It’s not even been 24 hours since the Titanfall Beta servers were closed down since I began to write this. Already I’m feeling that emptiness I dreaded that’ll come and the 3 weeks until the release seems light years away. I’m sitting beside a window from which I’ve unintentionally found myself gazing up into the sky hoping for the sound barrier to crack and a mechanical mobile titan to crash land in the street outside. I understand that these probably sound like the words of someone that’s addicted to the latest craze, fad or dare I say it…drug. Even though it’s just a video game, Titanfall from Respawn Games set out to be different to all the other shooters available on the market and executed it well in just 2 maps featuring 5 guns, short ranged jet packs and big bots that fell from the sky. It’s pretty hard to stay away from any sort of advertising that EA have placed everywhere in all shapes, sizes and mediums. And even if you stayed clear from all this you’re bound to have a friend, colleague or family member turn to you and ask the question, “Have you pre-ordered Titanfall?”
What makes it different?
I have a dangerous addiction to multiplayer first person shooter games since I was 8 years old. My earliest online FPS experience dates back to the original Unreal Tournament on the PC back in 1999 not forgetting Quake’s multiplayer, which was my first LAN memory I ever had back in 1996. These two games looking back now were the pioneers of fast paced multiplayer action with players bounding over great distances firing rockets, strafing away from bullets at high speeds and racking up high kill counts just to hear the words, “Monster Kill”. From playing the Titanfall build at Eurogamer Expo last year and the open Beta recently, I haven’t felt this rush, this incredible speed all whilst having fun and pulling off incredible looking moves since the late 90s. It’s a strong statement to say that I probably haven’t really had a similar feeling towards a game since my first experience but until you strap on your double jumping, wall running thrusters which enables you to continuously pick up speed with every successful wall bound you’ll not know what true free running means.
Titanfall’s main selling point is indeed all about the mechs you can pilot. As awesome as they are it wouldn’t have been half as impressive if you couldn’t call them in and have them fall from outside the atmosphere crushing anyone and anything upon impact. It’s unique and is totally satisfying if you’ve managed to get a kill with it. Other than the Titans and wall running with the pilot’s personal thrusters packs you might argue and say it is just like the other market shooters out there. On various levels this is incorrect. Having AI grunts and other cannon fodder within each match dropping in groups of 3’s has the ability to keep the action continuous. You might earn less points per kill and notice they can be killed with surprising ease but taking them down makes it quicker to call in your Titan. In larger groups the AI can result in you having a harder time and shouldn’t be a disregarded threat. There’s always something you can shoot at and even for the players that consider themselves not so great at shooters, they can rack up some kills to speed up their Titan drop.
The lead up to the beta test had everyone that was interested sign up. Signing up didn’t guarantee a position amongst the lucky many to play online. Already, the panic set in and the desperation and anxiety of not getting a code to try out this year’s most anticipated online only shooter dawned upon many others and myself. The 14th of February arrived, Valentines Day to most, Titanfall beta opening day to everyone else. On this day the internet exploded having the words “Titanfall” become the most trending word on various social networking sites. eBay sales of beta codes started appearing online and multiple forums and discussion online groups ran competitions to win these codes. It became frenzied and we now knew how excited the public were for this game. “Excited” is probably a huge understatement, I witnessed people offering incredible gifts in exchange to get online. Once I got online that very same night, all Valentines festivities blown off, I began the most exciting install of my life and noticed all my online friends was online playing the beta too.
This was going to be a great week and even talked myself out of calling into work with whatever virus was contagious and believable at the time. Energy drinks on ice, various crisps laid out and a fresh pair of double AA batteries inserted into the Xbox One controller. Within the first hour you’re given a small selection of Pilot classes to choose from as well as basic Titans loadouts. Respawn have worked pretty hard and successfully created an amazing balancing system where even a level 1 player can still go toe-to-toe with a higher levelled opponent. It’s not the weapons that makes the player, it’s the way you dodge incoming rockets, wall run then drop kick a foe and even knowing when to step out of a fight to recharge your Titan’s shield.
By the second hour you’ll have learnt your favourite routes from the 2 maps. ‘Fracture’ was a large open map featuring several dishevelled buildings, grassy plains and broken roads. Great for Titans to roam freely to do their shoot, dodge, shoot dance (similar to that of Gears of War’s shotgun dance). Pilots like myself had to learn to cloak in open spaces, hang from walls awaiting to mount an unsuspecting Titan from above and rodeo them until they blow, and even take advantage of sniping. ‘Angel City’ on the other hand is a tighter, compact map set in a more up built environment filled with shops, markets and towering buildings beside a dock. Getting Titan’s to walk side by side down these narrow urban streets isn’t easy with very little room to manoeuvre. I found this map was the faster paced map out of the 2 as wall running was a necessity for traversing between buildings, out of windows and along billboards. A very shotgun and submachine gun friendly map indeed.
With the beta level cap at 14 I came across the Burn Cards feature by then, a take on the one use only perks ability. With only 3 cards that can be taken into a single match that could only be enabled whenever you spawn, burn cards have the ability to cut down Titan spawn times, give you infinite cloaking, the option to see enemies through walls briefly plus many more awesome, sometime game changing perks. By level 14 I had worked out the preference to always having the Electric Smoke equipped on my Titan instead of the Vortex Shield that suspended incoming bullets and rockets, Neo from the Matrix style, and throw them back.
The electric smoke fries nearby foot soldiers and prevents pilots from completely their rodeo on your Titan’s back which I had many a problem with and this fixed it easily. The beta offered 4 game playlists to play through, the 4th being a variety of the previous 3 on shuffle. ‘Attrition’, a cooler way of saying Team Deathmatch, is what it is. Cause mayhem and stop the opponents from escaping in the drop ship in the epilogue. ‘Domination’ is your traditional capture 3 bases and rack up the points to victory type of game mode. ‘Last Titan Standing’ features both teams of 6 starting each round, first to 4, in their Titans and the side to eliminate all the other side’s Titans wins. You could play this in several ways, one being doing it all on foot and setting your pilot to guard you as you rain hell from above with rockets or a cheeky rodeo.
I played solidly until the servers were closed to get the most out of the test and to give enough feedback. To be fair I thought the submachine gun’s range was a bit extreme for something that was supposed to as a short-range weapon. Maybe this might get tweeked. I’m just venting as I fell victim to submachine gun sniping, but then again I’m not too good at shooting. But this is me just being nitpicky and I honestly had no faults with what I played. Everything was balanced. Everything worked. Everything was enjoyable. And for the next painstaking few weeks I’ll still continue to gaze aimlessly into the sky hoping to be greeted with a falling Titan.
Thank you Respawn and EA for giving back life into this genre.