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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Titans and Pilots do glorious battle in Respawn’s audacious new FPS but is it worth your pennies? Find out in our Titanfall review
- Pilot/Titan dynamic is amazing
- Extremely accessible
- Well designed maps and weapons
- More game modes would be nice
- Only three Titans...
When Infinity Ward released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare seven years ago, the studio permanently altered the FPS battlefield, spawning a franchise juggernaut that has dominated the genre ever since...
Since then, the shadow cast by CoD has had a stagnating effect on the FPS genre. The ground broken by Call of Duty 4 has become a template, adhered to slavishly by the majority of its sequels and competitors. Although many FPS games have succeeded in making money by following the roadmap laid out by Infinity Ward, there’s been as distinct lack of innovation as a result.
One thing did change though. In 2010, Vince Zampella and Jason West - two of Infinity Ward’s chief creators - left the company and started anew in the form of Respawn Entertainment. This week sees the release of their first game, Titanfall, an FPS that promises to redefine the genre once again.
And with Xbox dropping the price of the Xbox One to coincide with Titanfall's launch date, it seems Microsoft are going all in with Respawn on this one. Can Titanfall make Xbox One an essential purchase where Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome and Dead Rising 3 have failed? Lets find out.
As you’d expect from the minds behind the Call of Duty multiplayer behemoth - and indeed a game that attempts to mix giant mechs and jet-pack infantry in bloody battle - balance is crucial. And it becomes clear within a few hours that Titanfall is not only incredibly deep tactically, but also beautifully balanced.
The immediate thought where giant mechs and puny humans are involved, would be that the mech is the all-powerful end-game that everyone is playing towards. In actual fact, Pilots are just as potentially deadly to Titans as vice versa. A good Pilot can make short work of a Titan with the right position and equipment.
READ: Best Xbox One games: The ultimate list
A multiplayer game consists of six Pilots on each side, and a constantly respawning army of grunts (essentially AI controlled infantry). But rather than trying to build competent AI players, Titanfall uses grunts in the way MOBAs like League of Legends do - they’re there to create battle lines, to farm, and to make you feel like a bit of a badass.
Killing the opposing teams grunts will lower the countdown for your Titan, making them important targets in the early going in the first race to Titanfall. But killing grunts can also reveal your position to enemy pilots, and this dynamic creates a cat and mouse game among Pilots that forms the basis of Titanfall’s run-and-gun style.
They do some other nifty things too. Bust your way into a building and you might find two grunts wrestling it out, like the knife scene from Saving Private Ryan. Sometimes you’ll see them dragging the bodies of fallen comrades across a street, climbing walls like a toddler on a bid for freedom, or simply taking up firing positions. They’re made almost hilariously rubbish, to emphasise their purpose within the game.
Titanfall is refreshing in so many ways. Avoidance of death at all costs has created an online FPS culture of stat preservation and camping that turns many people away from online shooters.
But Titanfall embraces new ideas that make it accessible to anyone. Novice players can pick off grunts and still contribute to their team, receiving their Titan in due course. The lock-on smart pistol means that even those who struggle with dual-thumbsticks will be SWAT-ing people left right and centre.
When your Titan dies, you can eject and live on, or choose to go down fighting. If you die as a Pilot, you will respawn with the opportunity to use a Burn Card - a power-up for your next life, which could be anything from an overpowered version of a weapon, to unlimited cloak, to an instant Titan drop.
There’s a reason for this. As you will quickly realise, death is an unavoidable part of the fun in Titanfall. The aforementioned stat preservationists will struggle to find a spot where there aren’t at least 5 places they could be attacked from. That’s the nature of the game, run or die. And it’s brilliant.
Titanfall 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...
Best Smartphones: Reviews
HTC One M8 review
The new HTC One (M8) is the brand's new flagship Android KitKat smartphone
Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Can the new Samsung Galaxy S5 flagship smartphone blow away the competition?
iPhone 5s review
Google Nexus 5 review
Can the Google Nexus 5 trump the excellent Nexus 4?
LG G2 review
Is the G2 the best Android smartphone around?
HTC One Mini review
The HTC One Mini is a scaled down version of the popular HTC One Android phone
LG G Flex review
The LG G Flex is the maker's very first curved Android smartphone
Motorola Moto E review: Hands-on
Is the Motorola Moto E the best budget smartphone around?