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Impressions: 'Titanfall' has the makings to be the king of online multiplayer

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Xbox, EA, and Respawn Entertainment held a two-stage beta test for Titanfall during the last several days, giving Xbox One and PC gamers a chance to get their hands on the upcoming title. Judging from responses on social media and on various gaming forums, it looks like Titanfall is going to be a huge hit when it is released next month.

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A Slight Hiccup

The beta test did not go without a hitch, however. During the first stage of the beta test, only a relatively small group of players (friends, family, VIPs and media) were given access to the beta, and there didn’t seem to be any issues with Microsoft’s new servers. It wasn’t until after waves of beta keys were sent out to the gaming masses did the servers face true stress. And under the massive crunch of downloading and playing the beta test build, a bug forced Microsoft’s servers to stumble a bit. Titanfall was inaccessible for several hours while Microsoft engineers rushed to repair the bug.

There were other server-related issues reported, along with isolated reports of gameplay bugs, but these issues were to be expected. It was a beta test, after all.

Gameplay Impressions

Most beta testers found similarities in Titanfall’s gameplay to other shooters they’ve played. Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, and even older titles such as Shadowrun and Unreal Tournament have been referenced when testers described what it is like to play Titanfall.

There are many familiar elements in Titanfall, and it seems Respawn has taken the best from the first-person shooter genre to engineer a wondrous amalgam that is refreshingly exciting to play. Speed, verticality, realistic weapons, abilities, perks, great maps, and an enormous amount of action are all present in Titanfall.

Of course, there are two major elements that set Titanfall apart from other modern shooters. First are the AI-controlled grunts. Players fight alongside their grunts, who are not very durable, and do not have much killing power. However, the grunts do fire weapons and attack opposing grunts and players – and sometimes grunts do rack up kills. They are essentially those NPCs you might encounter during a Halo or Call of Duty campaign.

The other big hook in Titanfall are the Titans. Three types of Titans have been announced so far, and each of them possesses different characteristics. The Atlas is an all-around Titan, the Ogre is the hunkering, durable Titan, and the Stryder is the nimble, but less-armored Titan. Once a Titan is ready to be called down, players can pilot the Titan, or command the Titan to automatically guard an area, or even follow the player around the map like a guard dog.

Respawn managed to balance the game quite evenly, allowing pilots to take down enemy Titans single-handedly, without the use of another Titan to do so. Titans however, possess great amounts of firepower, being able to take out pilots swiftly.

During the beta test, three game modes were available to play: Attrition, Hard Point, and Last Titan Standing. Attrition is played similarly to the traditional team deathmatch. Hard Point is essentially the Domination mode from Call of Duty. Last Titan Standing pits two teams against each other, but with all players starting as Titans, and without respawns.
Traversing the two maps available during the beta test was never challenging. Being able to wall run and jump-jet your way to higher ground, through windows, and across rooftops grant players a remarkable amount of freedom. In comparison, other shooters just feel two-dimensional.

Burn Cards are awarded to players for completing challenges during matches, and can be used in subsequent matches to grant players various perks. These one-time use cards can vary from the use of a super-powered weapon, to a radar ability, and even the use of a different class of Titan. Once a player equips a Burn Card and dies, the benefits of the card are lost. Burn Cards are similar to boosts that are used in other EA titles, such as Mass Effect’s multiplayer, and all of EA’s sports titles.

Graphics

It’s reported that the beta test did not feature the full list of Titanfall’s graphical capabilities, and it certainly appeared that way. There were areas in the game that could have used a boost in textures, better lighting, and improved particle effects. However, the frame rate held up smoothly, and kept pace with the fast-paced gameplay.

The visual effects are most impressive when you engage another Titan, or see a battle between two or more Titans. The explosions, firepower, and other special abilities create an awesome sight to behold. Watching a clash of Titans reminds me a lot of the 80’s anime, Robotech, with the spectacle of giant machinery wreaking havoc on the battlefield.

Hopefully the final retail release of Titanfall will look better, but even the beta test looked decent enough to be immersive.

Conclusion

Titanfall is tremendously fun to play, especially with friends on your team. It has the makings to overtake Call of Duty as the king of online multiplayer, but it must feature a few elements to keep gamers coming back to Titanfall. First, players must be able to progressively unlock customizable weapon skins, pilot skins, or Titan skins. Players must also be able to similarly unlock emblems or player cards. Lastly, clan support would help keep players addicted to Titanfall, in the same way players continue to play Halo and Call of Duty.

I was initially skeptical about Titanfall, particularly since many games have tried and failed to succeed in the crowded shooter genre, but after getting my hands on with Titanfall during the beta test, I am confident that Titanfall will be a system seller for Xbox One.

Titanfall’s open beta test will continue to run through February 19, and the full version will be available on March 11, 2014 for PC and Xbox One, and on March 25, 2014 for Xbox 360. Click here to pre-order Titanfall at Amazon.

This article is based on a preview code provided by the developer.

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