Coming from Respawn – a new studio formed by the creative brains of some of the best Call of Duty games – you might be forgiven for expecting TitanFall to be Call of Duty with robots. That’s the biggest misunderstanding I’ve seen in gaming since King decided that Candy Crush was a saga. Rather than focusing on headshots, quick reactions and cover, Titanfall is all about spacial awareness, tools and flow. You need to be aware of what’s going on around you at all times so you can make a sensible decision about where to go next. You need to pick the right tool for an engagement, do you want your rifle to track and kill a player, your rocket launcher to damage a Titan that hasn’t seen you or perhaps a grenade to take out that group of grunts that just spawned? Finally the most important aspect is flow, you need to keep moving.
In the first few games after the beta launched I could dominate every match because the other players were still trying to use the same tactics that serve them so well in Battlefield and Call of Duty. They used their new found parkour abilities to reach rooftops and then they stood and sniped. They called down a Titan and then went on a gunning spree. I could just hop from rooftop to rooftop getting behind them, dispatching them with a swift jumpkick or neck break before hopping to the next. I could land on a Titan and shoot it in the circuit-brain until it exploded into a glorious fireball. I was basically invincible.
Of course this didn’t last for long and now the games are normalising somewhat with everyone learning the ropes – but it’s beautiful how different the game plays from anything before. My closest approximation would be Mirrors Edge/Alien vs Predator (multiplayer)/Battlefield 2142 and a little bit of Binary Domain. It’s chaotic but also purposeful, manic but clear. Everything about it works together in a beautifully balanced ballet of destruction.
Yes the Titans are powerful, and dropping one on another Titan is hilarious – but they’re also fragile and can easily be taken down by a team of two pilots working together. Teams that use the Titans well keep them grouped together, throwing down shields and covering fire as the injured machines dash to cover. You can even ride a Titan into battle – and of course you get challenges for all of these things. There’s nothing sweeter than jumping off a friend’s Titan into a window, sprinting down the walls of a corridor to dropkick an enemy pilot out of the far side of the building. This sort of thing happens almost constantly in every game. The matches are just about the right length too, never dragging out but not being over too quickly either – your impact feels meaningful but if you’re losing it’s never long until the next game. Even if you do lose you can still get some extra XP in the epilogue where all respawns are turned off and the losing team must attempt to escape by dropship. Make it there and you get a little feeling of accomplishment despite the overall loss – get shot on the way and at least you can watch some awesome footage as the other players make a scramble to the end.
Next month we’ll bring you a full review of Titanfall – but if you’re not in the beta yet keep trying because this is the first real glimpse of a new generation of gaming. Forget the hardware or the pricetags – you can play the final game on 360 if you want to, but this is a real leap forwards for gameplay.