landing zone had to be defended. Evacuating successfully gives a point bonus, ostensibly towards character progression. Even in defeat, the game was awesome.

Graphically, the game looks fantastic. Everything about Titanfall proclaims that it is a next generation title, from the solid frame rate to the graphical fidelity that can only be experienced on a next generation console. It is probably the first title for the Xbox One that truly shows off what it can do, and title people should be most excited about. It’s just a shame that it’s not a launch title, and is coming in Spring 2014.

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