I’m alone, hunkered down next to a hardpoint, watching the timer slowly tick by, mere seconds left, but it feels like minutes. Standing still feels like waiting to die. I kick myself into motion. My cloak activates and I frantically check each corner, it depletes just as the hardpoint ticks done. I relax a little, operations congratulate me over the radio as I consider my next move.
Enemy grunts swarm the stairway ahead of me. I toss a grenade and run into an adjoining room. My HUD lights up with kill confirmations. Suddenly I see a hazy shape rushing toward me, at the last moment I sidestep and grab the enemy pilot. Her neck snaps in my hands as her body flickers back into full view. My heart thumps in my chest as the adrenaline continues to surge. I try to focus.
Then I hear it. Grinding gears and heavy metal pounding concrete. I peer through a window and watch one of my squad get trampled by a hulking machine beast. It turns and sees me.
The room erupts with rocket fire as I leap towards the nearest wall and sprint along it, at the last moment I jump into the centre of the room and activate my jump boots to propel myself higher, I mantel up on to the roof and for a second I consider fleeing, then I decide.
I active my cloak and run toward the building’s edge, I leap and for a moment I see the battlefield below. Friendly grunts explode with sickening rhythm as the beast’s rocket launcher plays out a deadly beat, a friendly pilot detonates mid-air, everything is chaos. I land on the enemy machine, pull back the hatch that exposes its fragile innards and my SMG tears away the things that allow it to live. The enemy pilot reacts by deploying electric gas, I leap from the Titan’s back and connect with the closest wall. I run along it, goading the enemy to follow. I jump, activate my boosters mid-air, and propel myself back toward the machine in one fluid motion. It took the bait, moving clear of the deadly cloud, and I smile as I realise I’ve won.
My boots reconnect with its armoured shell as my SMG lights up and finishes what it started. The machine begins to burn as the damage becomes too much to sustain. I leap clear as I watch the enemy pilot eject. Will he attempt to run or re-engage? My pistol makes the decision for him.
My radio informs me its ready. I pick a spot for deployment, activate my cloak and run toward the glowing mark on my HUD.
“Stand by for Titanfall”.
If there’s one word that describes this game, that word would be ‘hype’. The buzz is furious and it’s setting corners of the internet ablaze with burning debate. Long touted as a revolution, the next huge thing, a killer app and a well needed exclusive for the Xbox One, and now the reports are in and it turns out that Titanfall might even justify the excitement.
Beta players have had a hands on with two maps, a small amount of perks and weapons and a taste of the game’s “deathstreak” style Burn card system. It’s only been a couple of days, is that honestly enough time to build an opinion of the final release; is it enough content and experience to justify throwing hyperbolic adjectives around with insatiable glee?
The game isn’t the revolution some make it out to be, but it does innovate in enough small ways to create something that feels both familiar and fresh and this is where its strength lies.
Titanfall uses AI grunts as a MOBA uses creeps, they swarm the battlefield posing very little threat. Killing grunts accelerate a benefit, they increase the speed of “Titanfall” or your Titan’s core charge. While you don’t need to engage them quite as rigorously as you do in a MOBA, their inclusion adds more than just mindless fodder and increased build times.
The grunts might start the round saying “What makes these guys so special?”, and as you pull off certain feats they’ll exclaim “Did you see that guy jump onto the back of that Titan?”. As you leap from the back of an exploding hulking metal monster after taking it for a spin on your solo death rodeo, their chatter makes you feel even more badass. The AI isn’t just there to power you up, but to make you feel empowered. You’re a battlefield god, an elite fighting unit, and these guys are the faceless front line. They’re so easy to kill because you’re so much better than them.
They make the battlefield feel full without things becoming too chaotic. You’ll be tearing through an underground tunnel and notice two AI units locked in engagement, the enemy getting the upper hand. If you kill the enemy the friendly will respond in thanks. These little encounters add a flow and sense of scale to the game that’s extremely gratifying.
Titans themselves also add a good deal of variety. You can set them to defend a point while you attempt to take an objective, have them follow like a militarized mechanical puppy as you dart about picking off targets, or even add a perk that causes a massive explosion when you sustain enough damage and kamikaze run a group of enemy Titans, turning each encounter into a miniature sandbox of potential.
The pilot’s mobility plays a massive part in map traversal, being able to seamlessly connect wall runs, leaping across huge gaps as you dance around rooftops, climbing the insides and outsides of buildings without going near a set of stairs adds so much possibility to the way you approach encounters, and the added verticality is an entire new dimension to explore.
The addition of a post-game evacuation where your team scramble toward an extraction point and try to survive long enough to board the incoming dropship can turn a frustrating loss into a satisfying escape, it’s almost like a mini-game at the end of each round.
Is the game worthy of all the attention? Can we make up our minds from the Beta alone? I’m leaning toward “yes!” Being able to eject from my Titan, take out an enemy machine with a rocket launcher, then fall back toward my Titan as it reaches up and snatches me out of freefall and stuffs me back inside the cockpit as the radio tells me what a badass I am does something pleasant to my brain space.
The word is ‘hype’?
Too much for my eyeballs to process?
I don’t really care about that stuff when I’m having so much fun.