TITANFALL – Hands-On Beta Impressions

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TITANFALL – Hands-On Beta Impressions

im·pres·sion

noun \im-ˈpre-shən\

: the effect or influence that something or someone has on a person’s thoughts or feelings. … 2.C: an especially marked and often favorable influence or effect on feeling, sense, or mind.

We’ve had several teeth-jarringly intense hours to get our feet wet in Respawn‘s high-profile FPS-Hybrid Titanfall. And boy, are we impressed.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re heard of Titanfall. Its origin story alone is news-worthy, the mass exodus of Jason West, Vince Zampella and other crucially important artists from Infinity Ward after Herr Kotick’s controversial MW2 “business decisions,” the founding of Respawn (and my word, what a thumbed nose THAT constitutes), and the amiable(?) departure of Mr. Ward. Then, finally, the long, tactical, and silent development of Titanfall under the controversial publisher-ship of the monolithic EA umbrella. In the interactive entertainment industry, that sort of story usually ends in tears, or worse still in a tragical farce like Duke Nukem Forever.

Somehow, against all odds and hope, Titanfall reeks of polish, potential and promise.

First and foremost: it plays not simply well, but cleanly and intuitively. Titanfall is not a title that takes several hours to get used to – everything makes sense, works, and is very largely bug-free. You will know how exactly to do what you want to do, and be able to do it quite effectively and efficiently.

I am very fond of the relatively recent focus in First-Person development on clean and efficient movement around a space. Mirror’s Edge and the most recent pair of Battlefield titles both allowed a genuinely satisfying amount of neat, efficient, and intuitive movement around and through a space. Titanfall does a phenomenal job of integrating this concept, and better still introduces these concepts in a low-pressure tutorial that allows you to play with the movement options to your satisfaction without having to do so in a competitive situation while dodging a hail of bullets.

Motion in Titanfall is a true joy. You may move about in a traditional FPS-scheme, but you are equipped with a jump-pack that allows limited wall-running, a double-jump, and other options. Pair this with a very effective mantling-system and you can easily and quickly get to anywhere you want and without a lot of thought or trial-and-error. The map design thus far has proven to be incredibly married to this movement scheme – you will find plenty of creative and effective ways to get around the map.

This is important, because you will not have a lot of time to think in Titanfall.

Maps are cleverly designed player-funnels, and you’ll rarely be out of gun-play for more than a few seconds unless you specifically choose to do so. This ease-of-motion and focus on funneling also rewards players for creativity. Perhaps more importantly, it discourages the FPS-scourge that is camping.

The largest concern I had going into Titanfall was without question balance. You have the option of piloting a giant, shielded, armored hulk of brutality, heavily laden with weapons….or a tiny human, pointing his tiny pistol at said gigantic mechanical monstrosity and making pew-pew sounds while he fires her/his pistol, and you’d think the noises and gun would have about the same effect.

Thankfully, this is not the case. Sure, you’ll have an easier time taking down a Titan as a Titan, but the mobility plays into this a great deal: you simply utilize your mobility and mount the back back of the Titan, exposing its … well, we’re going to assume reactor or something to that effect, then blast it to oblivion. This is a remarkably effective – perhaps the most effective method – of disabling the beast, and certainly the safest.

Additionally, the aforementioned map design is just incredibly well-suited to the rock-paper-scissors game-play of Titanfall. Sure, you’re in a Titan, but if you want to take that hardpoint, you’re going to need to get out. You can pivot around a window and hope for splash-damage to do your job, but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as other means of achieving your objective.

The world is appealing illustrated, with enough detail that we are satisfied and yet neatly avoiding beating us over the head with unnecessary detail. This, perhaps, is Titanfall‘s greatest small victory: small, narrative brushstrokes in the presentation, showing little details like soldiers arriving on the battlefield, the frantic rush to make it back to the evacuation shuttle after a lost match and the potential that if you do not properly execute this evacuation, you and your fellow soldiers and the quite-cleverly articulated bots won’t be making it home.

In many small ways, Titanfall reminds me a great deal of Star Wars: A New Hope: this is a pretty world, but not because it’s perfect. It’s scratched, dented and destroyed.

In short, Titanfall is the most exciting thing that’s happened to the FPS-genre in a long time. I have long been looking forward to Respawn Entertainment‘s freshman effort, and goodness by gracious is it excellent.

Titanfall releases March 11, 2014 on Windows PC, XBOX 360, and XBOX ONE. I will say, without qualification or question, it is worth your hard-earned dollars.