Beta Impressions: Titanfall [PC/Xbox One]
I could probably guess where my obsession with large robots came from. I would lean towards my playing a lot of Warhammer 40K in my youth. Enormous Imperial Titans (the Imperator class to be exact) caught my eye very early on. I will even admit to watching my fair share of Power Rangers with their awesome Megazord fights back in the day. My love of Transformers isn’t hard to surmise either.
I say this not to hollow or cheapen my opinion on Respawn Entertainment’s new game, not at all, but to help you understand how critical I am of games involving vertical tanks of any kind. Critical in a way that I’m sure many fans can understand.
I’m certain that anyone versed with internet gaming forums, has been a part of many a “constructive” conversation before, defending your favourite new game to a barrage of hateful posters. It’s just personal taste after all. A subjective perception of what each of us want from a game, dressed up as objectivity. I wouldn’t say those two things are mutually exclusive to an opinion, but distinguishing between the two is often blurred by nostalgia, sometimes even eviscerated by fandom.
The point of my ramblings is simply to help massage the notion that I objectively remain on the outside, looking in.
Standby for Titanfall.
Despite all early videos for Titanfall looking as good as they did, it wasn’t enough to wash away my almost insurmountable scepticism for the gaming industry, not these days. Too often we are fed exaggerated statistics, gorged with misleading videos, or even outright lied to when it comes to the content of a game.
Not this time. Not even close.
The obvious CoD comparisons are going to be made, there’s no way to side-step that landmine. After all, Respawn is made up of a large contingent of ex Infinity Ward staff, not least of all, Vince Zampella and Jason West.
I personally don’t hold any affection for those comments; it’s something I would expect to find on YouTube, which is to say that I hold them in the lowest regard possible. Which is, by the by, even lower than Nvidia’s Customer Care.
So I will just wash over that, dignifying that argument is something I will leave to others. Instead, let’s talk about what really matters, the gameplay.
First Person Parkour Shooter.
It’s not often a sense of verticality is introduced in to the FPS genre. That’s not to say it’s completely unheard of mind, but it is a rarity. The booster packs that pilots are fitted with, gives you a mid air jump. It’s not a huge building leaping boost, but it allows you to mantle your way around the map with a wonderful fluidity.
Bored of people camping in buildings that only have one access route? Why not just jump through the second floor window instead?
In Titanfall, you aren’t held back by the need for stairs or lifts to gain elevation on a situation. Think Mirror’s Edge; now think of that in a multiplayer environment. Throw in some vertical tanks, and you’ve got Titanfall.
That may sound muddled, but Respawn have truly come up trumps here, in my opinion anyway. The movement around the map is almost effortless, although at the same time, it gives need for you to plan your route across open spaces, lest you get stomped by large metal things.
The dynamic of Titan/Pilot balance is handled beautifully, even though the former is protected by shields and heavy armour, the pilot can use their incredible manoeuvrability and use of tight spaces, to keep the odds relatively even.
The first hour or so spent playing was mainly taken up by learning when to use the Titans. That may sound like an odd comment, but I’ve found that calling it down at the right time can be pivotal. If the enemy are all walking around in their chosen Titan, calling yours down will simply give them all a big target to aim at. Trying to pick away at them from between and on top of buildings can be much more favourable. Waiting for the opportune moment to compound your position can work wonders.
Burn Baby Burn.
Map-hacks, overpowered weapons, permanent invisibility, super speed. I know what you’re thinking and no, this isn’t a list of things that can be found in MW2 on PC. It’s something knows as ‘Burn Cards’.
It works like this. You set up 1-3 cards (depending on your level) that you can use after a death, or at the start of the game. Once used, they last for one life and are subsequently lost. Hence the name. They are awarded randomly at the end of each game from what I can gather, it ranges from a more powerful version of available weapons, to having the time until your next Titan reduced.
Given that it’s random (seemingly), it could come across as a bit imbalanced, having said that, it’s only for one life and I didn’t come across anything that would cause any serious bunching of panties. It feels like a good idea to me. It can certainly help if you have a bad start and want to even things out a little. There’s always going to be some people calling out for nerfs, but I think we can all agree that’s unavoidable.
Pimp My Titan.
One thing you can expect in any online shooter these days, is the “carrot on a stick” unlock system. Titanfall hasn’t deviated from that in any way so far as I can tell. You start with set loadouts. After a few levels you are allowed to dress up your own soldier using the small amount of unlocks available. It’s all standard stuff. Having said that, once you reach a slightly higher level, you can also choose your Titan’s loudout.
There didn’t seem to be any aesthetic options, but this is only beta, there could still be something upcoming that we haven’t seen in regards to that. I won’t go in to much depth on this as there are plenty of sources available to view everything on offer. So if you want more info on the amount of gear available in the finished game, you can find that right here, courtesy of our very own Richard Breslin.
But Me No Bots.
If I do have one complaint, it’s Titanfall’s inclusion of bots. This is a difficult subject to skirt around, mainly because we haven’t got the proper inclusion of narrative in the beta, so it almost a little unfair to judge based on what we’ve seen.
I’m sure you will have checked out the trailers concerning the set pieces, if you somehow have managed to avoid them, have a look now.
As you can see, a great effort has been made to integrate single player elements in to this multiplayer experience. I am actually extremely excited to see how this works on release. In the beta though, I found the many bots that get dropped on to the battlefield, to be quite a distraction. I died a fair few times in confusion as to whom I should shoot.
It does get easier to tell players apart from bots, mainly due to the bots predictable scripted routes. Walking in on bots fighting each other does add to the carnage, but if you look closely, you can see they wait for someone to come in to range before starting their animations. You can often see them from a distance, frozen and waiting for an audience.
Performing a mass culling of enemy bots does drop the time of your next Titan, not as much as killing pilots, but they are worth it in larger groups. It’s always worth remembering though, that firing on them gives away your position on the minimap.
I’ve gone backwards and forwards with this, it doesn’t spoil the game, but I have to say I found it a little intrusive. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great seeing this war waging in front of you, however the poorly scripted AI does tend to detract from the experience.
I think I will leave my opinion to one side on this particular point. As I said, the narrative was abscent from the code I and many others played, so judgement will have to be delayed until release day. If you do want to know a little more about some of the characters, you can check that out here.
A Minor Technicality.
I’m sure you will all be wondering how the game runs. Well, it seemed fairly stable to me, which I would have expected, seeing as the minimum specs are modest. It was a little bit choppy here and there, but nothing to worry about. To give you an idea, I was running it on…
Intel i7 3770K 4.6ghz
2 x GTX 680 SLI
One thing to mention though, I was running the beta on a single GPU, mostly because there was no official driver from Nvidia before-hand. I’m afraid I didn’t benchmark it with Fraps, but even under some intense action, everything remained smooth(ish).
The best advice I can give to those with lower or mid-range PCs, is to drop the AA to 2 x MSAA. The choppiness I mentioned almost completely disappeared once I did that. Given the time until release, I am relatively confident it will be solid by then. Although, it is being published by EA, so there’s always a chance it won’t work at all… Just kidding… Sort of.
In terms of graphical power, I was impressed with what they got out of the aging Source Engine. There was some low-res textures if you look hard enough, but it was at worst, serviceable; at best, a really well used art style complemented by great character models and impressive backdrops.
I think you can tell from the screenshots, that certainly on PC, it’s looking impressive. Not as pretty as something like Hawken maybe, but impressive nonetheless.
Hail To The King Baby.
It’s been said so many times, that an upcoming FPS title will “dethrone” CoD as the #1 shooter. Personally, I haven’t felt like it needed to happen, it may sell more than the other games, but that doesn’t make it the best any more than it makes Justin Bieber the best singer.
So is it worth the hype? Well, I think it’s important you remember that we make the hype, that’s right, us. It’s certainly true that developers/publishers advertise, but the bulk of the hype comes from the consumer. All I can do is tell you that, for me, this is the best shooter I’ve played in a very long time. The balance seems dead on, the maps are well constructed and they don’t lead in to meat grinder sections like certain Battlefield maps.
You could argue that there isn’t much new here and actually, that’s a fair point. However, it’s the innate familiarity in Titanfall that is immediately endearing. It’s easy to become accustomed to this recognisable stranger, some foreign mechanics can be absorbed so quickly that you will be sailing across building tops, running through the legs of giant metal beasts and racking up biblical body counts within the first few days.
Despite my minor concerns and aside from my unquenchable scepticism, I’m expecting Titanfall to be very well received. It’s familiar, yet different enough to take some time to learn, it’s industrial and gritty art style is enticing and the promised narrative to deliver epic single player moments in to a multiplayer game, are mouth watering.
Not everyone will like it, I’ve already seen a fair few tweets from people seemingly unimpressed with the beta. There are some games however, that simply need to be played, no matter your genre preference, regardless of your fandom. This is one of those games. Do yourself a favour, don’t be left out when it’s released.
It’s less than a month until the March 14th release date. It will be released on PC and Xbox One simultaneously, so if you hear a large thud on that day, it will be all PC gamers passing out at the lack of delay. If you would like another opinion on all this. Push-Start’s own Jack Langley has spliced together some thoughts for you, up to his usual high standards of course.
So until that day, standby for Titanfall.