Hands On: Respawn Entertainment's highly-anticipated mech shooter Titanfall releases for the Xbox One next month! But how is it stacking up so far? 411's Jeffrey Harris checks in with his hands-on preview of the game!
EA recently invited us to a special Titanfall event in Los Angeles where we could finally get our hands on Respawn's much anticipated new multiplayer first-person shooter, Titanfall. I've been very curious to play this since E3, so I was glad I finally had the opportunity to demo and play it without interruption for as long as I wanted. I was a little skeptical considering this game was getting a lot of hype, but also it sort of presented an interesting new sort of trend I noticed coming out of E3 last year, a major first-person shooter title built around the multiplayer experience that did not have a traditional single-player campaign. It seems to something Titanfall has a bit in common with Destiny. Titanfall's set in the distant future and throws you into the middle of a conflict between two militant factions, the International Manufacturing Corporation or the Militia. These two factions have the use of powerful mech-suits at their disposal called Titans.
The demo offered a nice training tutorial to get you acclimated to the gameplay before diving into a multiplayer variety pack featuring several different game modes: Attrition; Hardpoint Domination; and Last Titan Standing. Attrition is your basic Team Deathmatch game mode. Hardpoint Domination is determined by your team capturing three different electronic nodes located throughout the map and whoever can dominate them the most by the end of the match. And last but not least, Last Titan Standing, essentially a Titan battle royale. All the pilots start out in their Titan mechs and battle until all the Titans on a team have been annihilated. Each multiplayer game is punctuated by a rather original sequence where if you fail your mission, you have to rush to your Evac point and escape on your faction's drop jet. If you win the game, you can hunt down your enemies and prevent them from escaping or even blow their drop jet out of the sky. The demo allowed two different maps, Angel City and Fracture.
While the game's are generally six players against six, Respawn has also thrown a number of NPC's into the gameplay including foot soldiers and also drone robots. You play as a pilot for either faction, basically the leaders of their respective platoons since they can take control of a Titan. After a certain amount of time, you can call your Titan into the battle and pilot it or let the AI take control and escort or protect you during the fights. Your specific pilot's freedom of movement and control are quite fun. Your pilot has a great deal of parkour, free-running abilities at his disposal. This is neat conceptually, but in the heat of battle in the wide open spaces of the Angel City and Fracture maps, it's not quite a skill that seemed to come in handy quite often. The free-running controls work very well and are highly responsive, but this game is not Razor's Edge. Perhaps there will be other maps in the final game where free-running is more of a necessity, but frequently it didn't seem to come very much in the demo as it did in the tutorial. Other than that, the standard combat worked very well and was a lot of fun. The level-up system was pretty rewarding in the demo to gain access to new items as well as special abilities to tweak your pilot's attributes or weapon loadout. The pistol each pilot is armed with is actually quite neat as it comes with an automated radar system. You are also armed with a sidearm and a weapon that can damage your Titans. At times, the pilots appear to fall way too easily, so the gameplay lacks some much-needed balance in that respect. It ruined the flow of the gameplay and action when you are killed after about one hit. Granted, the upgrades and ways you can alter or improve your abilities did help with this somewhat.
Now of course to the game's bread and butter: getting inside the Titans. The Titan gameplay was an absolute blast. The feeling and controls of using the Titans is quite exciting, and each one has their own tricks and perks. What's quite fun is that the Titans have a special shield that basically allows you to catch projectiles, missiles, and bullets and repel them back at your enemies. In addition, the Titans also have a melee attack, and provided you crush your enemy Titan, in one of the most fun moments, you can rip the pilot right out of his opposing Titan. Another trick you can pull off is after ejecting from your fallen Titan you can actually land upon and attack the enemy Titan as well. The Titan controls very well in combat and are very easy to get a handle on with the gameplay. Attrition and Last Titan Standing were the most fun game modes to play. Hardpoint at times became infinitely frustrating and a bit of a slog to get through some of the more one-sided matches. The demo gameplay allowed for several different Titan loadouts. My personal favorite was a loadout with an assault rifle and a rapid-fire missile launcher as a secondary weapon. If you lose your Titan in battle and survive in Hardpoint or Attrition, thankfully the game is quite forgiving and you will be able to call it in again after repairs.
Now while the game does not have a single-player aspect, the developers spoke of what sounded like big story events in pitting both factions against each other in the multiplayer campaign. I understand the perspective of Respawn Entertainment by jettisoning the single-player campaign and focusing on the multiplayer experience. However, as someone that enjoys the single-player experience, I wouldn't mind seeing the premise and universe of this story brought out more through that route. But this appears to be the direction shooters of this type are leaning toward. Titanfall will be available on Windows PC and Xbox One on March 11. It will then hit Xbox 360 on March 25. The open multiplayer beta will run from February 14 through February 19.