Newly minted gaming house Respawn is winding down the PC beta to make way for the impending maiden voyage of the final release. Titanfall is what it’s called. It’s Respawn Ent’s new darling that slams many of my favorite gaming tastes together for a sort scrapple of gameplay delights. But this tastes better than chicken. It’s “New” scrapple, improved for texture, taste, Parkour free-running and falling Titan mech thingies. There’s more than a heaping dollop of epic sci-fi set pieces and high-flying period piece kung-fu action lathered over this potential gaming gem as well. One of the main features for Titanfall is it’s rarely talked about single/multiplayer integration. Many games like Borderlands 2 and Brink before have blended multiplayer into the single player campaign, where players can drop-in/drop-out of each others’ games and still not interrupt the single player narrative.
That’s Titanfall and the results speak to the enormous capabilities of Respawn. The skill it took to hammer together such a complete vision in such short amount of time, with this degree of polish on the aging Source game engine, is nothing short of impressive. Here are my thoughts of the game in this Beta state along with a few strategic tactics for ambitious Titan Pilots. Let’s begin with the fun stuff — advanced combat tactics.
1. Titan AI
Your Titan possesses variable AI states, which you can change on the fly. You can tell it to Guard an area, great for keeping watch outside while you capture or clean out an area inside. You can also tell your Titan to follow you. The AI states really offer a variety of gameplay options and tactics. You can use your Titan to distract an enemy Titan while you leap on to the enemy Titans back to access it’s metallic brain-like innards.
2. Wall Hang
Make use of this often. To activate a wall hang, simply jump up and/or wall run up a wall and press the right-mouse button, or whichever button you have set to be Aim/Zoom. Your character will stick a knife in the wall, allowing you to suspend yourself off the ground indefinitely. You can still fire with one hand. But you cannot aim or zoom, as that will disengage the knife for you to let go of the wall. This is an excellent tactic for out maneuvering pursuers, especially when paired with the cloaking device. I’ve also seen Pilot hang themselves outside windows to catch enemies unaware and easily dispatch them
3. I Know Kung Fu
The melee mechanic in Titanfall is similar to CoD. One hit equals an automatic kill. The single melee button will have your Pilot execute a neck break, if performed up close from behind. Any other time the button is pressed, the result is a spinning roundhouse kick animation. What’s great about this…? You can aim that kick anywhere. Jump up and aim down and the Pilot kicks downward. Aim up and you get an upward striking kick. You can even perform this while several stories up in mid-air. It’s awesome and incredibly satisfying.
4. Hacking Specters
Titanfall only supports 6 human players against another 6, effectively “6v6″. The other combatants are NPC or the game’s “AI”. They offer very little challenge. Yet many of the games unlocks are tied to dispatching these legions of mindless fodder. Some of these units are robotic soldiers known as Specters. These guys can be hacked from behind by pressing and holding “E” for the duration of the hack. You can hack them while cloaked, which helps since you are quite vulnerable while hacking. Hacking these guys means they have now adopted your name and have effectively switched sides. They will follow you and help guard and secure Hardpoints.
5. Riding With Friends
We’ve seen plenty videos of how a single Pilot can “Rodeo” a Titan by leaping/climbing on to its back and doing heavy damage to its sensitive and exposed circuitry. However, you can also leap atop friendly Titans to hitch a ride. Or offer added firepower to you towering buddy. It’s a great way to dynamically traverse the map-scape and helps keep squishy Pilots moving. Staying on the ground is a fantastic recipe for Titan Pilot pancakes.
6. Burn Cards
This is kinda neat and rather new. This is Respawn’s way of making even the most inexperienced Titan Pilot feel like he’s in Beast Mode. Burn Cards are earned from doing specific actions with various weapons and equipment, completing challenges and so forth. You can hold 26 cards in in the Beta but you can only equip 3 by level 11. Between respawn, Pilots can choose which of their equipped Burn Cards they would like to activate. These are 1-use. So once equipped, it’s advisable to use them ASAP. Once you die, it’s gone. Alternatively, the enemy can earn bonus points for killing you before you can use your activated burn card.
There are buffs like, “Amped” higher damage version of the game’s existing weapons, added ammo, reduced cool down time on Titan and ordinances, rare weapons, boosts to speed and even other Titan mechs with different stats.
7. Homeostasis of Speed
As I said above, stay off the ground and you will be rewarded. Chaining a series of wall runs together will give you increased speed to cover further distances. But sometimes touching the ground or a lower surface is inevitable. In this event hit the jump button just as you touch the ground. This will maintain your forward momentum if timed correctly.
The videos all looked really good. But I am still completely blown away by how exciting Titanfall is becoming. I definitely want to see more maps and more modes. Also the NPC AI is far to ineffective as combatants. A ramp-up of their intelligence and threat level is a must. The shooting mechanics feel very much like Call of Duty. There’s is little to no recoil in the guns making them all feel too similar and far too easy to use. Oh and Titans can be destroyed a little to easily — but only a little.
Still this is an very VERY fun game to play. The wall running feels very much like Brink, which is actually a good thing. Yet TitanFall benefits from a wildly more exciting level design. It is more strategically designed for the wall running antics with multiple scalable structures and wide open areas for Titans to stomp around. But there are a ton of enter-able buildings and structures to help keep Pilots out from under Titan boots. There is no other game that can provide this type of gameplay. TitanFall is far beyond “another ‘mech’ game”. There is ownership in the mechs with the AI system and the fact that they cannot be entered by anyone but the Pilot who called them. They are also a living near-breathing component of the maps themselves, and can be used in countless ways for defense, offense, added firepower, diversionary tactics and transportation.
I’m front and center on March 11 to see how all this pans out on launch day for PC, Xbox One and Xbox 360!