[Overall impressions made on PC version.]
I usually don’t start articles with a full stop statement for an impressions editorial, but there’s a first for everything. Holy shit. If I can elaborate on that, holy fucking shit. Titanfall was one of those games that piqued my interest when it was first revealed, but didn’t really give me a lasting impression over time. However, it’s better to have tried a game and hated it than to never played a game at all and miss a masterpiece. So I signed up for the Titanfall beta, hit the level cap, and have plenty of opinionated points listed in positive/neutral (notes)/negative order.
+ Gunplay is smooth and mostly balanced.
The weapons we got to try in the beta (An AR, an SMG, a shotgun, a “smart” pistol, and a DMR. Along with a machine pistol, semi-auto pistol, and the Anti-Titan weapons) were mostly balanced and for the most part follow a “rock-paper-scissors” dynamic based on range. Sniper rifles win on long range, but lose luster in close quarters. SMGs and shotguns are good in close quarters, but are terrible at long range. The basic agenda of FPS, really. However, most games take time to balance the weapons (ex. Battlefield 3), where Titanfall is almost perfectly balanced with the spectrum of weapons we got to use.
+ Level design is incredible
The most important thing to any multi-player game is that the levels are creative, balanced for both teams, and easily adaptable for any battle situation. Titanfall delivers on all fronts (at least for the first two maps). Not only are the levels creative, but the designs are fluid and unique. There are plenty of areas for Pilots to move around and combat one another, and open spaces for Titans to fight each other. Sometimes these areas meet, creating some chaotic firefights between mechs and humans. These levels are also designed for the surprisingly clean freedom of movement they give Pilots, while giving Titans plenty of space to move around.
+ AI pathing is solid and interestingly animated
One of the most interesting additions I’ve seen yet is the addition of AI units that can capture objectives and shoot at enemy players. They have their own dynamic agendas, fighting each other in close quarters, dragging their wounded squad-mates into cover. The addition of AI units adds more to the warzone. It’s no longer just six random soldiers fighting six random soldiers, each with a Titan, fighting over what’s seemingly a minor objective; it’s now a large battle, with squadrons of soldiers dropping into the fight. Battles now feel more alive than ever because of this.
Titan’s on auto-pilot also path well and is almost like an extension of your Pilot, as much of a cliche as that sounds. You can set it to “Guard” and it’ll stand still, focusing on fighting units near it. When it goes into “Follow” mode, it focuses on following you and fires occasionally to aid the player. This AI is not irritating in the slightest and doesn’t detract much from gameplay.
+ Gameplay and graphics are smooth and clean
Playing Titanfall on PC, I worried about being out-of-date and not being able to smoothly play the game. To my surprise, even on the highest settings, the game ran great. However, to do proper stability tests, I lowered the settings to Medium overall. The game doesn’t dock frames at all, and runs at a clean 60 FPS for most situations. The game seems to take extra time loading textures and ensuring connections are mostly playable. While testing, loading a level took about 2 minutes, but the entire time, no textures or models loaded to the proper quality. There’s no lag when seeing most of the level, as well (which happens when you eject from a doomed Titan).
In terms of gameplay, allow me to quote a list of comparisons that a group of my friends and I came up with. It’s like “HAWKEN mixed with Call of Duty 4’s level design and gameplay feel, mixed with Quake’s fast-paced action, and Brink’s parkour-driven movement system.” This combination melds together surprisingly well, and makes each game you play unique and interesting. The game also has an interesting way of treating the entire situation in a “cinematic” way. The matches even have an ending, where players on the losing team can evacuate; players now only have one life, and successfully evacuating means you get a little bonus experience.
Also, the game has dynamic call-outs based on position. When you near objective ‘B’ in a Hardpoint Domination match, the voice-over will tell you so and if there’s a risk of hostiles. If you’re in a Titan and are in a fight with, say, three enemy Titans, the game suggests you retreat from a 3v1 combat situation. It adds incredible depth to the battles you enter.
0 Titans seem unnecessary in various situations
This isn’t exactly a negative, but it’s something note-worthy. I’m curious if there will be Pilot-only gametypes, since there are a few times where being in a Titan is actually the least productive thing in a match. Playing some games with a couple of friends seems to solidify my note. Sometimes, you just want to be a Pilot, but not calling your Titan is a horrible idea in the long run for a match. Thankfully, you can just set a Titan to “Follow” and go on your merry way. If the entire multi-player is just this, then it might be questionably okay, but it might get old fast.
So, just from this beta, my expectations have been blown out of the water. Keep in mind that these impressions will not entirely reflect on the full release of the game, since we didn’t get to try the single player and probably 75% of the multiplayer. Also, as far as we know, the levels in the beta might be the best levels in the full MP. Only time will tell how this game will hold up on release, but consider me on board for this adventure.