The Titanfall Beta Is Just A Taste Of A New Multiplayer Shooter Era
This weekend has been a rather stressful one for both EA and Respawn. For the first time, Titanfall was made available to the masses and all these months of hype have finally lead us to this small, brief taste of what is being touted as the next-generation of online shooters. Titanfall has a momentous task on its shoulders, but the little bits available in the beta show a lot of promise. Titanfall, as far as the beta goes, lives up to the expectations that I’m sure most fans had ever since that first, impressive E3 reveal. But let’s not get too ahead of everything here; just what does Titanfall have to offer?
Well, firstly, it’s only online. Just in case you didn’t know that by know, Titanfall is an online, multi-player only shooter. No story, no tacked on crap for people to seemingly pick apart. It’s you, your pilot, his Titan and the enemies. It’s as simple as that. In a way, it’s probably why Titanfall feels so darn balanced already. The pace and metagame at work here has clearly been tested over the past few months to feel like perfection, and you can see why Respawn made decisions like limiting teams to 6 a side, and denying Titans the ability to shoot through walls. When thought of with respect to other shooters, it sounds absurd. Thing is, Titanfall isn’t one of those “other shooters”.
You start off every game as a Pilot, a soldier equipped with a primary weapon, sidearm, grenades, special ability and two perks. Standard fare in the realm of shooters at the moment. You can choose between a variety of sci-fi weaponry, such as a Smart Pistol that locks onto targets automatically and then effectively insta-kills them. Right now, that was the only real weapon that truly stood out from the interesting looking yet standard assault rifle, sub-machine gun and sniper rifle. That said, everything as of now feels well balanced and suited for certain scenarios. The Smart Pistol, for instance, excels when you are hidden and out of sight, allowing you to line up more than a few targets to lock on to and fire upon. Rifles will suit you better in more open combat, and shotguns pack a punch in the crowed interiors of most buildings. Nothing feels out of place, but then again there was not much to tinker with. Unsurprisingly, Snipers felt well out of place in Titanfall’s fast based combat.
That’s where things start getting interesting. Unlike most shooters, you don’t actually want to be on the ground in Titanfall, unless of course you’re in a Titan. Pilots are equipped with jetpacks that allow you to hop, skip and wallrun your way around the map with extreme ease. Jump at a wall at an angle and you’ll automatically begin a wallrun. Jump off, hit jump again in mid-air and you perform a little bunny hop to get you that extra distance. Pilots grab onto ledges and pull themselves up, making Titanfall more about verticality than anything else. It keeps pilots on a fair footing when compared to the slower, more cumbersome Titans, and again serves to balance the game further. Having smaller units buzzing around a battlefield dominated by mechs keeps you looking over your shoulder, just in case one decides to start taking shots at you with extremely powerful anti-titan weapons or, worse yet, mount you and start digging away at your soft spots.
It doesn’t stop there though. You see, you’re called a Pilot for a reason. Every player has access to a Titan which they can deploy once a timer has counted all the way down, sending down a hulking machine from the sky and changing the complexity of the entire match. Now Titanfall isn’t just about waiting for a timer to let things get interesting. Killing other pilots will shave off seconds from the clock, making it highly important for you to seek out the opposition and affirm your foothold over the match. On top of that, each side has AI controlled bots, which are probably the first-person shooter variant of creeps in Dota 2. They’re often not a danger and you can easily tell them apart from normal players. They are weaker, shoot slower, reward less points for kills and deal less damage. They do, however, offer another opportunity to keep that timer ticking down at a faster rate. You could simply focus on farming multiple creeps or go after lone pilots, jump on the back of enemy Titans and take them down or complete mission objectives. All of these help you claim your Titan faster, and keep the game flowing at an exhilarating pace. They also reward you with something called Burn Cards, which are basically “one use only” deathstreak perk additions that either make you run faster in your next life, take off a chunk of time from your Titan build or respawn with a brand new weapon. Using these frequently is a must in order to stay efficient on the battlefield, even if you’re only dying a handful of time. It truly gets the adrenaline following, I can promise you that.
And when you do finally get the chance to drop one of the mighty Titans, the entire game changes. Titans control the same way as the pilot, aside from the fact that you can’t jump and manoeuvre with the same finesse. Instead, Titans are able to dash in the direction they’re moving, with a limited number of charges keeping things fair. Only the vanilla Atlas Titan was on show in the beta, but the machine did come in three variants. Assault equips you with a massive rifle that is able to deal out a high rate of fire with moderate damage at most distance. The Artillery loadout gives you a short-range rocket launcher, making it far more affective at close range against a host of enemies. The Tank takes the opposite approach, handing you a DMR styled weapon that fires slowly but does devastating damage from far range. On top of these main weapons, Titans also feature a special ability, such as the Vortex Blocker which allows you to go all Neo on the battfield and catch enemy bullets. Another ability on show is a cloud that shocks anything in it, which is great for crowed and overrun areas, or points which you need to protect.
Sadly though, you will lose your Titan, a lot, but there’s various ways in which you can use your now flaming piece of metal to your advantage. Getting a Titan down to no health puts it in a doomed stage, during which a Titan can continue fighting before exploding, or the Pilot can eject. Now some perks that Titans are able to choose from have direct impacts on what you may choose to do. For example, having a Nuclear Detonation perk will allow you to get in close on enemy Titans, eject and then detonate your Titan to take out anything in the surrounding area. Another perk keeps you Titan alive longer in this doomed state, giving you the chance to doom the Titan that took you down. Or you could just have an auto-eject function, which propels you up into the sky and hopefully onto the back of an enemy Titan (by far the best part of the game). Kitting out your Titan based on what you want to achieve is crucial, and having a few slots for the two different maps already had a noticeable difference. Picking the wrong Titan for the job means you’ll be quick work for someone who made a much more calculated decision.
The biggest issue surrounding Titanfall locally has been the fact that Africa doesn’t have its own Azure server, the system that Titanfall’s cloud is running off of. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to have an impact on the connectivity of the game, which was a smooth experience for the most part. EU servers have pings below 180ms, and I had no trouble connecting to them. There are lag spike here and there, but for the most part the Xbox One delivers a great online experience, one that console fans should be accustomed to. On PC however it may feel a bit off, with those used to 60ms ping times. The good news is that we can play, something which was up in the air a few weeks back after it was revealed that Titanfall would rely heavily on Azure. So really no need to worry about if you’ll even be able to play or not.
And thank goodness for that, because I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to play another online shooter if it wasn’t Titanfall right now. EA and Respawn seem to be putting out one hell of a game here, and this polished, balanced beta is a good indication of what is to come on launch day. Despite being on PC and Xbox 360, Titanfall really feels at home on Microsoft’s new console. Titanfall feels like the reason you should own an Xbox One, and all the work Microsoft has put behind this third-party title could really pay off in the long run. There’s still a lot to be seen in terms of how well Titanfall holds players interest, but for now it looks like it could have the smoothest EA launch to date.
Not exactly difficult, but if there’s one thing this brief beta achieved it was getting the millions already excited for the game to fall into full blown hysteria. March 11th can’t come soon enough.