Titanfall Beta Preview: The Shooter Genre, Distilled
Titanfall is, without a doubt, one of the most hyped games coming out in 2014, and some of that hype is merited.
The duo behind two of gaming’s biggest and best shooter franchises, Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, spearheaded the project (although Jason West left about a year ago, three years after starting developer Respawn Entertainment with Vince Zampella). And while Medal of Honor has … fallen on hard times, Call of Duty survives as one of gaming’s biggest revenue machines, with a huge multiplayer following.
That pedigree brings a lot of expectations, and with so much hype surrounding its release, is it even possible for Titanfall to fully deliver on expectations? Too Big To Fail, or some play on that phrase, doesn’t apply here. It very rarely applies to video games or other media, in fact.
The Titanfall closed beta starts Friday, Feb. 14, and it will be the public’s best and longest glimpse into what Respawn Entertainment’s shooter-mech FPS hybrid will offer when released on March 11 — so pretty soon, at least a few players will be able to judge for themselves. Game Front got a chance to put hands on the beta a little bit early, and I’ve come back with a few impressions of the super-hyped multiplayer FPS.
As the Titanfall tutorial in the beta starts, you might immediately think back to your first run-in with Portal. There’s no dry, sarcastic feminine coach talking you through the practice chambers, but learning the game’s movement mechanics, how weapons handle and what Titan combat works all feel like Aperture exercises.
And that is far from a bad thing, let’s be clear. The tutorial alone is fantastic, especially when you realize how polished and fluid Titanfall’s movement system is — most of the game is spent on foot, and moving around is a Call of Duty-esque parkour mix-up that feels inspired by Brink, but taken to another level in terms of intuitiveness, ease of use, and fluidity. Wall-running, double-jumping, and even climbing all feel like they’ve been taken apart, cleaned up, put back together again, and given a high dose of Vitamin B. The pace is fast, but it’s definitely less clunky than Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Despite the increased speed of Titanfall, it’s a game that demands deliberation and critical thinking. The pace might be COD, but the way you mentally work through scenarios lends itself more to the Battlefield and Enemy Territory franchises. Titans, the mechs that any player can call down at certain points throughout a given multiplayer match, are vehicles, obviously, which means ground troops need to treat them as such the same way they do in other games.
Many beta participants are going to miss this forest for the trees over the next week, I think. That isn’t to say that Titans are overpowered, or the pace of the game is as slow as the very deliberate MechWarrior Online. You just need to learn when speed is necessary, and when it’s better to hang back and eke out a flank in a two-story mechanical, thinking, killing machine.
After getting acclimated to the movement system, and shaking off the Portal déjà vu, you’ll probably notice how familiar the Pilot, or on-foot, and Mech setup systems are. Both are par for the FPS course, breaking down into several classes. Pilots break have three known classes so far — Rifleman (assault rifles), Assassin (recon/sniper type), and CQB (shotguns and other entryway-busting destruction). Each Pilot class gets Tier (perk/unlock) choices, grenade choices, and a three-weapon loadout.
Titans make you feel invincible … until your core starts to melt, and you eject amid an irradiated fireball of glory.
The customary “primary and secondary” weapon loadout setup is joined by a tertiary selection: your Anti-Titan weapon. These range from slow, RPG-like rocket launchers to mini-rocket spammers to elephant gun-caliber rifles, each with its own pros and cons. These loadouts are pre-determined for the first few ranks, but you’ll unlock custom loadouts — which include male and female pilot choices — after a few hours of play (another COD hallmark).
The last component of the loadout system comes down to Burn Cards. This seems to be an aspect of Titanfall that ties into its campaign mode, but Burn Cards are like one-time-use perks and bonuses. One gives you boosted running speed for a period of time, while another equips you with unlimited Arc (EMP) grenades for one Pilot life, and so on. It’s an interesting addition, and one that calls back to Killstreak rewards, which is why I’m wary of them. Why add so many balance/OP wild cards to a game already teeming with choice and customization? I think the beta will expose a few cracks in the system, and rightly so.