Titanfall Hands On Preview: Like CoD on Steroids

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Quake fans: this is the fast-paced twitch-shooter you have been waiting for.

If I had to describe Respawn Entertainment’s upcoming Microsoft-exclusive shooter in one word, it would be speed. I finally got the chance to get my hands on this game at Tokyo Game Show this year, and so far, it has easily been the most impressive thing I have played at the show. The twenty minute demo pitted two teams of six players against one another in the Xbox One version of the game, fittingly, in a futuristic Tokyo-themed map, complete with cherry blossoms and “combinis” (Japanese convenience stores).

Right from the get-go, you could feel the speed of the game. Wall-running and double-jumping as one of the agile pilots does take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the entire map is your playground. Respawn stated that it is possible to get from one end of the map to the other without ever touching the ground, and I believe them. When I started to see the possibilities, the Quake fan inside me, that had been sleeping for so long, started to stir.

You see, back in the day, using techniques such as rocket-jumping and bunny-hopping, players made maps their playgrounds, finding out ways to traverse every nook and cranny to find the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. Then modern military shooters came along and kind of killed that for us, firmly telling us exactly where we can and can’t go, and actively punishing us for trying to find workarounds. Titanfall feels like a callback to the old Quake days, allowing you to go wherever you want, however you want.

As for how the pilots play, I imagine if the Quake 3 Arena team tried to make Call of Duty, it would play something like being a pilot in Titanfall. The game is basically Call of Duty on steroids, taking your basic CoD mechanics (iron sights, grenades, two weapon load-outs) and turning up the pace. Playing as the close-quarters class in particular felt like I was cruising around Q3DM3, hitting those jump pads and blasting people in the face with a shotgun again.

When the Titans finally do fall and you get behind the controls of the game’s infantry-scale mechs, it can make you feel like a God, or a clumsy idiot. Just like getting a tank in Battlefield, getting your Titan doesn’t necessarily make you invulnerable, but if you know what you are doing, you can dominate the battle. Unlike Battlefield though, getting a Titan is not dependent on you simply waiting for one to spawn, but racking up the points as a pilot. The better pilot you are, the faster you’ll get your Titan.


You’d think getting into a Titan would slow the game down, but it’s actually quite the contrary. The mechs are big and powerful, but also quick and maneuverable. They have just enough HP that you can take out an enemy mech with your own in just a few seconds if you know how to circle-strafe like a pro, yet won’t fall so easily to simple attrition. Cool little touches, like squishing enemy pilots who spend too much time near your feet, or ripping an enemy pilot out of his downed Titan as an “execution”, really help make you feel like a badass.

On the other hand, seeing an enemy Titan as a pilot shouldn’t make you run in fear, it should make you think, “how do I take this mother down?” Using the aforementioned double-jumping and wall-running to get the high ground, and literally jumping onto an enemy Titan’s back to blast him where he can’t hit you, is just as cool and rewarding as being the Titan yourself.

Titanfall is a multiplayer only game, but it does have a little bit of singleplayer “flavor” thrown in. Each round is a “mission” complete with objectives and regular voice-over updates from NPCs, and at the end of the mission, the losers will have to evacuate while the winners try to wipe them all out. Either escaping as a loser or stopping the enemy from escaping as a winner will net you a considerable XP bonus.

What I did dislike was the abundance of bots in the demo I played. Since we were only playing 6v6, quite a lot of those pilots I was squishing beneath my giant metal boots were AI controlled bots who would simply run at me with little regard for their own lives. Hopefully, the retail game (at least for the PC version) will allow us have huge 32-64 player battles.

Titanfall is shaping up to the the shooter of the next generation, offering up enough familiarity to shooter fans who wet their feet with CoD, and bringing back the speed of fast-paced twitch-shooters that oldschool Quake fans have been yearning for.

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