It’s hard to remember a time when a game has been more hyped. For me, the closest thing I can think of is when the first of the new (old?) star wars movies came out, and you couldn’t take a piss without seeing a date for the movie release on the toilet seat. What is Titanfall and what makes it different from CoD? Given Respawn Entertainment’s production and development of CoD at Infinity Ward, how much of the game will resemble the CoD franchise? How much can I learn in just a few days of beta testing on two maps?!
Before we get rolling, lets start off with what we know. Out of all the different genre’s of gaming, the FPS genre has easily seen the most amount of titles released for it year after year. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of a little company called Infinity Ward and a game called Call of Duty. For better or for worse, with the launch of CoD4 the CoD franchise would eventually go on to be the best selling piece of media of all time and selling over a billion dollars of product in less than 16 days.
Respawn Entertainment (RE) consists of 38 of the previous 46 employees at Infinity Ward who developed Call of Duty. To say that it is likely that their eventual project would look something like a previous CoD game is a gross understatement. RE literally consists of over 80% of the previous team who helped to create THE singular best selling piece of media…OF MEDIA of all time. I really can’t drive this point home enough because it emphasizes why we don’t see new/fresh IP’s; there’s no reason to take a risk and create a fresh IP if a rehashed version of the old one sells better every year. That said, depending on how you look at Titanfall, you may or may not think of it as a Fresh(ish) IP.
The day of the game launch, the most popular phrase heard was something along the lines of “CoD with mechs”. As I’ve shown above, that phrase seems like a fairly reasonable speculation. Wanting to find out for myself, I dove into Titanfall head first and began with the training program that lead me through a brief tutorial explaining how to wall run, double jump, and use the Smart Pistol auto-target someone. Fresh out of the training course I then went into the Attrition game mode which is what Titanfall recommended for anyone new to the game.
As I soon found out, Attrition is another word for Team Death Match. Titanfall’s TDM however has a bit of a caveat; it includes the killing of NPC’s by way of Spectre’s and Grunts. This is what has given the game comparison to MOBA’s such as League of Legends. The more NPC’s you kill the more time it shaves off your next Titan dropping. Everyone starts with the same 2 minute timer but with each Pilot (human) kill and NPC kill you shave off a set amount of time and your Titan drops that much faster.
I found the TDM style mode of Titanfall to easily be the most boring out of the 3 different gaming modes offered. An average score consisted of a few deaths and typically only a few pilot kills as well. Most people seemed to score somewhere between 3-5 pilot kills and the top of the scoreboard tended to reflect somewhere between 8-9. Creep killing (grunts/spectres) was worth a lot of points and often times those at the top of the boards had definitely done their time harvesting anywhere from 25-50 NPC’s. I found myself farming them somewhere in the area of 20’s to 30’s at the most, mainly because they’re so damn boring and I’m here to kill other players, not NPC’s who stand there fighting each other waiting to be stomped on.
The second game mode which Titanfall labeled as Hardpoint is the equivalent of CoD’s domination. 3 points to cap and the dev’s have stated that at least 1 point will always be accessible by the Titans. Both maps had their C point accessible via Titans. Domination (HP), easily had much more action than TDM. Instead of scoring single digit pilot kills, it was now the norm to score double digits with a good game netting you kills in the teens, and a great game scoring you low-mid 20’s. I don’t think I ever saw or heard of anyone getting 30+, although I’m sure it happened somewhere. My kill to death ratio went up dramatically when I started playing domination as a result of the focused action. In TDM it had been around 2 or 3:1, but in domination it was a fairly consistent 5:1. I did find a few lobbies that I purged for a few hours at a time where I was consistently getting 20+ kills with zero or 1 deaths, but that had more to do with their team being terrible as opposed to god-like skill on my behalf.
I spent most of my time playing with the SMG, Shotgun, and Smart Pistol (MK5 I think?). The SMG seemed like a great all around weapon that excelled at a range that lies just beyond the shotgun’s max range. While I will always prefer to hip fire due to he mobility and visibility it provides, the SMG couldn’t compete with the shotgun when it came to the closer quarter combat of the B flag. Angel City was probably the better example here with a 3 story building that was frequently the sight of pandemonium and mayhem with titans, grenades, and cloaked players running a muck. At close to mid range the SMG seemed to overtake the Assault Rifle (AR), however as time went on I suspect the AR was being heavily under-utilized. While I’m going to restrain myself from going on a tangent here about aiming/strafing/ADS’ing, it wasn’t uncommon to die at mid range to an AR whose cursor hung motionless as I strafed back and forth. With a beta that lasted just a few days, I just didn’t have enough time to test and figure out the damage/effectiveness of strafing, ADS’ing, and hip-fire.
The shotgun obviously seemed to shine in closer quarters. As I mentioned above, the shotgun was definitely the king of all things B. I briefly dabbled with a suppressor to see if I could get away with it, and in my limited experience it didn’t seem worth it. I don’t have damage tables and I never had friends on the enemy side so I wasn’t able to conclusively test things, but it appeared to take 2 close range shots with the suppressor versus 1 without which in my opinion doesn’t make the suppressor worth using. The shotgun peaked at a fairly standard medium range which worked well for the cap radius of most flags.
The Smart Pistol. Depending on who you ask, they either loved it or hated it. There’s no denying a weapon that automatically locks on and targets someone is going to have some frustration involved. Going beyond that, after you grab 25 pilot kills, the weapon gets a modification that allows for increased range and faster targeting of players. For me, this weapon really shined on Fracture which was the larger and more open of the two maps. If you made sure travel via the rooftops, dropping down and getting multiple kills on enemy pilots traveling from B to C or B to A wasn’t uncommon. There’s a great vantage point on the B point in Fracture that sits behind some type of container. Ducking behind this actually breaks Line of Sight when someone is attempting to smart pistol you, and affords you some protection from the waist down when others are shooting at you. It also keeps them at a longer medium range which allows you to easily target and take them down, regardless of which weapon they’re using. Chances are by the time they come down the stairs, you’ve already locked them at least once if not twice. The room opposite the stairs is easy fodder for nades and a favorite for wall hangers and cloaked players to hang out.
All of the above weapons have what are called AMPED versions of themselves via burn bards. Burn cards are cards given out for completing challenges and…doing what else I’m not sure. Whatever it was, I had to constantly get rid of them because I had far too many to use at one time. The most effective AMPED weapons I used were definitely the shotgun and the smart pistol. Both made these deadly weapons far, far more deadly. The shotgun turns into an automatic shotgun with little to no recoil, and the smart pistol does more damage with an even faster lock-on system. It was definitely the norm on Fracture to use a smart pistol burn card and go flawless while racking up 20+ kills.
You have the ability to slot in 3 burn cards before the start of every match. You can use either before the match, when you die, or not at all. They range from AMPED form of weapons as I listed above, to map hacks, faster run speed, decreased Titanfall time, etc. It seemed like there was a card for nearly every scenario. I heard of a card that allowed for unlimited tactical use, but I never saw it.
Finally, the Titans. While the dev’s have stated that there will be more chassis and combinations of Titan’s to choose from, this time around we had 1 chassis, 3 different weapons, and a few combinations of Titan abilities. The combination I used the most was the Salvo of Rockets, Electric Mist, Nuclear Detonation, and Cloaked Ejection (not the right term, but that’s what it did).
Rockets were great for both targeting mechs and or getting rid of an annoying pilot who was dug in somewhere your guns just couldn’t reach. Electric Mist was fantastic for getting rid of a pilot who decided to rodeo your back (see constantly), or crouching on the top of B flag and murdering everyone inside as your Mist goes through the walls. Nuclear Detonation means your Titan goes nuclear when it dies. As time went on in the Beta, it seemed like a popular strategy to rush in, pop your smoke, if you kill the other Titan that’s great, if not stand in his face and detonate your Titan and get the kill anyway. The cloaked ejection option seemed to accelerate this whole process, and negated you being executed as well (being ripped from your Titan when it was doomed).
Standing back and looking at my whole experience, the Titans easily stand out as being the most lackluster part of the game. Pilot to pilot I felt nearly invincible which is in stark contrast to my time in the Mech’s. While it wasn’t uncommon for my to move on B point and clear out 4 to 5 pilots in order to capture it, there’s no way to come anywhere close to doing something even remotely similar in a Titan. Enemy Titans are best fought off when the odds are in your favor, and ideally they’re tangled up with at least 1 enemy pilot who is either giving them the rodeo juice or blasting them with rockets from afar. There just didn’t seem to be much skill involved in a 1v1 Titan battle assuming the other guy is an average or better player. Even if I end up killing him (which most of the time I did), my Titan is now down to 25-50% health as a result of our ordeal, and that’s assuming I’m not being targeted by pilots or another Titan in the middle of our fight. Your score and k/d should go up while you’re in a Titan, but I felt held back and hindered instead of empowered. I felt as though I was at my most powerful state when wielding an AMPED Shotgun or Smart Pistol and not when I was in the belly of a futuristic mechanized robot that was supposedly capable of mass destruction.
The pilot to pilot game feels very similar to CoD, but it it also felt much more complete than the Titan’s. Most of the time I felt pretty happy with the response of the server and it seemed like I was getting the first shot off when I was getting the first shot off. This is unlike the previous CoD on PC where it seemed as though any engagement had a 50/50 chance of going your way as a result of lag and how the system interprets who sees who first regardless of who actually saw who first (if that makes sense). On the downside it wasn’t uncommon to see warping, and more than a few players were warping large distances with no character animations. This also held true for when they were in their mech’s. It was somewhat uncommon to find someone who soaked an entire clip or two of ammunition and still lived (the last round I played an enemy pilot soaked my entire smart pistol clip and my entire secondary full-auto pistol clip without dying. He did die on the reload however).
There are all sorts of balance suggestions/problems/issues, but just like CoD, this game isn’t meant to be balanced. That’s the idea being burn cards and ridiculous weapons like the smart pistol. By the way, if you’re going to be upset at the smart pistol, you should really take a look at the tactical ability cloak. In my opinion, it’s far more frustrating to be killed by some shotgun toting ding a ling who is cloaked, wall hanging in the corner somewhere near B, and completely invisible. That said, the tactical ability stim isn’t much better. It essentially lets you have two lives, doubles your speed, and lets you outlast the other guy regardless of who gets the jump on who. Once again, it was all too common to see someone pounding a stim and sprinting around B flag while spamming flying jump snap kicks everywhere.
Overall, I had fun with the game. If you’ve ever enjoyed a game of Call of Duty, you’ll love Titanfall. Titan’s are quite clearly the answer to Respawn Entertainment’s quest of re-creating kill streaks. Burn cards can easily be looked at as a version of getting someone out of a slump, or death streaks. The pilot-pilot combat was fun, wall running gives some room for finding fast ways around the map, but the Titan’s were something of a letdown. I know that the best way to win at domination is still to throw your body at the flag and completely disregard safety for yourself or your k/d. We proved it in CoD and I was beaten several times in Titanfall by a team whose members all had massive negative k/d ratios. Knowing that this is the best way to win definitely ruins it for me and I have a hard time getting myself in gear and wanting to play well.
So will I end up buying the game? I don’t think I’ve decided yet. I know Dark Souls 2 comes out around the same time and I see myself sinking a huge amount of time into that game and legitimately enjoying myself. I STILL haven’t beaten Dark Souls yet but I can’t stop playing it and it’s re-playability is just never-ending. For now I’m leaning towards no, but it’s always possible I’ll change my mind. I’m curious to find out what your own experiences were with the beta and whether or not they matched up with my own.