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Beta Impressions: Titanfall

There is so much hype behind Titanfall. It made quite the impression at E3 winning plenty of awards without there actually being a playable demo of the game (just videos/presentations). The beta test went very well despite the first day shenanigans. It was then made a few days later that the beta would actually be open and extended by two days. I got a chance to play Titanfall during this session and I have a few things to say about my impressions of this shooter. I saw it at E3 and I was one of the few people that were not impressed.

Titanfall Beta Art/Screens-slide0
Respawn Entertainment
splash art
Respawn Entertainment

This beta session has changed my mind but also proved some of my predictions about the gameplay of Titanfall. Was I impressed? Yes, but am I still skeptical? You better believe it. Mech shooters are no stranger to the gaming community, it is being implied that Titanfall is the first of it's kind. In a certain way, it is. But a little game called Blacklight Retribution brought mechs vs humans into the competitive shooter realm way before Titanfall. However, the mechs in BR were horribly designed and broken. Playing as one pretty much meant you won the game. Hell, even Bioshock 2 had a version of “Titans” in their multiplayer. Yes the Big Daddies are pretty much the same thing as the Titans in Titanfall. While the idea is the same, the execution is incredibly different. Both previous implementations were poor and as I said, broken. This is where I was skeptical about the balance of Titanfall. After all, that is what is important about competitive PvP games right?

I was expecting the Titans to be a broken mechanic and to be something similar to a killstreak reward like in Call of Duty. That was wrong, they are give to everyone. After a certain amount of time. This time can be shortened with “Burn Cards” or by getting player frags in matches. In theory, this makes the game more balanced because everyone gets access as opposed to only people with high kill counts. This quickly became who can get the most titans on the team to overrun the map with massive robots. Once you kill those titans, the rest of the team got theirs and it is like you didn't do anything. The two modes that this was apparent on were Attrition (TDM) and Hardpoint (King of the Hills). While the games were still winnable, it did very much feel slightly unbalanced because of how easy it is to get Titans. They are however somewhat easy to kill. When there are two Titans on the battlefield, this feels really balanced because Titans can get outnumbered by human players. However, in a game mode like hardpoint, multiple titans are protecting points and it just seems to difficult.

Attrition was a bit different when it came to Titan instability when it was the end of the match. At the end of a match (this applies to Hardpoint as well) you can evacuate to gain extra points. In attrition, it is much easier to get a titan and keep it through the match. When the extraction bit comes up, it feels like a shooting gallery. It doesn't take much skill to be in a titan and blow up a ship that doesn't shoot back. I may be nitpicking things, and I admire the originality in a shooter with this concept, but it did not seem to fit well. In Attrition, it is just too easy to flood the map with titans, once one side gets more titans than the other, generally it is just a slaughter.

The game mode that was possibly the best during the beta was Last Titan Standing. Everyone starts in a Titan and you must be the last one in your Titan to win. However, if it is desroyed, you can still rodeo on other Titans to destroy them. This game mode was surprisingly strategic and every enjoyable. It felt the most balanced out of the other game modes. I would like to see this game mode more on full release when you can see all the different Titan loadouts people will come up with.

The maps available during the beta were not too bad. In some cases they looked identical, but there was plenty of places to hide and take advantage of. Compared to other modern shooters, the map design of Titanfall is among the best I have seen.

There is a perk/loadout system in place that games like Call of Duty/Battlefield popularized. You unlock more stuff by increasing your rank and competing challenges specific to those weapons/abilities. The system works and it isn't broken so I don't see this changing any time soon. For the beta there was some variety for your weapon choice, but not much. It did give you a taste though. Personally I found the automatic weapons to be the easiest to get kills with but I was surprised with how fun and skillful sniping was. You can also carry an Anti-Titan weapon, every class gets one and the beta had two weapons, the rocket and sidewinder. These guns dealt heavy damage to Titans in their own way and were best used when coupled with an appropriate class.

The Titan loadouts were somewhat varied but still limited. You could only choose one chassis and three weapons. Yet again, it was a nice taste, but I was a bit disappointed. You can customize your Titan the same way you customize your human soldier. So there is a lot to think about like if your human soldier class meshes will with your Titan class well enough.

I am done with the beta and I am awaiting the full release of the game. I was somewhat impressed with this beta session and I really do want to see what this game has to offer in its full version. I am happy to say in some ways, my negativity was proven wrong by playing. However, I still feel as though the Titans give more of an unfair advantage in battles than I would like. This is also a game that is not breaking the boundaries of the FPS genre. There are other games that have taken this idea, just not in the scale of massive robots. Games like Left 4 Dead, Bioshock 2, and Blacklight Retribution have all done what Titanfall is doing. In terms of a shooter, other than the enhanced movement, it is a very standard PvP FPS. That doesn't make it bad, but I want to acknowledge how this is a game that has been done before, but it is being done with more thought than other games.

This game has way too much hype behind it, but I guess thanks to Pacific Rim, giant robots are now more hip than zombies. Which would actually say a lot as to why this game is garnering so much attention. We have had nonstop slews of zombie games, shows, movies, and books. Maybe giants robots are the new theme? I will thank Respawn for breaking us out of the zombie funk. You can play the full version of Titanfall upon release in March on the Xbox One and PC. Xbox 360 will be late March.

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