EB Games Expo 2013: Titanfall Impressions

Ever since its announcement at E3 this year, I had been sceptical about Titanfall. Game journalists who had attended expos and played it were all raving about it. Comments saying “Titanfall is the next big thing” were springing up everywhere I looked. Even Analog Addiction’s own George Sinclair had praise for the game. But I had to see it for myself.

I now believe in Titanfall.

There’s so much that I want to say about Titanfall, I don’t know where to begin. It’s amazing, it’s original, and it’s extremely fast paced. Before we picked up our controllers, we were told that we were playing a mode called “campaign multiplayer.” Basically, a multiplayer game with narrative lightly sprinkled over the top. The map we played on was Angel City – the map from the Gamescom trailer. The mission was to retrieve a Pilot called Barker from the city, but you never interact with that person. However, if we had have been on the other team, we would have had to stop the other team from getting Barker.
Instead, it was a team-deathmatch where we had to get the most points before the timer ran out. Points were scored for killing different people. Killing the AI would score you less points than other players or Titans.

At first, Titanfall felt uncontrollable and overwhelming. Movement was faster than most shooters, and the jumping mechanics were difficult to comprehend. However, in a matter of moments, I had adjusted to the controls and worked out how movement worked. From then on, everything felt natural and seamless.

Movement is key to success in Titanfall. I double jumped up to a second story window and immediately took out an enemy with my assault rifle. Turning to my right, I saved a teammate who was about to be assassinated by a knife. I then proceeded up to the roof where I shot a couple more enemies who were running through the streets, jumped off the roof, landed on a Titan and proceeded to shoot its engine until it exploded. This happened in the space of about 10-15 seconds, and during the whole time I never stopped moving.

The jump jet, which allows you to double jump and wall run, adds another layer to combat. If I suddenly come in contact with an opposing Titan, instead of frantically running for the nearest cover, all I would do was jump jet over a fence or into a building for protection. The wall running mechanic was harder to pull off, but it’s common sense that I would not learn all of the mechanics in a 12 minute session. However, I did manage to pull of a small wall run towards the end of the match. It felt really cool to be able to run on the wall, leap onto a roof and proceed to fire my anti-Titan missiles at a fleeing enemy.

The shooting in Titanfall, both as a Pilot (being a soldier on the ground) and when in a Titan, is extremely smooth. The sensitivity felt higher than usual shooters, which is necessary to traverse the environment quickly, but I had no problem aiming at my targets. You can definitely see the Call of Duty influence here.

One would expect the Titans to feel sluggish, but they are actually extremely mobile. With the swap from a double jump to a side dash, the Titans can move around the map just as quickly as the Pilots – if not a little slower – and the extra fire power makes you feel like an invincible god as you fire four rockets at a time at the helpless ground troops.

Respawn Entertainment has struck a nice balance between Titans and Pilots. While the Titans are packing heavy fire power, they can be easily defeated by smart Pilots. Every Pilot is equipped with an anti-Titan weapon, and a few Pilots concentrating their fire on a Titan can bring it down quickly. You can also jump on a Titan and shoot its engine to blow it up.

There are weapons for every play style too. For our session, the pilots could have an assault rifle, shotgun or a smart pistol as the primary weapon. The smart pistol had the ability to lock onto multiple targets at once, but it is not as overpowered as it sounds because the lock-on takes a while. Every pilot also had a pistol, a grenade and a knife for melee kills. The Titans had the option of a battle rifle, a machine gun and a rocket launcher, and every Titan had a secondary weapon of cluster rockets which were best fired when reloading.

The Titans and Pilots also had a special ability. The Pilots had a cloaking ability, but I don’t know how that worked because I forgot to use it. The Titans had the ability to either catch bullets and reflect them, or release an electric smoke which can allow them to escape and harm any enemies that walk through it. Both of the Titan abilities felt useful and I found myself using them to escape some tricky situations.

Once a team has lost the match in Titanfall, the session is not over. The losing team must try to make it back to an extraction ship while the winning team tries to stop them. This is where the action becomes the most frantic. Being the winning team, we all started rushing towards the enemy’s extraction point, quickly trying to take down any Pilots or Titans attempting to escape.

I left the Titanfall demo wanting to play again. It was by far the best game I played at the EB Games Expo and definitely lives up to its hype. Considering we were playing an early Alpha build on a debug console (I assume it was a PC with Xbox 360 controllers attached), the game ran extremely smoothly and felt well balanced. Titanfall could very well be the first person shooter that finally knocks Call of Duty off the top.

Titanfall is out in Spring 2014 (Northern Hemisphere) for Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.

You can read more EB Games Expo Impressions tomorrow.