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Titanfall Preview – IncGamers’ Impressions of the Beta

Peter: Ahh, the smart-pistol. That’s generating quite a bit of discussion along the lines of how fair and/or competitive it is, which probably isn’t surprising for a gun that has an auto lock.

Probably worth adding that to kill a pilot person in a single shot you have to wait for it to lock on about three or four times, which gives them a reasonable chance to notice you. It has a decent rate of fire even without the auto-lock thing though, so somebody good can still just headshot you with it.

I’ve encountered a couple of smart-pistol user varieties out there in Titanfall land. There are the quite rubbish players (like me!) who believe it’s their shortcut to greatness, but who aren’t much more threatening than the rubbish players with assault rifles or shotguns. Then there are the guys who can do one billion flips off a wall, cloak, land behind you and execute you all within the space of about half a second. But to be honest, those guys can kill anybody with anything, because they’re really good.

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A moving visual representation of the game’s name.

Tim: I don’t actually mind being killed in really impressive ways by staggeringly good players. I mean, in Battlefield of Duty 17, it’s always annoying when some twat drop-shots you with an unscoped sniper rifle. Here, though, the acrobatic displays of skill are… well, displays. Someone leaping into the air, charging along a wall, and flawlessly headshotting you with a single trigger-pull while they make their way to their next destination is actually cool to watch, even in the This Is How The Other Person Killed You murdercam. That may wear off, in time, but right now I’m finding it hard to be annoyed by any of the weapons.

Peter: I think the shotgun is pretty rubbish, personally. But anyway, if anything needs to be toned down, it’s probably the mighty boot. That already seems to be the weapon of choice for a lot of the better players. Respawn shouldn’t tone that down though, because it’s great.

Since you’ve mentioned the AI minions, I’ll talk about those too. I’m not sure how I feel about those yet. They seem to be the faintest nod to DOTA 2 mechanics, somehow. You can farm them for a bit to get closer to your special power (making a titan fall out of space), but they can’t really hurt you in any meaningful fashion. As you say, they do seem to exist largely as a method of making people feel they can still contribute even if they’re bad at the game. I’m fine with that, I suppose. But I’d like to play an AI-less map or two to see how the game does without them.

Have you suffered the ultimate humiliation of being killed by one, Tim? Amazingly, I haven’t yet.

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Look out AI grunt, all the blood is escaping from your body!

Tim: No, because it’s like playing against Unreal Tournament bots set to Average Grandma difficulty level. You’ll come across a group of four, and you’ll have executed three of them before the fourth even notices you’re there. Even if you then have to stand out in the open reloading, the worst that’ll happen is he’ll fire a shot at you. Except “at you” is a really generous description for its trajectory.

I do really like the AI soldiers, though, for reasons I’m having difficulty defining. Part of it is just the fact that having a load of extra soldiers present, adding lots of extra movement and gunfire to any given scene, really adds to the feel of the game. It helps that they’re not “real” soldiers, too, because it means that you’re not instantly pitched into a life-or-death battle whenever you spot anyone; you can admire the fact that this is a dangerous war-torn environment with a pitched battle going on, without instantly dying whenever you actually see the battle. I sorta like the feel of the players – the pilots – being the “elite”, while the general grunts can barely scratch you. Kinda like how Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer shone a great big light on exactly how far ahead of the average soldier Shepard really is.

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Ejecting from a Titan can give you a pretty ridiculous vantage point.

So yeah, besides the gameplay mechanic of “putting you two seconds closer to your next Titan”, they provide a bit of atmosphere and a rather overt – but effective – way of making you feel powerful. Atmosphere is something Titanfall really does rather well, through the AI soldiers and the fairly non-standard mission control voice telling you what’s going on, as well as all sorts of things I probably haven’t thought about.

Peter: It’s okay Tim, you can say he’s South African. The apartheid boycotts are over now.

Tim: I was meaning all the voices, honestly, not just the South African chap. They address you personally, and in ways rather more personal than the usual “ALL FORCES, WE NOW HAVE CONTROL OF POINT A” bollocks. It… it actually feels like the mission control voice is a character with some sort of vaguely-defined relationship to your pilot, and not the typical disembodied, personality-less voice. It’s not amazingly well-written, or anything, but it’s another minor touch that I enjoy.

It’s fair to say that I’m enjoying Titanfall quite a lot, actually. There aren’t a great many multiplayer shooters I bother hopping into without friends being present, but this has thus far proven to be an exception. I spent most of the last weekend popping on to play one or two quick games, logging out to do something else, and then wandering back to it again a few hours later. The full version’s maps, weapons, Titans, game modes etc. are going to heavily mess with what currently seems like fairly solid and balanced mechanics, but what’s on display here has me feeling pretty optimistic.

Peter: Likewise, and in the same fashion too. I didn’t really play for any extended periods, but I did keep revisiting it.

I’m interested to see what they do with the multiplayer ‘campaign’ mode and how that whole aspect is handled. Normally when a game is attracting this level of hype, attention and hyperbole of every hue, I just switch off and wait for it to go away. But Titanfall interests me now, which isn’t at all how I imagined winding up this preview.

You can watch us play the game in our IncGamers Plays Titanfall videos.

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