As the Titanfall Beta Closes, Here’s Our First Impressions

Titanfall’s beta recently came to a close, and thanks to mostly great server performance developer Respawn Games opened up the beta to all who were interested in trying the game out a few weeks prior to it’s release on March 11th.

What was included in the beta was just a slice of the full game, one of the three titans were playable, only two of the rumored fifteen levels, and a ton of other content that will be included in the full game wasn’t present. What was available to play however was on its own one of the best first-person shooter experience we at Culturemass have played in a long, long time. Many of us spent the entire long weekend with the game, and we all came away believing the hype. Let us try to convince you why the excitement around Titanfall is justified.

Nick Hahneman, Games Editor

There’s a doomsday clock ticking down in each match of Titanfall. Well, six clocks really.

Titanfall-copyThe biggest takeaway from my time with Titanfall was a confirmation that Respawn Games has made some of the most exciting innovations in competitive first-person multiplayer in a long, long time. Doing their best Oprah impression, they ensure that every player gets a titan. When you start a match, a counter informs you that in three minutes, one of these coveted giant robots will be yours to pilot or direct remotely at your will. Every kill against an AI bot or opposing player shaves seconds off of this timer, and consumable ‘burn cards’ that are earned by completing in-game challenges also accelerate your titanfall. Titan get unceremoniously destroyed seconds after you earn it? Don’t fret! The counter resets and another shiny new titan will be yours in a few more minutes.

All well and good, but what this does to make the core gameplay loop of Titanfall incredibly exciting cannot be overstated. It’s not simply about feeling like an empowered badass stomping around in your giant robot, crushing enemy player pilots and bots under your metal foot and dominating the battlefield. The biggest impact the introduction of the titans has on the game is changing the pacing of a match.

In my personal experience many FPS are in a lot of ways static affairs. Spawn, kill or be killed, respawn. Repeat this until the match is over.

When titans come into play however, the pacing of each match becomes unbalanced and dynamic. This isn’t to say the game is ‘unbalanced’ in the traditional sense, that it is unfair, that the titans are unstoppable. Far from the truth actually, as enemy player pilots pose serious threats to titans which can be taken down with some ease if the proper strategies are utilized. However, it’s critical to know when enemy titans are on the map, and how many friendly titans are present, and change tactics accordingly. The flow of the game changes in an instant.

This results in an gameplay loop that’s more robust than the average competitive shooter. In the opening of the game, players charge across the map farming bots to reduce the cooldown on their titanfall and trying to score first blood against the enemy team. Soon, someone calls in a titan. A skilled titan pilot can devastate a team early on, but a stupid one can be taken down quickly, putting the opposing team in a position to pull off a power play of sorts once their own titans are ready. Not much longer after that, there are plenty of titans on the field, and it is critical to work with your team to take advantage of the situation. Simply trading titan for enemy titan won’t win you the match, especially if you let the enemy pilots get away. Once an advantage has been established, you may feel good, but it’s likely your robot army is badly damaged and in need of repair. If you’re not careful, then enemy team could wipe you and regain the advantage.

This creates of dynamic back and forth, a shifting balance of power between team. It expands the player vocabulary for what they can do in the game, and I’ve previously extolled the virtues of designed imbalance and expanded player tool boxes in games before. Titanfall makes its competitors look like games that are simply about shooting each other faster than the enemy, and I’ve talked to several Call of Duty players who’ve said that Titanfall has spoiled CoD for them. Titanfall is a smarter competitive multiplayer game than a simple dexterity game, and I can’t wait it’s release.

Nate Humphries, Tech/Science Editor

Titanfall has freaked me out, made my adrenaline rush, and confused me. I’ll explain exactly how by showing you the difference between pilot mode and titan mode.

When you first enter a multiplayer match, you enter as a pilot jumping into the battlefield (which, by the way, freakin’ awesome way to make an entrance). Training gives you a nice advantage, as you can start double-jumping into building windows, wall running and jumping to get to rooftops, etc. I played as an Assault Pilot, with the R-101C Carbine as my main weapon and the Archer Heavy Rocket as my anti-titan weapon. My experience is mostly with Counterstrike (some Call of Duty and Battlefield), so I would initially find a good spot in a building, picking off whatever bots and players I could find until my titan was ready. It’s pretty easy taking out the bots, but dealing with sneaky enemies taking you out from behind gives you a healthy level of fear. What really gave me a rush as a pilot was dealing with the titans. When you’re in the bottom of a torn-up building and you see a titan walking by, you get the feeling that you’re in a Transformers movie, and you better be careful. I would still try to find a sneaky spot to take out the titans with my Archer Heavy Rocket weapon, but I tended to keep my distance. While I had more agility as a pilot, that agility does squat when a titan is lighting you up with its Chaingun or rockets. More often than not a good strategy seemed to be jumping on a titan and beating it down until the pilot came out (more on that below). In other words, it’s fun trying to find creative ways to take down titans, but it really gives you a rush and freaks you out, all at the same time.

Titanfall-screenshot-2-1As a titan, I started playing as the Main Battle Titan with the XO-16 Chaingun, but after unlocking the Artillery Titan with the Titan Rocket Launcher I switched to that. Another adrenaline rush moment is when you first unlock your titan and send it down. Again, it’s very reminiscent of Transformers, except this time you get to go inside the transformer. When you first start using a titan in battle you make the mistake of focusing almost entirely on battling other titans, something I noticed a lot of titan pilots doing. Multiple times I wailed on titans with my Archer Heavy Rocket weapon and they continued to keep their focus elsewhere, while even a well-placed Chaingun burst had a chance of taking me out (let alone their rockets). While I didn’t make that mistake (it was a bit enjoyable taking out bots and pilots with my titan), I wasn’t as effective against other titans. I paid enough attention to the training to use some of the ancillary battle tactics (dodging, melee), but I was confused multiple times with what key did what, and I needed to work on teamwork with other titans and pilots (more on those below).

If there are two similarities I learned in my pilot/titan roles, it’s that of confusion/practice and teamwork. While Titanfall doesn’t have as many key bindings as other games, the two roles do make it a little confusing. For example, when using the titan I did stumble a bit with the eject key – “Was I supposed to press ‘E’ or hold ‘E’?” And when playing as a pilot I still didn’t get completely comfortable with wall running mid-battle. I focused on running and jumping, and perhaps to my detriment. Fortunately a bit of practice will eliminate those kinds of issues. The other similarity in both situations is teamwork (although this especially impacts titans). Since there are two different aspects of gameplay, each needs to interact with the other in helpful ways so they can both survive. The titans need to provide extensive cover to the pilots (mostly from other titans), and the pilots need to protect the titans from other pilots (especially those attaching themselves to the titans). However, there’s also a positive offensive side to the symbiotic relationship: pilots can provide a distracting element against enemy titans, and titans can easily take out opposing pilots. A solid team would be one where the titans can just be titans, without the fear of attached pilots and overwhelming odds, and where the pilots can have fun running around wreaking havoc and keeping the titans safe.

Overall, I’m incredibly impressed with almost every aspect of Titanfall, but especially the gameplay feel. I haven’t felt that kind of rush recently except with some aspects of Skyrim and Rage, and it’s a wonderful feeling.

Marc Price, Contributor

Imagine you’re an elephant.

Imagine you’re an elephant that can shoot rockets from its sides.

Seems pretty awesome, right? You’d basically rule the world, right?

Now, imagine there’s an ant. A barely-perceptible, possibly suicidal, definitely homicidal ant that, unbeknownst to you, is running after you at breakneck speed, little ant legs chugging away, until it’s able to get on your elephant back and find your one weak spot, exploiting it, then gleefully flitting away as quickly as it came as you succumb to the pressure applied to that one weak spot.

In Titanfall, you are that elephant, and I am that ant.

Every multiplayer game strives for the holy grail of “balance,” but Titanfall is honest-to-goodness balanced. The eponymous titans, while powerful in a way befitting of the titular element of the game, are also weak in many ways, easily confused and distracted by assault from all sides.

Titanfall players vs titansPilots are Manny Pacquiao in his prime, able to use the speed and misdirection afforded a jetpacking, parkouring badass to lure a titan away from its compatriots like so many elephants, confusing the titan in such a way as to leave it open for a vulnerable strike from any one of numerous anti-titan weapons, or for my preferred method, launching myself and adhering to the back of the titan, ripping off its AI panel and firing away, each shot ricocheting inside and ripping through the wiring and circuitry therein.

In modes like Last Titan Standing, clever pilots have begun to offer their own titans as sacrificial lambs, leaving them exposed as they themselves hide in buildings above, waiting for their titan to engage another before hopping out, cloaked and full of malice, ready to fling themselves at a giant hunk of metal in order to climb it and destroy it.

So, before you fire up Titanfall the next time, keep in mind the elephant and the ant. And, when you see a titan, alone, looking like easy pickings, know that the ants are around.

Maybe you should just hang back, just in case.

What’s that on your back?

Drew Freeman, Contributor

Imagine playing Call of Duty with super speed and jumping abilities on the set of a Transformers movie.  Now imagine that experience and how cool it sounds and multiply it by ten.

The logo for Respawn Entertainment is a braille “R”; CEO Vince Zampella will be the first person to point this out as a testament to their core belief that a game should feel great, first and foremost.  So far they’re right on point.  This game feels as smooth as butter melting in the sun on the hood of a million dollar sports car at the beach surrounded by half naked models, also covered in butter.  It’s that smooth.  It’s a feeling that can’t be conveyed in text, although I’m making the feeble attempt to do just that.

Titanfall FeatureThe biggest game changer in Titanfall is not the lack of a traditional campaign, not the three-story mechs, not the incredible set pieces, or the amazing sound.  The true game changer here is the parkour.  Wall-running, wall-hanging, and double-jumping haven’t been this exhilarating since Super Mario 64 or Ninja Gaiden.  The easy comparison is the first-person parkour elements of DICE’s Mirror’s Edge, this is a fair comparison, but it doesn’t quite get the sense of fluidity that Titanfall imposes.

Where Respawn has pushed this element further than DICE did in Mirror’s Edge is in the transition from just flat out running; to mantling; to wall running; to hopping off of the side of a building; only to double-jump back into a window of said building around the corner a floor down, and then shooting a guy in the face, without losing a beat.  This type of thing happens all the time, it’s empowering.  It makes you feel unstoppable and impresses the feeling of having skill in a game so quickly after picking it up, is a challenging feat in the competitive first person shooter genre.

I haven’t played a Call of Duty title in years.  I have never tried my hand at Battlefield.  I’m traditionally a Halo guy, but I don’t take the competitive multiplayer nearly as seriously as most do.  Somehow, the feedback loop of this title has be hooked.  I mean all-in, day one, going to play regularly for most of the year at least level of hooked.  This is what Respawn was looking to do with Titanfall, create a game that doesn’t punish it’s audience.  This is why there are A.I. fodder in the game, this is why the game is incredibly balanced, and it’s why this game has a lower barrier of entry than Call of Duty, which could potentially lead to it taking a bite out of the behemoth’s market share.  It is rewarding and satisfying.

Titanfall is NOT Dark Souls, but it’s not a simple game, definitely not a dumb game.  The term I used several times in the first day of the beta, when describing it to friends who were salivating while refreshing their email inbox every thirty seconds, was multidimensional.  In so many ways, this game is in constant shift, whether you be running through the Pilot lanes, stomping through the Titan lanes, or Rodeoing on the back of an enemy Titan, the game always feels fresh and constantly moving.  This is the best part of the game, the refreshing feeling it gives players who have been staring at their new shiny Xbox One or their waning Xbox 360.

This game hits RESET on how it feels to play a first person shooter.

 

Those were our impressions on the Titanfall beta. What are yours? Let us know in the comments below!

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