I’m not normally a fan of first person shooters, especially modern military Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta style FPS’s. Titanfall is different: it has giant fighting robots. But is that it? Is it just Call of Duty with robots?
It would be if it wasn’t the most polished shooter in terms of game mechanics I’ve ever played. As a beta, there are a few things I think are missing, but overall my experience was really positive. Again, I should stress that I am in no way a fan of FPS’s, but it’s made me care again about AAA shooters which are often seen as derivative.
Right off the bat you’re thrown into a brief Portal-like VR training mode. This goes through all the basic mechanics and introduces them and their importance one by one. This was great for me considering I tend to get overwhelmed in most shooters, even without all the fancy running on walls and double jumping and ejecting out of giant exploding robots. It’s all very digestible and served as a good starting point for combat with simulated training exercises. That being said, you can easily skip it if you’ve done it before, or if you know what you are doing.
After that you’re thrown directly into a lobby where you can participate in 3 different game modes. Attrition is your standard team 6 on 6 death match. You gain attrition points for every person or titan you kill. Besides the six real people you face off against, there are several other AI grunts on either side which you can kill for reduced points. The team which gets to 250 attrition points first is declared the winner. The loser must then evacuate by heading towards a dropship, while the winners try and eliminate the rest of the opposing team and destroy their dropship.
Last Titan Standing is exactly what it sounds like. Every player starts in a Titan and you try and destroy each other’s Titans. Death is permanent, and once you lose your Titan, it never comes back. Lastly, Hardpoint is a King of the Hill style game where players must capture 3 points on the map labelled A, B, and C. My favourite is undoubtedly Last Titan Standing because you start in a Titan and that’s where the gameplay really takes off for me.
It’s fast and frantic, and I found myself quickly overwhelmed in my first couple of games. Eventually, you understand the important metagame of Titanfall. If you’re on the ground as a pilot with a bunch of Titans stomping around, you’re basically dead. You must use the pilot’s mobility of wall running and double jumping to get a beat on the Titans. To help you out, every class of pilot (Rifleman, Assassin, and CQB) has a cloaking device that makes you invisible to a Titan, but less so to a human. At the same time, there’s a timer that counts down until your Titan is available. The timer reduces whenever you kill or inflict damage on an enemy.
Once your Titan is ready, it falls from the sky and you can jump in. From then on, you try and stay in your Titan for as long as you can before you are blown up. When your Titan is at critical damage, you eject high into the sky, allowing you to plan you next move, or jump on to another titan and throw the pilot out. This leads to some truly glorious David and Goliath style wins against all odds.
Each class of pilot is equipped with a primary, sidearm and the all important Anti-Titan weapon. The three different classes of pilot cater to different play styles. The Rifleman is your standard class. They are equipped with a carbine assault rifle and a homing rocket launcher to take down enemy Titans. I see this class running around the most due to their rocket launcher which can chop down a Titan quite quickly. Next is the Assassin, a female soldier. She is equipped with a Smart Pistol that can lock on to enemies and deliver near instant head shots. This was awesome for me, because I can’t aim for crap. One of her perks involves seeing all AI on the map to hunt down for points, the other recharges her cloak faster. Her Anti-Titan weapon is a gun that shoots micro missiles at Titans for decent damage. Lastly, the CQB; a close quarters specialist. He starts with a shotgun that is really effective in close quarters, while his Anti-Titan weapon is the same as the Assassin. His perks include a movement bonus for wallrunning and jumping and the shield around his Titan lasts longer.
When you level up, you get one use perks called ‘Burn Cards’. You can use up to three different cards at once, but only when you’ve reached levels 9 and 11. Considering the three different classes of Titans and Pilots, I can imagine many varied loadouts depending on your play style. Since all of the classes weapons can be swapped out for ones you unlock later, you’re really spoiled for choice.
I’ll say that the best part of Titanfall is the pilot and Titan mechanic. They work seamlessly together and it’s just magnificent. The Titans handle exactly like a pilot, save the fact that Titans cannot jump. They can, however, dash and use their Vortex Shield to catch ammunition fired at you, and launch it back! It’s insane how intuitive and free-flowing it is. Getting in and out of a Titan is also very fluid and easy. You can approach from any angle, even from the air, and you’ll get in with a slightly different animation. My favourite is when you slide through its legs and it catches you and throws you into the cockpit. Titans also have AI. By pressing V, the Titan will follow and defend you without you having to be mounted in the thing. Keep in mind though, one of the weaker points of this game is the AI. They are not a challenge in any way and are just flat out dumb. If you leave your Titan to deal with a human player, it’ll likely be destroyed very quickly.
The graphics are very polished. Source engine can still look fantastic if put into the right hands ,and running at max settings, the game is a feast for the eyes. There are two maps to play at the moment: Angel City, a futuristic cityscape, and Fracture, a larger map set in a fuel depot. I like Angel City the most due to its smaller size and aesthetics. As far as performance goes, I did notice a slight problem with vertical sync. It seems to make the camera jitter if you have either double or triple buffering v-sync on. I’m not sure if this is just a problem I experienced, but I thought it was worth mentioning just in case it’s a wider problem.Thankfully, the framerate was locked at 60fps no matter how busy it got on screen. The source engine has always been really optimised and it’s no different here.
So how was the online play in terms of performance? Considering my geographical location in Australia coupled with busy servers and my middling internet connection, Titanfall held up really well! I had 100ms-150ms ping to the Southeast Asia server which was way better than I expected. I noticed a few hiccups here and there, but I was able to get on very well and enjoy the game. Hopefully it’ll be the same for our South African gamers. So far, good news!
Overall, Titanfall was a very positive experience from an online multiplayer perspective. More Titans, more pilots and more content in general will only serve to deepen an already nuanced and beautiful game. As a casual player of FPS’s I would kill for a single player story mode of Titanfall, but even as a multiplayer experience, it holds up wonderfully. If you’re lucky enough to get into the beta, expect an absolute blast with friends and foes alike.
Last Updated: February 14, 2014