When it was announced at last year’s E3, Titanfall dropped right off of my radar. I dismissed it as “just another shooter” and that was the end of it… until my brother gave me a key to the Titanfall Beta.
I dropped in to Titanfall with no expectations, but instantly felt right at home with its visuals, controls, and loadouts. This is Respawn Entertainment’s first game, and their Call of Duty heritage shines bright. I’ve played all of the major shooters throughout the years, with Halo being my primary go-to FPS, but I’m pleased to say I’ve never played anything quite like Titanfall.
Players take on the role of a Titan Pilot as a member of either the IMC (Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation) or the Militia. The first time you play you’re treated to a lengthy tutorial to become certified as a Pilot, but after that you’re free to battle in one of the four Matchmaking playlists on offer: Attrition, Hardpoint, Last Titan Standing, and Beta Variety Pack.
Attrition pits two teams of six against one another in a deathmatch, Hardpoint Domination tasks each team with capturing and holding territories, Last Titan Standing is a team survival mode where each player starts in their Titan but you only get a single life per round, and the Beta Variety Pack is a mix of all three.
Throughout a match, each team gets a variety of NPC minions known as “Grunts” and “Spectres” dropped in from time to time. They are easy to kill, contribute to your team’s score, and aren’t much of a threat in small numbers, but players can actually hack enemy Spectres to turn them into allies.
Until recently, the majority of FPS games featured heavy players with limited mobility. Running was only possible in short bursts unless you had special perks or enhancements, but Titanfall has cast these rules aside in favor of a Parkour-like system, which is a breath of fresh air. Each Pilot can sprint infinitely, jump and land safely from any height, run on and climb up walls, and double jump. Combining these elements allows you to get where you want quickly and stylishly, and you feel awesome doing it. Need to get on that roof? Run up a pile of debris, wall run to that broken ledge, and jump on up.
The guns of Titanfall behave as you might expect, and that’s a good thing. Each player is given a primary weapon, an Anti-Titan weapon, and a sidearm in their loadout. One unique weapon to Titanfall is the Smart Pistol, which has a lock-on feature as long as you aren’t aiming manually. It will give you an instant kill once locked on, and you can easily take out groups of Grunts and Spectres with it. Pilots require multiple locks to kill, so you have to be patient or you’ll only wound them and have to finish them off manually anyway. The Smart Pistol also locks on to live grenades, so you have to be careful not to accidentally blow yourself up.
Anti-Titan guns are heavy hitting weapons Pilots can use to bring a Titan down, and they balance out the advantages a player has when in the cockpit. I always used the lock-on rocket launcher because when it lands, it hurts.
Piloting a Titan in Titanfall is like a mech anime dream come true. When you start a game you’re given a countdown until your Titan is ready. Kills reduce your build time and allow you to bring your Titan in sooner. When you call your Titan in, it’s protected by a shield in order to give you time to get set up. Each Titan has a life meter, a shield meter, two weapons, and the ability to punch, dash, and run. As their name implies, they’re also huge.
Each Titan also has a unique Core Power that charges up while you’re running and gunning, such as the Atlas Titan’s Damage Core, which powers up your weapons, or the Stryder Titan’s Dash Core, which allows you to dash infinitely. The Core Power only lasts for a short time, but using them when the time is right can help you overwhelm your enemies.
When you take your Titan into battle, you’re given additional information about the current situation. The game warns you if you’re about to face multiple Titans, reminds you to try to get away when your shield is down, and alerts you if an enemy or ally Pilot jumps onto your rig. If your Titan’s life meter is completely depleted, your Titan goes critical and a countdown meter tells you when it’s going to blow up. You can hold off as long as possible before ejecting, but if you wait too long you’ll die along with your Titan.
In addition to each match there is an Epilogue, which is a survival mini-game where the winning team tries to hunt down the losing team while they attempt to make it to a drop ship. It’s an interesting feature that really puts your current situation into perspective, and will likely lead to a lot of smack talking.
Many aspects of your Pilot and Titan loadouts are customizable. You can unlock new sights, extended magazines, suppressors, and various other mods for weapons by completing challenges. At one point my loadout was set so that I was almost always invisible.
I had a Suppressor on my sniper so I didn’t show up as a red dot on the map when shooting, Cloak as my tactical ability, which made me invisible to Titans and mostly invisible to enemy Pilots, Power Cell so my Cloak would recharge faster, and I hid on the edges of the map, picking people off while they dealt with Titans. I averaged only about 2-3 deaths per game doing that.
Burn Cards are one-time use cards that give you a variety of in-game advantages, such as shaving off your Titan’s Build Time, equipping you with super-powered guns, giving you infinite grenades, or making you run faster. It will be interesting to see how people use these in the final game, because they can be extremely overpowered.
I had a ton of fun playing the Titanfall Beta, and cannot wait to see what other surprises Respawn Entertainment has in store for the full game. With its fast, frantic gameplay and liberating player movement, Titanfall has shown the world a great new way to play FPS games. Here’s hoping the final product is as good as the Beta.
By the way, my Kill Record for the Beta looked like this:
Titanfall launches on March 11th for Xbox One and PC, and March 25th for Xbox 360.