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Gamescom Preview: Titanfall
Despite having to wait in line for Titanfall at the EA behind closed doors showing for a considerable amount of time compared to the other behind closed doors games and my feet hurting from standing in the line, I went in hopefully and brightly. Surely the new game from some of the developers of Call of Duty would be able to bring to the table a fun multiplayer experience if nothing else. Well, when you come out of a behind closed doors demo of the next big games at a convention, leaving with a big grin on your face is usually a good sign that the game you just saw rocked. Titanfall was that kind of game.
I was shown the combination of single player and multiplayer elements in a team deathmatch scenario… or two. A story flows through some of the maps of the game, specifically for this demo, the objective was to capture a war criminal in Angel City. One team tries to protect the man who they have while the others try to retrieve him. Players and AI controlled bots play together in these matches. Certain amounts of points are given for killing AI, humans or Titans. It is just team deathmatch with an added extra to add that little bit of urgency. Despite a poor attempt at a story, the game played well. Really well. So much that I didn’t notice the AI were AI for most of the game. In my opinion, it beats Call of Duty into the ground with a metal Titan fist.
Your character, called a pilot (of Titans, duh) starts off either on the ground or dropping from an airship on different sides of the map. Straight away you can jump into the game with universally recognized controls. Even the jetpack, which is accessed by pressing jump immediately after jumping once, boils down to a double jump. This can be brilliantly combined with a new feature unlike Call of Duty ever had: Wall Running. When moving towards a wall and jumping onto it, your pilot will latch on and run across that wall. Combining this with the jetpack, you can actually move from one end of the map to the other without even touching the floor. Obviously, only having just picked up the game, I could not achieve this, but there is obviously room for becoming pros at wall running and jumping for those who want to spend the time. Even if you don’t want to spend the time, the controls are easy to pick up and the new features are simple to use.
Graphics in the game were decent compared to some other games that I saw. Animations were smooth and ran nicely when confronted with a lot of fire, movement and general action. The futuristic view of things was much more interesting to behold and run around than present day games, marking a successful move away from the developer’s previous works. Using a Titan changes the interface and HUD that you see and highlights the science fiction feel with your view being a screen that forms over the entrance to the Titan.
One main problem that I have had with a lot of first person shooters is that there is nothing new about the weapons they introduce each time. Being limited to today’s firearms and near future where they are just variations on the same weapons brings familiarity and ultimately boredom. Science fiction games allow the developers to be slightly more adventurous. One of the best weapons that I used was the Smart Pistol which tags enemies so that bullets can affect them from impossible angles. Round corners and through windows, this gun was really handy. The other guns included rifles and Titan busting launchers which deal a large punch. The biggest change comes with the Titans themselves.
Titans bring a whole new dimension to gameplay but keep the simplistic controls. To summon your Titan when you have earned it, you press a button on the D-Pad (I was using an Xbox 360 controller on a PC version of the demo) and place it using a giant green light in front of you. After a small amount of time in which others can still kill you, the Titan descends from the sky, landing in a cool kneeling posture. Entering the beast is one click of a button and the Titan picks you up and deposits you inside of itself, another cool aesthetic. Turning and shooting is identical to being out of the mech while the jump button becomes a dodge key of sorts, moving you swiftly to the direction you are pointing. As being a giant metal robot brings some slow movements, you cannot jump and it becomes difficult to move with a lot of skill. Specials and rockets replace the pilot’s grenades and when damaged critically, you can eject yourself back into the battlefield. There were three types of Titans in the matches I played. One was the general machine gunner class with magnetic fields called vortex which catches bullets and rockets for a short time before throwing them back to the enemy, another has a larger gun and a magnetic cloud which slows down the Titans who walk through it and the final one has a rocket launcher that shoots 4 rockets at a time. All of the Titans have shoulder mounted rockets. Taking down a Titan with anything other than another Titan or a rocket launcher is near impossible unless you can jump onto the back of it, where the game takes the pilot and climbs up to the core. There you shoot away with your primary weapon into the core till it becomes critical and blows. When this happens, you get flung into the air and, when timed correctly, I could string together Titan killstreaks of landing on their backs and landing onto another one. As you can tell, my team of journos weren’t exactly the best, shown by the sheer number of Titans the other team possessed.
One of the features that stood out to me, hence the special paragraph I have set aside here, was the Epilogue to the game mode. Each match featured an Epilogue which was an extra challenge to acquire that last little bit of XP. In my matches, the players on my team (the losers) had to make it back to the ship in a certain amount of time or else it leaves, stranding you to get hunted by the other team (the winners). Reaching the ship requires wall running and jumping at the right times, but if you are killed trying to reach it, there is no respawn. This added that little bit extra to the games which left a lasting impression of the fast paced gameplay and also meant that players whose team had lost, had some sort of reward.
Titanfall is my game of the show by far. It left me exhilarated and wanting more. Not many games have left so much of an impression on me. One question remains, can it beat Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare?
Titanfall releases 2014 on the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.