Titanfall preview

itanfall is the first blockbuster shooter of 2014 and the first app that may justify the Xbox One’s hefty price tag. Here's our Titanfall preview...
If you own an Xbox One, Titanfall is definitely on your radar. A new shooter from Respawn, the studio formed by ex-Infinity Ward head honchos Vince Zampella and Jason West, has been placed front and centre as one of the biggest games on Microsoft’s new console.

Microsoft not only paraded Titanfall at the big games showcases last year – E3, Gamescom – but it’s also featured heavily in all of the Xbox One publicity released thus far (alongside Forza 5Dead Rising 3 and Ryse) in spite of the fact it’s not even been released yet.

Titanfall: Features

It wasn’t until the end of last year that T3 managed to get our hands on the game – and for our first impressions, check out Editor Matt Hill’s preview in this month’s magazine (on sale February 28th) – but our experience with it was all too brief. Luckily, EA decided a lengthy hands-on multiplayer session with Titanfall in London was in order this month.

Before jumping into a fragfest with our fellow journalists, some Respawn reps advised us to take part in the game’s brief tutorial. This proved to be a good idea as there’s considerably more to Titanfall’s control layout than your standard run-and-gun affair.

Aside from lobbing grenades and firing bullets, all players have a jetpack, which allows them to boost up to rooftops and hard-to-reach vantage points. They’re also able to wall-run on vertical surfaces and, if they’re able to find a series of walls close enough together, they can chain vertical runs together.

Titanfall: Titans

Every enemy the player kills earns them XP and brings the launch of their battle mech – or Titan – closer. Once they’re informed their Titan is ready, they can hit down on the D-pad and it comes crashing down onto the battlefield.
The Titan is briefly guarded by a shield when it lands – so other players can’t just destroy it – and if players time it correctly, they can crush opponents by dropping their Titans on them.

Once players jump inside their Titan, the mech acts like an extension of the solider they’re controlling. Players are nowhere near as nimble inside a Titan as they are outside it, but the Titan’s massive weapons and onboard rockets give them an edge in the firepower department.
Titans can also side-step attackers by sliding in any direction and they can catch bullets and rockets fired at them in a magnetic field called a Vortex Blocker, and return them to the sender.

While the Titans may have bigger guns, they’re far from invulnerable. Every soldier has an anti-Titan weapon – a high calibre gun or rocket launcher – and sustained fire from this can peel off a Titan’s shield and then slice through their armour.

Players can also take down Titans by leaping onto them, ripping open a canopy on their armour and then blasting away at their internal workings with a gun. Not only does this allow players to bypass the Titan’s shield, but it forces whoever is in the Titan to eject, because the only way to get rid of a ‘Titan rider’ is to blast them off – which is impossible to do while you’re driving one.

Titanfall: Loadouts

The solider the player controls is called a Pilot and each Pilot has a different set of abilities depending on which class the player picks for them. Riflemen are your entry foot-soldier class, sporting an automatic rifle and sidearm, while Assassins have a smartgun – a pistol with heat-seeking bullets – as their primary weapon and the ability to cloak for brief periods.

Once players level up sufficiently, they unlock load-out slots allowing them to create and customise their own class of Pilot, although the weapons and abilities are meticulously balance – you can’t, for example, wander into battle carrying a smartgun and a shotgun.

Titanfall: Gameplay

For a game in which players drive giant hulking battle mechs, Titanfall feels incredibly slick. The framerate is as smooth as butter, the controls are elegantly mapped and the action, while fast-paced, never feels overwhelming.

The two maps T3 played on were set in a broken down resort and a set of deserted urban streets, but were both pretty similar in layout.
Both have enough open-spaces to make the Titan’s affective, but also contain a ton of rooftops, buildings and pathways to even things out for the Pilots. The match types we played were Attrition – essentially Team Deathmatch – Hardpoint – Domination by any other name – and Last Titan Standing – which plays out the way you’d expect; the winning team has the last Titan standing.

Titanfall: Verdict

As fun as Respawn’s shooter is – and it is immense fun – there are several questions we’d still like the answers to. Will there be any sort of single-player experience? If not, will there be any sort of plot progression in the game? Will we be able to customise our Titans and if so, is it possible to create a big bright pink Titan with flowers and hearts on it?

But whether or not any of these features come to pass isn’t a deal-breaker. Titanfall is shaping up to be one of the biggest titles of this year and while it may be too early to call it a killer app, it’s certainly the first Xbox One exclusive that Sony fanboys should feel genuinely aggrieved about missing out on.