Titanfall hands-on: Giant robots, jetpacks, and stealth suits make for an amazing multiplayer experience

titanfall

By on October 15, 2013 at 10:15 am

I’m sure I’m not alone in my predilection for big stompy mechs. There is something undeniably cool about them. I don’t know what it is, I’m no psychologist. What I do know, however, is that the entire concept of running at my own personal big stompy mech that just dropped from the sky, having it scoop me up and bundle me into its insides, and gaining complete control over it and its giant guns is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in a videogame — and I haven’t even gotten to the best part of the Titanfall EB Expo 2013 demo yet.

Playing as a pilot felt immediately familiar. The movement and sprinting, and the rates at which weapons are sighted will feel comfortable to anyone that has spent time with the Call of Duty series. Respawn Entertainment would be reluctant to make such a comparison, but it seems that the pedigree is strong. That’s where the comparisons stop, though. Players can double jump, aided by some sort of short-burst jetpack system that allows pilots to propel themselves upwards and forward, to quickly gain higher ground, or to break enemy line of sight. These jetpacks can also be used to facilitate a wall-run, careful use of which—in conjunction with the double-jump ability—can allow players to traverse whole swathes of the map without ever touching the ground. Pilots are designed to be swift and agile, and are given abilities to suit. In the demo, pilots had a stealth feature that they could use to camouflage themselves, in order to engage or disengage without being seen. Other pilot abilities will apparently be announced in the coming months leading up to the Q1 2014 release.

The first three minutes of every round were spent furtively glancing at a countdown in the bottom-left corner of the screen, ticking away seconds until my titan would be ready for deployment. Upon initiating titanfall, a green marker was displayed on the ground at the location that my titan would land. With meteoric force, my Main Battle Titan assumed the standard sci-fi long-drop-into-crouch stance, and was enveloped in what I assumed to be some sort of spawn protection shield. At this point, I could have chosen to continue on foot, and my titan would have dutifully followed me around to provide covering fire, and to draw the attention of enemy players. That sounded great and all, but the temptation of my titan’s array of massive weaponry proved too strong.

I sprinted to its location, and held X on my Xbox 360 controller, ordering it to reach down with a massive hand and lift me into the cockpit. The chassis closed, and a display of the forward exterior of the titan coalesced in front of me. With a giant assault rifle attached to its right arm, a ‘vortex blocker’ on its left, and a rocket launcher mounted on its right shoulder, my titan represented a serious threat to any flesh-and-bone combatants on the field.

Given that all of the players in my session were new to Titanfall, the sense of power that came with piloting my titan was intoxicating. Pilots fled at the sound of my approach, and evaporated into a red mist as man-sized rounds screamed from my rifle’s muzzle at a ridiculous rate for such a large-calibre weapon. Then I rounded a corner and found myself face-to-face with an enemy High Explosive Titan. Still unfamiliar with my titan’s surprisingly agile dodge ability, the enemy’s arm-mounted rocket launcher made quick work of my titan, and I was killed in the wreckage. A nearby booth attendant threw his arms in the air, exclaiming that I should have hit eject and tried to land on the enemy titan, in order to “wreck it up close.”

This concept intrigued me, so the next time my titan’s warning klaxon sounded, I hammered the X button four times, causing my pilot to reach down and yank on the eject handle mounted beneath the seat. Landing directly on top of the enemy titan proved more difficult than I had anticipated, but luckily I had the wherewithal to hit my suit’s stealth ability. I landed atop a nearby building, and immediately dropped to ground level on the side opposite to the enemy titan. I sprinted around behind it and double-jumped onto its back. My pilot ripped off a protective panel, and I unloaded three full clips from my assault rifle into the now exposed components, causing the titan to go critical. I leapt away from the resulting explosion, revelling in my badassery, right up until the point that another enemy titan casually crushed me beneath its metal foot.

At the end of the demo, I was a little surprised to see my name toward the bottom of the leaderboard, because I felt as though I had done pretty well. Titanfall utilises multiple small gameplay loops, meaning that there are a wealth of things to achieve at any given time, and players rarely feel a lack of direction. Couple this with a hierarchical points system based on killing manned and unmanned titans, kills scored by manned and unmanned titans, and other various actions, and even unskilled players can feel like they’ve contributed to their team’s efforts.

My excitable booth attendant was still standing over my shoulder once I put down my controller and headset. He asked me what I thought, and I was initially lost for words. “It’s um… it’s great. I mean, really great,” I stuttered. He grinned, smugly, and then launched into a series of prepared PR statements designed to build hype. Normally, I can filter out PR copy from these conversations on the fly, but this time I struggled. Yes, I know this is just PR fluff, but it’s not wrong. If there was another game on display at EB Expo 2013 that deserves more anticipation than Titanfall, then I didn’t see it. Titanfall is shaping up to be something really special, crafted by a team finally released from the fetters of annual franchises to make their game, their way.

Titanfall is due for release in Q1 2014, on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and later on PC.

The EB Expo 2013 demo was played on “an average PC,” that was “definitely not running SLI or anything,” according to the aforementioned excitable booth attendant.

7 comments (Leave your own)

The mechs seem too easy to kill, if all you have to do is run up behind it, jetpack up and shoot the brain.

 

You forgot to conclude your article with the obligatory whinge, “But all this counts for nothing as EA will ruin it”.

 

ralphwiggum,

Of course, because it will require to be online all the time and the city sizes will be too small.

 

vcatkiller,

I laughed more than I should have.

 

And gosh guys, CoD is just Titanfall without mechs!

Or was that the other way around

 

and later on PC

Any idea how much later?

 

caitsith01,

I spoke with Abbie Heppe, community manager from Respawn at the show. She wasn’t able to give me any more information at this stage, unfortunately.

I would guess that the delay would be somewhat significant, given that Titanfall is a big exclusivity win for Xbox One.

 
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