Peter [Parrish]: Titanfall is a game in which cowboy wizards compete to conjure mechanised body suits from the sky, run sideways on walls and rodeo one another into submission. At least two of the IncGamers anarchic collective have been playing it this weekend, with myself being one of those. I’m hoping Tim McDonald is another otherwise all this discussion will be quite one-sided.
Chatting about Titanfall is bit politically charged at the moment because it’s the new default Great Saviour™ of Microsoft’s otherwise quite rubbish Xbox One, which is a shame for Respawn as nobody deserves that kind of baggage. Anyway, we’re a PC site so we don’t much care for all that side chat. We do care if it’s any good or not, though.
Tim, is Titanfall the next coming of gaming Jesus, or is it a stupid Call of Duty clone for morons with a pistol that kills people for you like you’re a baby? Those are your only choices.
Tim [McDonald]: We don’t much care for all the side chat, says Peter, casually throwing in a snide dismissal of the console on which it’s due to launch. Peter, we’re PC users! On a PC site! All of the consoles are rubbish, not just the Xbox One! Your favoritism disgusts me.
Anyway, your question. The correct answer, obviously, is “no.” It is neither of those things. It is, however, a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be.
Call of Duty is an interesting touchstone for two reasons. Firstly, other than the high framerate and the leveling system that lets you unlock new gubbins, it doesn’t really play like a Call of Duty game. If we’re going in for ridiculous pigeonholing, it’s like some unholy hybrid between Mirror’s Edge, Unreal Tournament, anything with mechs in, and… well, Call of Duty, I guess. But mostly because of the general slick feel rather than the specifics of the play.
Secondly, while playing it and going “Huh, this actually feels new and fresh and exciting”, I remembered that the last time I actually remember thinking that about a beta for a huge, money-devouring AAA monstrosity was probably when playing the beta for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4. Which, back then, was actually new and fresh and exciting.
How’ve you been finding it? Did you play for 10 minutes and then get bored?
Peter: The number 10 is involved, but that’s the level my nebulous collection of pilot characters are at right now. I found Titanfall quite acceptable actually, which is unusual for me and this sort of thing. The last competitive multiplayer I enjoyed for more than the length of a team deathmatch was probably Crysis 3’s.
Here are some things I’ve done in the beta that made me go “yes, this is pretty good.” I’m using bullet points and everything.
- Jumping on top of an enemy titan, wrangling open the battery panel (that part happens automatically) and dumping a full magazine of submachine gun ammo in there, destroying it. This seems loads more effective than the piddling anti-titan weapons pilots start with, especially while the game is in beta and some people still don’t quite know how to react to a rodeo attack.
- Pumping myself full of STIMS while wearing a boosted jump-pack, meaning I could wall-run across a line of buildings through a window and kick an enemy solider in the face while in midair. Titanfall knows the value of a mighty boot melee button.
- Failing to get back to the evacuation drop ship at the end of a lost match almost every time, but enjoying every pathetic, doomed attempt. Especially the time where I reached the rooftop to see the ship cruise slowly away, leaving me to slump forward like Charlie Brown before someone blew me up.
I like the mobility and vertical options you’re given as a pilot, and I like the ever-present possibility of asymmetric mismatches as more people claim their titans during a given match. I’ve actually held off calling my titan a few times, because I prefer the underdog feeling of popping up on rooftops and chipping away at health (or going for a rodeo leap). I doubt that’s the most effective way to play, but there you go.
A lot of its tricks feel familiar in the sense that they’ve been very much present in other games (you’ve mentioned Mirror’s Edge and so on), but this is new arrangement of those things. Even the titans are relatively mobile, able to dash about and duck behind buildings if their magic shield thing has run out.
I’m suddenly aware that we haven’t really explained what Titanfall is, or what’s in this beta. People already know that stuff though, right? It was one of those PR “closed” betas designed to generate hype through scarcity to begin with, and it’s pretty much open now.
Tim: Probably, but I guess I’ll use that an excuse to write a couple of paragraphs of THIS IS WHAT THE GAME IS before I address the points you raised.
Titanfall is a multiplayer-only shooter set in an future that mysteriously manages to be brown while also being orange-and-blue. You’re a Pilot, which is apparently future slang for “foot soldier who is allowed to have a giant stompy deathmech every few minutes.” There are a variety of different game modes in the beta, but the general upshot is that the more people you kill, the more damage you do, and the more objectives you take, then the faster you get access to your Titan. Once you’re in your Titan it’s yours until its destroyed, at which point you have to wait once again.
There are a few neat touches, though. The Titans have AI, which means that – if you’re not currently in your Titan – you can have it guard a location or follow you around while you scoot about on foot. There are rubbish AI footsoldiers running around who provide an extremely minimal threat, but are excellent cannon fodder and help the perennially rubbish feel like they’re contributing. And, of course, there’s the fact that the levels are rather vertical, giving you the chance to properly employ your wallrunning and double-jumping acrobatics. The maps aren’t overly big, but they’re big enough that the Titans don’t feel like they’re in tiny spaces, and the soldiers have a pretty long distance to run to get from one side of the map to the others without it being a Battlefield-esque marathon.
I fully agree with most of your Great Moments. I’m actually kind of intrigued as to what sort of extra stuff will be in the full version – this being a beta, there are only a few ways you can tweak each individual slot in your loadout. Like, there are about five primary weapons, and two secondary weapons. There are two types of grenade, and two or three bonus equipment pieces, and two things that can fit into each perk slot. There is exactly one type of Titan.
Yet for all of that, it already offers some pretty heavy customisation. The choice between a cloaking device that makes you entirely invisible to Titans and slightly harder to spot for other players, or a stimpack that boosts movement speed and health recovery? Well, the first is pretty helpful if you fancy doing Peter-style rodeo tricks, or just generally making people in Titans sad. But the second is remarkably helpful in almost all circumstances, whether you’re fleeing an aggressor, trying to get in close for a vicious mighty boot, or dancing around at long-range. Hmm.
Also, I’d like to say that – although I don’t think I’ve got it active in any of my loadouts right now – the gun that automatically locks onto people if you aim at them for a few seconds, and then instantly kills everyone you’ve targeted when you pull the trigger, is amazing. I mean it’s a helpful tool to begin with anyway and it’s fantastic for clearing out a load of AI troops, but it’s just one of the most legitimately futuristic weapons I’ve seen in a game for ages. It’s not a weapon that fires green balls instead of bullets; it’s a weapon that’s futuristic because of how it works. The mere presence of that gun does a hell of a lot for the universe.