Previews

Titanfall hands-on: Standing on the shoulder of giants

Respawn's debut game has secured the studio's future

When you're vaulting across a village-sized arena like it was your Olympic sport, when you're dashing along billboards and double-jumping onto rooftops overlooking the chaos below, when you're wall-jumping zig-zags up and around pursuing opponents until they're dizzy from the chase, you finally have the answer.

There is a question that has seduced us for years: what would a Miyamoto FPS feel like? The answer is Titanfall.

This is Modern Warfare in a perfect marriage with Mario. Those eponymous Titans might be pitched as the game's unique selling point - but it's the wondrous agility of their pilots that steals the show.

In a matter of minutes players will gain enough confidence to parkour their way across even the most complex structures (Respawn says it's possible to travel across the entire Angel City arena without touching the floor - and it's a believable claim). Leaps of faith are as joyous as headshots, and these multiplayer environments are meticulously arranged to ensure that there's always platforming ideas and opportunities presented in front of you.

Combat is as finely tuned as that famous Call of Duty brand - guided by perfectionists of the genre who once led Infinity Ward before everything went legal. And during those exhilarating bursts of cat-and-mouse between Davids and metal Goliaths, you realise that, yes, this is exactly where Modern Warfare needed to go.
Mixing daring acrobatics with disciplined FPS play is a wondrous, free-flowing merger of two genres. This is wire-fu warfare. This is how much fun we would have had if Soap and co entered The Matrix.

Then there's your very own Titan - a metallic giant twenty feet in height - which lands from the heavens like a thunderbolt. A miasma of dust and smoke rises out from the fallen structure as it kneels, in an Atlas pose, awaiting your orders. It is a brief and intimate moment (if memory serves, the background sounds also fade out) punctuating the frenzy of combat.

Now with a mech under your command, those acrobatic militants become worms. They are nothing to you. High-powered blasts (out from cannons bigger than those you're aiming at) swat them away. If only they would all stop buzzing around, pirouetting under your feet, vaulting over your head, creeping into your blind spots. If only they would stop chipping away at your amour.

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These Titan moments are brief (think of chaining two stars in Mario Kart) and perhaps fortunately so. The least enjoyable part of Titanfall is hulking these hunks of metal around, slowly approaching distant red dots on the radar. One could argue that more pedestrian moments offer a necessary break from the intense warfare, but perhaps piloting a bipedal tank isn't the best moment for some downtime.

Titan versus Titan battles have tremendous spectacle but - at least for now - not enough strategy. It becomes a game of outshooting your opponent - a battle of the overweight, not heavyweight, champions.

And then comes another Miyamoto moment. When your Titan's shield can take no more, when fire creeps into the cockpit and emergency lights flash, it's time to evacuate.

An ejector seat launches you fifty feet into the air like a fairground ride, giving you a soundless, private escape up in the sky. As gravity begins to win the argument, you descend, preparing yourself for more close-shave kills, impossible leaps of faith and suicide assaults on those giants. You cannot wait to hit the floor.

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