Titanfall Beta Impressions Part 2!

I said last week that I had a lot of stuff about the Titanfall Beta that I wanted to talk about, and that I would finish up today. So let’s dive right in, shall we? If you missed last weeks post, where I talked about a bunch of specific things like weapons and the Titans, feel free to go check it out now. This week I’m going to look at the beta from a broad view, looking more at how the game played and my overall impressions with it.

Titanfall

So let’s start with the part I was most worried about going in to the beta – the balance between Pilots and Titans. Prior to actually sitting down and playing the game, I was worried that when the enemy team had Titans up, that would be all she wrote; that the players on foot wouldn’t have a chance at destroying the Titans. I think in general, Respawn did a really good job of giving the Pilots a real chance against Titans – there were only two anti-Titan weapons, but both worked really well at causing some damage, plus the rodeo feature makes every Pilot a threat in a fight. Now, going against three Titans on foot is a really bad idea without some Titan backup, but in general, a Pilot really has a good chance against a Titan. This balance is easily the most important part of the game – mess it up, and the game just wouldn’t work. So kudos to Respawn there for getting it right so far.

Check out my clip of me taking out a Titan in style – on foot.

Next I want to talk about what I think was the breakout star of the beta – the parkour system. Going in I think most fans were most anticipating hopping into Titans and crushing enemies that way. After a few rounds, I found myself delaying calling in my Titan, because playing on foot is just so much fun. And again, this was a really important part of the gameplay that Respawn had to nail, or it would kill the fun and mire down the action. One thing that struck me early on in the beta was the pace of the gameplay. Thanks to the parkour system, the pace is way faster than Call of Duty, Battlefield or Halo, by a fairly noticeable amount. It’s not quite Tribes, but it’s definitely closer to that series than any other shooter out there now. And the parkour system is so smooth – no extra button pushes, just fluidly run along walls and jump all over the environment.

I hate to use the phrase “game-changer” because I think it’s way to early to crown Titanfall one – this was just a week long beta after all, with a limited experience for sure. But I think that the seeds are sown for it – assuming that the full game builds on everything we saw in the beta I think it’s not a big leap of faith to say Titanfall could be this generation’s breakout shooter. We still have to wait and see what Destiny does, as well as the next entries in Call of Duty and Halo, but I think the trend is going to skew back towards high mobility like we saw in Titanfall. The past seven years have all been featuring shooters with strong cover systems – Gears of War, Call of Duty and Battlefield especially come to mind. I think the audience is ready for a change, and Titanfall is not only coming out at the right time, but also is doing it very well. So we’ll see in a few weeks if “game-changer” is appropriate, but based solely around the beta, I think we definitely have a great shooter on our hands here, one that I think we’ll be playing for years down the road.

Next week I plan on giving you guys my impressions on Thief, which comes out tomorrow, Feb. 25, as well probably talking a bit about something I’ve come to really enjoy over the last four years or so – Achievements.

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Titanfall Beta Impressions Part 1

Over the last week, Respawn Entertainment has been holding a semi-closed beta for Titanfall on both the Xbox One and PC. I say semi-closed because it was totally closed on both platforms until this weekend when they opened it up for everyone on the Xbox One to try to stress the servers. I’ve spent about 5 hours or so online on the One playing, trying out everything that the beta has to offer, and I’ve got a pretty good amount of stuff I want to talk about. So this week and next I will go through my impressions from the beta and I’ll try to spin it forward to the full game. Today I want to hit some of the specific things – weapons, titans, maps, that sort of thing; next week I’ll go top level and look at the beta as a whole.

Titanfall

So first off, let’s look at the maps in the beta. There are two maps that we can play in the beta – Angel City and Fracture. Each one plays a little differently, giving players a nice sample of different ways to play the game. In general, Angel City is much more close range, with lots more Parkour and verticality to it, while Fracture is longer range, more wide open with a lot of room for Titan combat. Angel City was shown last year in the first gameplay trailer, so it’s the one I think most players were familiar with going into the beta, and I believe Fracture was teased a while ago via a piece of concept art that looks a lot like the loading screen for that map. I’ve played each map a bunch of times, on all three modes in the beta, and depending on the gamemode, your tactics will definitely shift a bit. Angel City is tailor made for high mobility, high firerate/close range weapons, while still allowing longer range fights to take place. The most important thing to remember is to get high, as fast as possible – using the parkour system is easily the most important tactic while you are on foot. It’s a big shift from Call of Duty/Battlefield bringing back vertical combat to arena size shooters. Most buildings in Angel City have at least three different levels, and multiple entrances that take advantage of the system.

Fracture is almost the polar opposite – it still has spots where the parkour system comes in really handy, but in general the map has a lot longer sight lines, and huge chunks of open ground. It’s the better map to try out the sniper rifle on – there are a couple really strong sniper perches that can be reached from either spawn really quickly. I also think that Fracture is where Titan combat really shines. In Angel City, because of the close quarters, Titan combat can be a little insane; but on Fracture, there’s enough space for you to try out a bunch of different tactics, using different weapons and abilities on your Titans. It’s not uncommon on Fracture to see a fight with multiple Titans engaging multiple Titans on the other team – which is both awesome to witness, and awesome to actually take part in.

So the maps each play to different strengths weapon-wise, so let’s talk about the weapons in the beta. There are five primary weapons and two sidearms available to use, unlocked over the course of the 14 levels in the beta. They hit the standard FPS fare, but the way that they implement them feels really natural in the context of the game. The assault rifle, the R-101c Carbine, is a good option for mid-long range combat, it works well on both maps, and with the silencer attachment it makes for some good surprise attacks. The EVA-8 shotgun is a really satisfying shotgun – short range, but really strong. The R-97 SMG is a nice SMG – great in close quarters on Angel City, and a great rushing weapon. The Longbow sniper is interesting – the way that sniping works in Titanfall will take a little getting used to for veterans of Call of Duty, quickscoping is all but impossible thank God. That said, the actual rifle performs really well once you get used to it. The last primary is the Smart Pistol MK5, which is a really cool weapon – while you are holding the weapon from the hip, it will lock on to enemies, then you just need to pull the trigger. It takes a bit longer to lock on to other players, as a balance, but it’s a great stealth weapon for sure. Both sidearms are really great pistols, one full auto, the other semiauto but strong and still can be fired quickly.

The other options for custom classes are your anti-Titan weapon, a tactical ability, grenades, and your kits, which are passive abilities. There are two anti-Titan weapons, the Archer and the Sidewinder; the Archer is a strong lock-on launcher, the Sidewinder is a rapidfire mini-missile launcher. The two tactical abilities are active abilities that are activated with Left Bumper; the Tactical Cloak and the Stim. The Cloak is really strong against Titans and the A.I. but less so against players; the Stim lets you run, jump and wallrun much faster – could get you out of trouble in a hurry. Again, there are two grenade types – a standard frag grenade and an electric grenade for hurting Titans. The Kits are a little more varied, and act as passive perks – like having extra grenades, or a shorter recharge on your ability.

Lastly I want to talk about the Titans a bit. They’re a huge part of each match, and I really think that going in I was worried that they would just overpower and unbalance the game, but thankfully that’s not at all the case. Each pilot starts a match with a countdown to their Titan being ready, which can be reduced by getting kills, hits, captures and burn cards. Playing as a Titan really is just an extension of playing on foot – just in a giant mech. There is only one chassis offered – the Atlas, which has the unique ability of Damage Core, which boosts your damage when you activate it. But there are three different weapons that your Titan can equip, as well as two off-hand weapons, and two active abilities, and a few passive ones as well. The weapons are a machine gun, a 40mm cannon and a quad rocket launcher – each plays a little differently, and each has attachments that can boost their effectiveness. Off-hand weapons are either a flurry of unguided rockets, or a set of locked on missiles – great options while reloading your primary weapon. The active abilities include the Vortex shield, which lets you grab rounds being shot at you and fling them back, or the Electric Smoke – a fantastic option if you’re outnumbered to get away, and also gets players off of your Titan. In general the passive abilities mainly affect what your Titan will do when it’s doomed, including a huge explosion that will do some serious damage to anyone nearby.

Titanfall is still a few weeks off, releasing on March 11, so this beta is a great little tease for players and a fantastic way for Respawn to test their end of things. Now that it’s open on the Xbox One, there really isn’t any excuse to not try it – it ends on Feb. 19 so get it quick though. I’ll talk more about it next week, looking more at how I see it fitting in in general with other FPS games, plus a bit more about my overall impressions from the beta.

Dead of the Winter News and Notes

Over the last few years it’s become pretty typical for some big news to come out in February, along with some of the first major releases of the year. Last year, it was the PS4 announcement and Dead Space 3 released. This year, it’s the news that Sledgehammer games is being added as a full developer on the Call of Duty franchise, meaning that there are three different developers working on the series now; and we get Thief in a few more weeks, along with a Titanfall beta.

Sledgehammer Games

I think there’s a few things we can infer from the Sledgehammer news as it relates to the direction of the series. First off, now it’s a three year dev cycle, I think the single player campaigns might get a bit of a boost – longer development time leads to longer, and more detailed campaigns. It’s a pretty typical argument against the Call of Duty games is that the story is an afterthought and tacked on; I tend to disagree with that, but I do think they could do more with them. Hopefully, the extra time for each developer (Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games) will give us bigger stories to play, but keep the trademark multiplayer intact. The other thing that I think we can infer is that this might be an indication that the development time on Xbox One/PS4 games is notably longer than the previous generation. Activision wouldn’t want to risk missing a year with no Call of Duty – especially this year with two major shooters already highly promoted and anticipated (Titanfall and Destiny) so by adding a third developer they ensure that the annual releases are still there, but there’s more time for development. One last thing that I think we can look at here is that I think this means that we might be getting a third sub-franchise within the Call of Duty umbrella. Infinity Ward has Ghosts, Treyarch has Black Ops, which I would bet we see at least one more entry of; but there’s no early indication what Sledgehammer Games will do. They did help out with Modern Warfare 3 back in 2011, so I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to think we see MW4, but it could also be a totally new IP. We just have to wait to see what they announce, which my guess is will happen this spring, probably before E3.

Nintendo

One last thing I want to get my thoughts out on is the Nintendo situation. They announced they expect to take a full year of losses again, and while that’s never good news, I don’t think they’re quite to the point of death yet. I still think the 3DS will do well at least for a few more years, but they need to offer something strong on the console front within the next two years I think to really ensure that they don’t go the way of Sega. I think their woes can really be traced to the obvious lack of third party support, which can be rectified with a strong console offering; but the real issue is that Nintendo’s classic “pillars” have been down of late. Mario is spread too thin, the last two Zelda titles were re-makes/re-imaginings and Metroid has been dead ever since Other M. Donkey Kong has never really been strong enough to carry a console and we won’t see Super Smash Bros. until later this year. There’s still plenty of life in Nintendo, but they really need to look at the current market and adjust their strategies to deal with the current make-up of gamers.