Impressions from 'Titanfall' on the Xbox One

Posted Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 12:30 PM PST by

Less than three weeks until "we have Titanfall."

Finally playing 'Titanfall' after months of watching it on the internet, I came to an obvious realization: you never know what a game is going to feel like until it falls into your hands. It looks a bit like 'Call of Duty,' but it feels entirely fresh. Let me put it another way. If this was next year's 'Call of Duty' as opposed to a new IP, the collective FPS community would loudly relieve their exasperation with the series' much-maligned stagnation.

But it's not a new 'Call of Duty,' even if Respawn Entertainment is run by the people who made the franchise in the first place. Even as a new IP, the game face severe skepticism. The fear is that it seems all-too similar to the most popular game on the planet. Fortunately, as an avid FPS player, I am thrilled to say that any concerns that his just a 'Call of Duty' offshoot (or even a 'Battlefield' offshoot) quickly dissolve with actual gameplay.

This is 'Titanfall,' a reinvention of how first-person shooters can feel, and it all starts with getting from point A to point B in any given map. It's about thinking with walls, windows, jetpacks and double jumps that sets this game apart. Sure, it's only at the beta stage right now, but come March 11, I think I'll be the more excited to play a new first-person shooter than I have in a very long time.

Whereas in 'Call of Duty' one might sprint from one bullet-filled corridor to another, the thought process a fairly straightforward dissection of choke points and potential danger zones, 'Titanfall' simply asks that you look up and then go there, wherever you might see. It is a fundamental expansion to movement that literally opens up new paths and creates new opportunities for advantage. Sprint at a wall, jump at it, run across it and catapult yourself to an adjacent building's rooftop. It's not just that you can't do that in other games, it's how 'Titanfall' builds every map with this freedom in mind, and then throws massive robots into the mix to compliment your new multi-story maneuvers. Crossing wide-open spaces means finding the best jumping point and timing it against your opponent's wandering view. Threading through a busy cityscape is parkour without the pain. Your very scaling of a building is an expression of creativity in spatial analysis.

Unshackled as a newborn bird flying for the first time, going back to drudging along the ground feels depressingly one-dimensional. You want to fly and you want to tackle the game's varying objectives as acrobatically as you can. It's addicting, and we haven't even jumped into a titan yet, which to me feels an almost secondary dynamic contributing to the game's resounding success in cinematic action and fluid gameplay. Still, embarking in my titan brought me to another obvious realization: bugs squish real good.

Titans are capable of many powerful feats. They can decimate any pilot or grunt with just a few rounds of a primary weapon. Set to guard or follow mode, they can aid you as you capture an objective, the game's AI impressively guiding the titan in battle when needed. They can simply swat a leaping pilot out of the air, pulverizing the weak body into bits. Customizing your titan, at least within the beta, allows you to concentrate on infantry, enemy titans, objectives or a combination of all three. I found equipping my titan with rockets and a gaseous damaging cloud made for a mean one-two combo against enemy titans, throwing in a massive melee punch at the tail end to rack up considerable damage.

Inserting myself into the fray often meant spreading out as much damage as possible at the cost of my titan's life, only to finish off any stragglers with a nuclear explosion perk upon final ejection. Rocketing upwards and peering down in glee to watch the resulting carnage is truly an unmatched moment among the fierce genre competition.

The fact still remains, though, it's easiest to squash a bug when it's on the ground. As a pilot you aren't trapped in the shadow of battling behemoths, you're a witting insurrectionist with the ability to strike a fatal blow to man or machine, given you know how to move around. Finding a way to a titan's back for a Rodeo maneuver opens up a titan's most vulnerable weak point, while anti-titan weapons equipped to every class enables you to pick away at a titan's damage from those aforementioned rooftops.

It's a chaotic ballet, the most elegant and flexible among us best equipped for victory. When your titan is doomed, hop out and hunt down the pilot who felled you. When your domination point is lost, call in a titan and take it back. When a sniper is perched seemingly out of reach, find a route he hadn't considered and snap his neck before he knows what's happening. That's a far cry from shoot and get shot. You can play it that way, but then you might as well be rotting in gaming's previous generation.

Author: Trevor Ruben

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Tags: Xbox One, Electronic Arts, Respawn, Titanfall (all tags)