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Movement. It is a simple idea that is the core of nearly all video games we play, even from the very beginning. Whether you’re moving the legs of Commander Shepard or the paddle in pong, it has been there, the engine that allows us to move through the game world we are immersed in. What’s different about Titanfall is it takes the simple idea of movement and makes it the centerpiece, even before the titans themselves, creating an intuitive and remarkably smooth first person experience that we have yet to see in a shooter. The beta for Respawn’s flagship shooter gives just a taste of what’s to offer for the full release and the taste hardly satisfies the hunger it stirs up, leaving you wanting more and more.
After playing the opening tutorial consisting of about 14-16 small objectives, I was able to dig into the two maps given and the small vertical slice of the reward and XP system as well as just a few game modes including team deathmatch and a domination mode. While the sliver of gamemodes given aren’t groundbreaking, the way you play them is. From the moment you start you feel like you are in absolute control of your character, making your legs your most valuable weapon.
As I mentioned before, the most incredible thing about the game is how you move. Your character is extremely mobile, being able to double jump, run across walls and even grab onto both friendly and enemy titans. The parkour aspect is not something unique to the genre ala Mirrors Edge, but the way moves chain together is nothing short of groundbreaking. Double jumping into a wallrun then into a window and out the other window to land on an enemy titan may sound like a purely single player scripted event, but this is standard fare while playing Titanfall. You never feel incapable or chained down while playing as a soldier; your movements are only limited by your reaction time and problem solving. Even the simple act of running through a building and jump out the window where your titan is, catching you and bringing you inside feels so fluid and intuitive; the action is constant due to your mobility.
Titans are the more obvious variation to the other slew of shooters out there. These hulking mechs change the battlefield immensely once they arrive on the ground, whether you’re piloting them or not. Titans control very similar to their human counterpart, the jump is replaced with a dash move, at least in the one type of titan provided in the beta. Every titan contains certain abilities of your choosing, whether it be blowing up in grand fashion, damaging enemies too close or cloaking you as you desperately try to eject your doomed mech. There are consistencies between titans though, each one comes with both shield and health bar, acting much like the system in the first Halo, shields will recharge but health does not, making you constantly aware of the status of your titan.
However, these aren’t just traditional vehicles that need a pilot at all times, they have their own A.I system as well; setting a titan to guard mode will hunker it down in a certain area while follow mode keeps the titan in relative proximity to you. They are capable machines, making smart and logical decisions in battle and moving about the map even when you’re not in the driver’s seats. It worked better than expected and in my playtime, having my titan rescue me from death by turning the corner at the last possible moment is an awesome, adrenaline rushing experience.
The game is also extremely rewarding, giving you points constantly for acts you do. You gain the most points killing other players either on the ground or in their titan, but you can also flourish by killing the many A.I units on the enemy team, which act more to take up space than actually be a threat. Sure they can do damage if you ignore them but they are mostly cannon fodder you can use to gain awards like reducing the cooldown timer for your titan or earning burn cards. These burn cards act as small boosters you can use for a single life and range from a huge variety of different buffs. You can take between one to three cards into a match (given you’re the correct level) that can drastically affect how you play. They can be smaller things like giving you a reduced cooldown on your damage core for your titan, giving you enhanced damage, all the way to nearly gamechanging standards like being able to spawn a titan at the very beginning of a round. Customization is close to what you’d expect, providing you with three premade classes you quickly gain the option to make your own.
You can pick from a variety of weapons such as the smart pistol, which given a few seconds, locks onto enemies (both A.I and human) and if they stay in view long enough can be killed by a single pull of the trigger. There are also a variety of perks such as a cloak or the option to enhance your ability to jump and wallrun. Titans have a similar style of customization, varying between weapons and different sets of abilities as I mentioned earlier.
While I’ve only seen a glimpse of what the full game will offer, there is no reason to doubt that Titanfall is going to be fantastic multiplayer experience. A lot of details are still sparse about the campaign multiplayer, but based on the few hours I’ve delved into the stand alone multiplayer only portion, it is clear that the game is looking to make a huge splash when it releases. From the titans themselves to the absolute fluidity and intuitive nature of the movement, Titanfall seems to be living up to the hype it has been building up for a long time now. The beta is now open for all Xbox One gold members as well as PC players until this upcoming Wednesday, so try the game yourself and let us know what you think in the comments. Titanfall is set to release on the Xbox One and PC March 11th with the Xbox 360 version trailing behind on the 25th.