It's no secret that Electronic Arts felt intense pressure over the last several months. With gamers upset over the launch problems that beset Battlefield 4, skepticism began spilling over to Titanfall and its creators at Respawn Entertainment. Here to prove its worth, the studio has been hard at work on its first game, led by Vince Zampella, a primary player behind the iconic Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Things are Looking Up
At a time when most first-person shooters push the graphical envelope with next generation engines, Titanfall turned back the clock by running on the ageing Source engine. While EA has yet to announce the final resolution on consoles, Titanfall will run at a smooth 60 frames per second. Those concerned about image quality shouldn't be. There were little to no complaints about how things looked during the beta, which as it turns out, only ran at 792p.
Level design plays a big role. That's one place where Titanfall delivers innovation. Where some games talk about vertical game play, Titanfall literally takes it to a whole new level. Featuring three-story tall Titans and pilots that can wall run and double jump from one roof to the next, a surprisingly small amount of the action takes place at ground level. If you take a moment to stand back and observe things from a distance, you'll see a skyline filled with non-stop action.
Play Mechanics that Work
Feeling cheated is one of the most frustrating things in any first-person shooter. Despite limited experience with the beta, Titanfall works beautifully. Whether you get a kill or succumb to the opposition, it always feels like you earned that fate. It also helps that when you meet your demise, the kill cam is there to back up how the situation played out, rather than serve as evidence of a broken game.
Play balance is another potential issue that we don't expect to get in the way, even with putting massive Titans on the same playing field as puny Pilots. Once again, it was surprising how competitive a Pilot is when faced with a mechanical monster. A Titan can crush a Pilot under its foot, or toss him aside like a balled up piece of paper, but everyone needs to watch his or her back. See a Pilot climb atop Titan's back and perform a Rodeo Kill, and you'll see exactly where balance comes into play.
This is especially true with Burn Cards. Players can equip up to three disposable cards that imbue them with different perks on the battlefield. Whether this means knocking 80 seconds off a Titan's build time or making a person run faster and even begin the next spawn with a more powerful weapon, Burn Cards help even the playing field between experienced and novice gamers.
Of course, some of the most fun comes from watching Titans battle each other. Some unleash rocket salvos while others pelt rivals with machine gun fire. If they wish to get up close, they can even deliver a powerful melee attack. Take too much damage and a player will need to eject, watching his or Titan explode while plummeting back to the ground.
Prepare for Titanfall
Before Titanfall's closed beta, which quickly turned into an open beta and then the extended beta, many were unsure if the game was worth the risk. Now that sceptics got their hands on it, word has it Titanfall might be the Xbox One's system seller. In fact, Microsoft recently announced the Xbox One Titanfall bundle, which will include a digital copy of the game at no additional cost. Need more proof the hype train has left the station? Microsoft revealed that on the same day Titanfall releases, so too will a patch to launch the Twitch TV service.
When a hype train like this starts to speed up (or even out of control), it's easy to lose sight of the warning signs. The truth is, there are no warning signs with Titanfall. Whatever doubts players had seem to have been put to rest with a hugely successful beta that saw the developers at Respawn Entertainment deliver an evolutionary shooter. Knowing that opening the beta up to everyone would cause server issues, developer Josh Shiring told Vince Zampella "Let's break it." That is a very unexpected approach to take, exposing potential problems with your unreleased game in order to make the final product better. It's unexpected, yet refreshing.
Up to this point, Titanfall is everything it promised to be, with the potential to be so much more. Modern Warfare was a genre changer, with all signs pointing to Titanfall having a similar impact. The issue is not whether this instalment will deliver, but rather future releases in the years to come. Luckily, those are a ways off. For now, all aboard the hype train. There's room for everyone.