Titanfall hands-on – We have seen (and played) it
Battlefield 4 or Call Of Duty Ghosts? An important question that will probably be tormenting many gamers all around the world; a difficult choice based on your personal tastes, of course, but also on the different approaches that the two most prominent games in the FPS genre offer, with the DICE shooter leaning towards a team oriented, vehicle powered experience which is very different from the unbridled action found in the game developed by Infinity Ward.
These two giants, at war with each other, have so far staved off any attempt at interference by a third party, leaving only scraps for others.
However, something might be changing soon with such rivals as Titanfall (which is the object of this hands-on) and Destiny, ironically both published by EA and Activision – the same publishers of Battlefield and Call of Duty.
Titanfall, developed by Respawn Entertainment (founded by some of the minds behind the Call of Duty saga, such as Vincent Zampella and Jason West), has been hoarding praise and awards since its announcement. Available on PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One starting from spring 2014, the game is set in a distant future where technology has made great strides and the majority of the world population lives in the Frontier, on the edge of known space.
In this hostile place there are two factions locked in constant struggle with each other: the IMC, the shift corporation willing to do anything to satisfy their desire for power, and the Militia, an organized armed group of citizens, willing to do anything to curb the ambitions of the IMC in the interests of ordinary people (at least, according to their manifesto). The battles between these two factions happen on a daily basis and soldiers on both factions use a handy jet pack that allows them to juggle in the air to get a quick tactical advantage over their opponents, especially when the 3-meter high robots known as Titans appear on the battlefield.
During the last Gamescom we had the chance to play, for about an hour, a demo of the PC version: one map, three classes, three Titans, so much fun.
After picking our class and Titan of choice, we were catapulted into an urban setting in broad daylight. A brief cutscene dealt with our briefing, explaining our objective much in the way of any single player campaign.
One of the main characteristics of Titanfall is, in fact, blending fast-paced multiplayer action with some kind of overarching narrative like that of a single player campaign. In the demo we played, our goal was to find and kill one of the resistance leaders, strongly defended by the members of the opposing faction.
Before being able to jump in the metallic beast, you’ll have to wait a few minutes in which to rely solely on our abilities, on our arsenal composed by a primary infantry weapon, a secondary gun, some grenades, an anti-Titan gun and, of course, the jet-pack.
This is not only the fastest way to move , but once mastered it allows you to twirl on the roofs without touching the ground at all, thus becoming a harder target to hit for your opponents (not to mention that it’s really cool). If, until now, we were used to completely horizontal action, this single addition means that now the vertical element needs to be considered as well, enhancing the depth of the combat.
It may seem almost useless as a gadget, but in reality, once you’ve understood the timing and dynamics, jumping down a ledge while you shoot at an enemy below will become completely natural and pretty darn satisfying.
It’s when the countdown for the titan’s spawn is finished, though, that the exciting time truly begins: finally I was able to play Titanfall in all of its glory.
Once in the Titan, I immediately felt unbeatable; the truth is though, even titans can be destroyed if they get too much exposure. That said, despite the fact that every infantryman has a weapon designed specifically against the titans, their main enemies are, as you would expect, other titans. Interestingly enough, it’s not only possible to directly command one of these giant robots, but also to let the AI do that instead, which could be exploited in the final game to create some kind of alternative tactics.
Commanding a titan is nonetheless a great experience and with the right support from teammates, it can seriously become a decisive tactical advantage.
The demo ended with a spectacular escape, due to the failure of our mission, aboard a helicopter: the enemy team could still chase us and block our escape, but at least we managed to get away.
The impressions are tremendously positive. I had some serious fun (plus always putting us in the first two places for number of kills), finally understanding the motives behind all this Titanfall praise since E3. That said, the release date is still too far away to be able to draw any conclusions, especially with a title like this, where the balance is probably the key feature and one that can only be judged after several hours of play.
In terms of graphics, Titanfall isn’t exactly the best showcase for next generation games, although it still looks more than decent. This is mainly due to the Source engine, chosen by Respawn because of its ease of development and yet quite dated when compared to the likes of Frostbite or CryEngine. That said, Respawn is clearly following the strategy used back at Infinity Ward: Call of Duty was never exactly a powerhouse in terms of graphics, but its frame rate was always really smooth in order to best support the fast paced nature of the gameplay and certainly Titanfall does the same.
Yielding a proper first impression is very important and Respawn Entertainment scored quite a few early points in my book. DICE and Infinity Ward should be aware that Titanfall might very well shake their ground once and for all when it releases; while the graphics is not exactly amazing, gameplay is very unique and could instantly appeal to both Battlefield and Call of Duty fans.