Titanfall Preview (PC)

There’s a lot to be said for atmosphere, for the little things. Those wonderful touches that probably didn’t need to be there, but their presence makes you appreciate the whole experience more and more. Titanfall is full of them, which probably goes a long way to explaining why a lot of people seem to like it. Playing through the recent beta, I was awed – not by the Titans (as cool as they are), not by the pacing or anything like that, but the atmosphere, the little touches.

When minions respawn(jokes), they don’t just materialised out of thin air, they emerge from drop-pods that periodically fall from the sky. Pilots zip-line into the battlefield from air-ships that fly-in and fly out of the combat zone. Titans fall from the sky. You get the idea. The reason why I like Battlefield over Call of Duty is for the atmosphere, the sense that I’m actually on a battlefield fighting a war, as opposed to COD’s very clinical run-shoot-die-respawn. Titanfall seems to be aiming for the best of both worlds right now, and I want to share some thoughts I’ve had on the game from playing the Beta.

Favourite Moment: Losing with style

I wasn’t expecting this at all. It was my first ever match, I’d been doing ok, as like most people in the match I was playing it like a regular FPS at the time so I’d like to think I held my own. But the players who were playing it differently, as you really should, were what decided the match and they were mostly on the other team, so my team lost. I was preparing to put my controller down and wait for the post-match lobby when, suddenly, I had a voice in my ear saying that I had to get to the evac point. What?

This ‘Epilogue’ moment, where the losing team has to get the F**K out of dodge and get to da choppa, is honestly one of my favourite things about Titanfall. In an instant, everything changes. The losing team drops everything they’re doing and makes a be-line for that glowing blue-symbol, and the winning team, not given a chance to celebrate, have to scramble to intercept any and all trying to make a break for safety. The fact that you get extra points and just a little bit of pride for having evacced successfully, is just the icing on the cake.

It’s a wonderfully constructed moment, and something that more games should adopt.

Game-Changer: Free-running

The parkour-like free-running stuff (with jetpacks) is Titanfall’s secret weapon. Even towards the end of my play-through, I was still getting used to the fact that I could also go up. The jetpacks really are a game changer as well, even killing someone on the same ‘level’ as you can be hard. I’ve seen people jump and dodge in the air, even when I get the drop on them, and they kill me. I’ve seen team-mates disappear up the side of buildings and up onto roofs in seconds. Typically, when I tried to follow them, I failed, but it’s just something you need to get used to and practice.

There were only two levels available for the beta, one that was more urban and a bit more suited for the wall-bouncing stuff, and one that was more open. Given that these levels have to be designed to handle Titan’s as well as pilots and infantry, there’s only so much you can do in terms of offering decent spaces for pilots to jump around everything. It will be interested to see what the other levels look like though, and how the skew in terms of favoured tactics etc… it will also be interesting to see if they have a Pilot-only mode, just like they have in the Last Titan Standing option.

Odd One Out: Sniper Elite

To be fair, this is probably due to the fact that I was playing a Beta – more than that (if the rumours are true), we were all playing a very limited snapshot of a game that’s still got a lot more to show. Saying that, I felt the sniper rifle was incredibly out of place. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

Given the pacing of the infantry action, I found it really hard to snipe effectively while playing Titanfall. Again, maybe it’s because I defaulted to ‘traditional’ FPS behaviour, but I was never a great run-and-gun sniper. When I’m given space though, I do alright. Everyone moves around so much though that it’s really hard to be effective. Personally, I don’t think a sniper gun is needed at all, and playing through the beta its inclusion just felt to me a bit like it was pandering to the fact that all FPS have a sniper-class/weapon.

Saying that, there are ways in which it can work. Titans, when their shields are down, have weak spots on their top and back that, when hit, do an incredible amount of damage. I’m reliably informed that if you use a sniper rifle, you can do just as much mad-damage as if you used an anti-tank weapon. There’s also a more DMR-style rifle that’s better for running and gunning, so there’s still room for a skill distance weapon, even with all the jumping about.

Still Needs Work: Titans & Minions

Titans, perhaps unsurprisingly, get kind of boring quite quickly. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they play very differently than to how playing as a pilot plays. They are slower, more clunky, and can’t really do as much (they can’t even jump, which is just bonkers). It’s also really easy to gang up on one and take it down. To be honest, as the beta wore on, I saw more and more titans roaming around that were in auto-mode. Perhaps that’s the way to go, as piloting them yourself isn’t as useful as it could be.

Don’t get me wrong – piloting a giant robot is always fun, especially when you can use said robot to punch other robot’s in the face, but despite being the titular focus of the game, they’re incredibly... disposable. Clearly there’s no accounts of finance department in the IMC or the Militia, because the amount of money they’re spending on just replacing downed Titans must be nuts. I doubt this will happen, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Titan-part of the game changed up a bit so that the Titan’s themselves are tougher, perhaps, more special.

Also, I’d like to see the Minion AI touched up a bit as well. I like the minions – with the smaller team sizes, they help ‘pad-out’ the levels so that there’s more traffic. But they don’t really do much, and so far I’ve never seen anyone be killed by a minion. Give them a bit more juice, make them a more credible threat, and I think that will do.

I didn’t know what to expect when I jumped into the Beta. Someone gave me a spare code and I just hoped in because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Honestly, all of the E3 and other promotional material hadn’t really done it for me up till now. I’m glad I did play the game though – West and Zampella have made something wonderful here. Sure, you can see where they’ve pandered to the market perhaps, but it’s like I said in the beginning, it’s those small details, those unnecessary touches, that can really make or break a game. Not sure how I feel about the rumoured ‘alien’ thing – depends how it plays out, but other than that I’m looking forward to playing more. Titanfall is out on PC (And Xbox One), on March 11th in North America, Europe on March 13th and the UK on March 14th. There’s also going to be a Xbox 360 release at the end of March.

Most anticipated Feature: I just want to see what else they have up their sleeves. I also want to know more about the lore and background of the universe. What can I say, I'm a sci-fi geek.


By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 03, 2014
While the cost is beyond my paltry means at present, I do wish "Titanfall" a healthy launch, after EA has had such disasters as "SimCity" and "Battlefield 4" (the latter turning many fans back to "BF 3").
If the beta was at least in a playable and not too frustrating experience, Joe then it already ahead of even "BF 3", whose beta still brings me nightmares.