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Titanfall: how Respawn's small innovations will bring big changes

By Shaun Prescott on Thursday 13th Jun 2013 at 2:10 AM UTC

For the biggest and most lucrative first-person shooters, the distinction between single and multiplayer couldn't be more stark.

In multplayer, hordes of players around the world kill one another with nary a concern for pacing or drama, and all in the name of XP and leaderboard prestige. Conversely, single-player FPSs are all about keeping the player on a tight leash: studios want to make the player feel something. There is meant to be purpose and context for every headshot you accrue.

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As a raw multiplayer FPS, Titanfall looks promising. Respawn weren't ready to let us play it at E3, but we witnessed a closed 7v7 tournament that served to highlight both the large and subtle ways Titanfall tampers with the format.

It's in the finer details: TItanfall may look like an orthodox shooter with mechs attached, but the manner in which the player traverses the map plays a huge part in how matches pan out. As a Titan pilot (the human, non-mech characters), the ability to run up the side of walls introduces a seamless platforming mechanic which opens up a bunch of new strategic opportunities. Players can leap onto the side of a wall, leap from there on to a nearby higher one, and so forth. Add to that the lack of fall damage, and the game is blindingly quick to behold: like Halo, the action is never confined to the horizontal axis, but you'll need to look up in Titanfall a whole lot more.

We watched one player climb to the top of a gutted building, leap from its roof onto a Titan, and destroy the mech's 'brain' with a quick melee animation (this action is called "Rodeoing"). Elsewhere, ejecting from a Titan will send the player soaring through the air, and with good timing and a tonne of precision it's possible to land on an enemy Titan's head and destroy it. If your Titan is destroyed, you need to wait several minutes before you can spawn a new one, so unless you're adept you'll probably spend a lot of time on foot.

"TItanfall may look like an orthodox shooter with mechs attached, but the manner in which the player traverses the map plays a huge part in how matches pan out"

If you factor in the size of the Titans, the parkour mechanics and the pilots' ability to double-jump, Titanfall's arenas are going to need to fit around these abilities. The map we saw was a desert canyon setting and it was sprawling: there were networks and crawlspaces for Titan pilots to navigate, but overall the action took place out in the open.

Titanfall looks promising as a multiplayer shooter, but what of Respawn's claims that it will bring a campaign-centric narrative element to competitive online? This hasn't been discussed in much depth, but the match we witnessed had an epilogue and prologue that served to provide context to the combat: basically, our team emerged from an intergalactic drop ship and then exited via the same one at the end, with the usual military patter and barking.

There's probably a whole lot more to these narrative claims, but from what we've seen so far, Titanfall is just a blindingly quick FPS. And who needs a story for that.

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