Titanfall Beta Impressionsby Adam Dileva
Hype for a game can be a dangerous thing. What if you get so excited for a game from all the videos and impressions only to have that falter and have the game be nothing like what you expected? I'm sure it's happened to you, heck, it's happened to me a few times. I try not to purchase a ticket aboard the hype train any longer, but there are still a few games where it's near impossible to get so excited for that you have a countdown clock on your PC or phone, both of which I'm guilty for. I didn't think initially that I would be at a fervor level of excitement for Titanfall back when it was originally shown for the first time, but as the date gets closer, it seems I somehow purchased that ticket aboard the hype train. This worried me.
Before the beta (and alpha), Titanfall worried me, as I thought it might be going in with so much hype that there's no possible way for it to live up to everyone's expectations. We've seen overhype hurt a game more so than it helps it, so I was hoping this wouldn't be the case with Titanfall. Then the beta this past week happened and Respawn let open the flood gates for anyone to try an early version of their first title due out next month. After my short time with the beta, I'm clamoring and counting down the days until release. Respawn has something special on their hands with this Xbox exclusive title.
Titanfall is a first person shooter, and you'll either be controlling your pilot on foot or your own personal Titan. As a pilot you have access to a jump booster which allows you to double jump and even run along walls with awesome parkour abilities that would even make Faith from Mirrors Edge envious. As you get to customize your pilot with their abilities and weapons, game balance isn't just based on which gun is better in which situations, your movement and ability to jump in and out of combat weighs heavily on your skill and survival. Levels are no longer a simple layout of places you can run on foot; things become very lateral once you learn to use your parkous abilities to your advantage. Many times I was being shot at by a Titan only to get away by wall running off a building onto its roof or over a ledge where it couldn't follow.
As a pilot you start with a main weapon, side arm, anti-titan weapon, and abilities that you all choose before the match (or swap as needed during a match). It should be noted how important it is that every pilot spawns with an anti-titan weapon, as you never feel like you can't do something, even with a massive Titan shooting at you. Unlike Battlefield where if a tank is trying to shoot you and you don't have the right equipment, you either die or have to run away. That's not the case with Titanfall and you always have the tools to either be offensive or defensive against other players and Titans.
Respawn also figured out another problem that plagues Battlefield with its vehicles. In Battlefield, if you want to use a vehicle and aren't the first to get there, you either waste time waiting for another to spawn, thus not helping your team, or don't get to use it at all. In Titanfall, every pilot gets their own Titan that they can call in after a set amount of time. As a match begins (other than Last Titan standing mode), Pilots all start with the same amount of time before they can call in their own Titan for use (unless they use a special burn card, but more on those later) but if you start getting kills, that timer counts down quicker as time is taken off. So while players start off on equal footing, the better players can get their Titans a little more quickly than the not so skilled opponents.
Unlike perks from Call of Duty that can be very imbalanced, the sheer fact that every player WILL get their own Titan regardless of how well or poor they are playing is a great feature. If your Titan gets destroyed, the timer starts over again before you can call down another Titan, but you never feel down and out as you can still do quite a lot simply as a pilot to help your team. One of the best features that I really enjoyed was the ability to put your Titan on auto pilot. Choosing between Guard and Follow opens up a whole new strategy to playing, based on what mode and objective you're trying to accomplish. While most players tended to pilot their Titans themselves, and understandably, as it is awesome feeling that powerful, I chose to rely more on my Titan doing its own thing while I watched after it from above on rooftops or nearby to stop any other pilots from jumping on it and destroying it.
Another huge mechanic Titanfall boasts is the inclusion of bots and AI. While the player count is 6 versus 6, and to be fair, this felt just right and I never was saying to myself "I wish this had more players", the maps feel much more crowded and hectic with the inclusion of these bots. These bots have a purpose too other than simply being there to make you forget it's 6 versus 6. Every play a match of your shooter of choice and just absolutely get decimated, to the point of not wanting to play anymore because you couldn't' get any kills? That's kind of why the bots are included.
While the bots (main ones are called Grunts) will never really pose a threat to you unless you purposely ignore them, they are great targets for you and your lesser skilled teammates. While you may not get any player kills, you might be able to rack up thirty or more Grunt kills. Sure killing players will net you more points than the bots, but at least that player Grunt hunting (there's even a perk to show where Grunts are at all times on your minimap) is still helping your team, and if you're the lower skilled player, at least can try to become better with practicing on them. There are even other bots called Spectres that are robots that can be killed for points, or hacked if you can do so to have them follow you around like pets, helping you shoot your opponents. While some people aren't liking the inclusion of bots, I link it's a genius move by Respawn to open up the accessibility of the game to all skill levels.
The beta only gave us a glimpse of a few of the main weapons that ranged from a Carbine, to a Sniper Rifle, to even a new weapon called the Smart Pistol. Yes, a pistol as your main weapon, not secondary. Like other games, you start off with the new weapon with iron sights, but complete some of the challenges like get 100 kills or head shots and you can unlock new attachments, sights, and even specs like more ammo or power per shot. The weapon that by far stood out for me though is the Smart Pistol. This gun allows you to lock onto enemies, even multiples at a time (great for packs of Grunts), then simply pull the trigger once to instantly kill all of your locked on targets.
Yes I know, I can hear your cries of "overpowered" and "cheap" now, but it's not, hear me out. While locking into Grunts is almost instantaneous and quite satisfying, doing so to a player is nowhere near as quick. To lock into a player you need 3 simultaneous lock-on's, but doing so in a front battle where they are shooting back at you is quite a challenge. To use the lock-on feature the player basically can't see you coming or you're going to get shot waiting on those three aimers to set in place. The Smart Pistol also has a very limited range as well, so there's no unbalance of being able to do so from afar either. So while some might view it as a ‘skill-less' gun, using it against players is a much harder task than you may think.
Beta gave us access to two maps and three different game modes. Fracture was an open field with semi-destroyed buildings littered about where Angel City was a very urban map that was more tailored towards close quarters and parkouring about. Attrition is essentially your Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint has you trying to attack and defend three separate objectives, and Last Titan Standing was the more unique mode that I grew to enjoy. In Last titan Standing every pilot actually starts out with their Titan from the get go and the team who has the last Titan standing (clever mode name huh?), wins.
While I wasn't big on the mode in the beginning, it definitely grew on me as I started to thank outside the box for my strategy. While the majority of players were content piloting their Titan, trying to kill the others, I tended to have a slightly different approach, depending on our opposition. Usually I would get out of my Titan right away and have it auto follow me, as it will engage any enemies in its range, but this allowed me to use my lock-on missiles against the other Titans as well. In a few matches I actually also just left my Titan on Guard, hidden in a corner, as I tried to take out the other Titans on foot as a pilot. Very different strategies, all very viable and can be changed on the fly with your auto-Titan.
There are some other features which really surprised me as well, but none so much as the Burn Cards which is unlocked quite early. As you win matches, complete challenges, and more, you will gain random cards. Before a match you can choose which three you want to bring with you into a match and whenever you're waiting to spawn, you can choose to use one of these burn cards if you wish. Cards can be simply giving you a more powerful version of a gun, unlimited sprint, unlimited invisibility, taking a set amount of time off your Titan countdown, or even give you a Titan right away. See the odd rare card that was very powerful made me think about which cards I wanted to use and when was the best time to do so. The burn card mechanic on paper doesn't seem like a big deal, but there were times where they absolutely helped me win a match.
For a beta I was more than impressed. Visually it looked fantastic, and gameplay wise, it was even better. Once you wrap your head around being able to run along the walls, double jump to a higher adjacent wall, then continuing the pattern, you can traverse the amps without even touching the ground if you get good enough. Learning to think laterally did take some getting used to, but once it becomes second nature, it opened up a whole new way to play. Balance wise, it felt just right. I never felt like I couldn't do something, even taking down a Titan on my own if I was the last person on my team left alive in Last Titan Standing.
Respawn has something special on their hands here and even with less than a week with the beta, I was left wanting more; much more. Much like how Halo redefined the console shooter, and Call of Duty did with the online multiplayer component, I dare say that Titanfall has the chance to do it all over again. Not only was I impressed with the Titanfall beta, I had a LOT of fun and my fears were put to rest. Titanfall absolutely lived up to the hype. March 11th can't get here soon enough.