The first person shooter market has become one of the most saturated in all of video games. In console and PC gaming alike, this truth has been steadily gaining momentum for at least a decade now. The Call of Duty franchise sits comfortably atop a massive pile of contenders that range from utter failures to noble attempts; but none have come close to dethroning it, and very few are seen as major successes. Enter Respawn Entertainment with its would-be juggernaut, Titanfall.
Competing directly with Call of Duty, one of the most successful franchises in gaming and entertainment as a whole, seems insane. But that’s exactly what Titanfall is aiming to do. Being helmed by much of the creative force that made Call of Duty what it is, maybe this is part personal vendetta, or maybe its just what they know they do best. Either way, they are clearly putting their best foot forward in an attempt to regain a piece of that pie, and hopefully adding some much needed diversity to it in the proccess.
PAX Prime marked one of the first opportunities for many gamers(myself included) in the United States to play Titanfall. Here’s what I thought.
The first thing that stands out about the game is the movement. Titanfall boasts the near constant 60 frames per second and perfectly tuned controls that Call of Duty is known for. This was consistent throughout the 15 minute demo with the exception of a few seconds of slowdown during some of the more flashy firefights, which I am more then willing to chalk up to fine-tuning, as the demo stressed that this was a pre-alpha build. This fluidity of movement and control has always been nice in Call of Duty, but I have to say that Titanfall puts it to work in some much more interesting ways.
On foot, you have an amazing amount of mobility, horizontally and vertically. A few double jumps and wall runs can take you across a good portion of the map in seconds. We’ve seen supernatural jumps and anti-gravity in shooters before, but Titanfall blends it with a realistic look and believable tech that make it feel much closer to Call of Duty than to Unreal Tournament. This upward mobility also opens up every inch of the map for traversal, it won’t be enough to learn all the sniper points and balconies anymore, gunfire can literally come from anywhere. Within minutes of playing I was smoothly chaining rooftop runs, double jumps, and wall runs with ease.
The core mechanic and namesake of Titanfall is the titans. These are 15(?) foot tall robots equipped with their own customizable set of weapons. Each player is assigned a titan, and has the option to summon them via air-drop once every few minutes. When you first summon it, your titan will follow you around the map and basically act as a guard dog. As you run across rooftops, it walks along the streets below you and automatically fires on enemy soldiers and titans. The more notable option, though, is to hop in the pilot’s seat and make use of your titan’s full arsenal yourself. The big guns and heavy melee attacks on these things make short work of anything you point them at, but this also means that you will be far from invincible while inside one.
Titans can also be taken down fairly quickly on foot. If you jump on a titan from above you will automatically land on top of it and pull off the panel protecting its core, allowing you to shoot it point blank in its weakest point until it explodes. This volatility encourages you to experiment with both methods of play, and gives you a reason to frequently switch back and forth between titan and on foot combat.
There will no doubt be a variety of multiplayer game modes, as Respawn has chosen to forego a single player campaign for Titanfall and focus its efforts fully on multiplayer. This demo was a simple 10 minute team deathmatch with one interesting addition. At the end of the match was something called the “epilogue”. The epilogue tasked all of the players on one team to make it to a random point on the map where a helicopter was waiting to extract them. Meanwhile, the opposing team’s goal is the prevent as many of them from reaching the helicopter as they can. It’s simple, but it added a bit more fun and tension to the last moments of the match. The demo also gave glimpses of a few other things such as experience, levels, unlockables, etc., but none were detailed or expanded upon much in the short time with the game.
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest multiplayer shooter fan. The fatigue of so many shooters and so little variety is setting in, and the barrier for entry to any of the big titles is nearly impenetrable at this point. Even so, the Titanfall demo was some of the most fun I had at PAX this year, and I am 100% more excited for it now than I was before I played it.