I wouldn't treat this as a review, but definitely a first impression, considering what I had access to was limited. Also, keep in mind the game is not due to release until March 11, so some change may happen. With that said, I cannot see much of the game changing between now and then, as it is less than a month away. It is probably more accurate to call it a demo than a beta anyway.
I don’t think that it is unfair for me to categorize Titanfall in a similar realm as Call of Duty. Call of Duty is very much an arcade-style shooter, where running and gunning. Titanfall facilitates it in a similar way with things like low-recoil. It is probably even more accurate when comparing it to an FPS like Counter-Strike, where patience plays a far larger role. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering much of Respawn Entertainment used to be Infinity Ward.
That is not a criticism towards Titanfall at all either. I had the biggest grin on my face when I was running along walls, hurdling over objects, and jumping from buildings on my way to find the next person to take out. It was extremely fast paced, which when you include the unique mobility you have as a player (and of course the Titans), facilitates a great level of enjoyment.
There is essentially never a dull moment. Each match I played seemed to be full of both bots and players, which took me by surprise because I killed four of those “grunts” as they huddled together in a doorway thinking I was pretty good. It was not until I saw the scoreboard that I saw that number is, not meaningless, but far less important.
I think the AI bots play an important role in the game considering the amount of players on any given map (at least in the modes I was limited to) was quite small. They act more like the fodder you would find in the waves of enemies in something like Dota 2. They are a way to keep you engaged on your way to finding the next player or Titan to kill.
With that said, they are essentially boring. I never had a problem with any of them, as their AI was not that great – in terms of them wanting to kill you. There is a little variety between them, but they don’t seem to do a lot. I think they are a missed opportunity to add another level of complexity to the game.
They do play a role in getting your Titan to “fall” however. Every kill you get, be it grunt, player, or Titan, reduces the amount of time you have to wait until you can deploy it. Basically everything you do is to get that number down so you can then hop in your Titan.
That is most definitely not the case.
I was genuinely surprised at just how vulnerable Titans are. It seems to me that the biggest threat to a Titan is not another Titan, but the enemy “pilots” (players). Each player has a designated weapon used against Titans to inflict a lot of damage. If you leave yourself exposed, you can quickly have your Titan destroyed. In addition to that, it is not that difficult to jump on an enemy Titan and begin shooting it down.
Just as there are multiple loadouts for your actual deployed pilot, there are multiple for Titans as well, which I think adds an extra depth to the game. It should be noted that in the beta we only had access to one type of Titan, which had multiple loadouts. As I understand it, there are going to be multiple Titan types as well, which could add a whole other level we have yet to see.
As for playing a Titan, it feels basically like you are just a bigger pilot. They have their own unique abilities, like the ability to “catch” enemy bullets and missiles to then shoot them right back at your enemy. The key seems to be knowing when to use an opportunity and general awareness of where you are. As I mentioned before, when in a Titan you are very exposed. You become this massive target lumbering about the battlefield. From what I’ve seen so far, the best thing to do is to run in and kill or help someone, then run on out, using the surrounding buildings for cover.
Instead of getting into just more specifics of how I’ve learned to play, I would say that I think there is some great potential for a lot of fun in a variety of different playstyles. You can play both pilots and Titans in various ways based on what you choose in your loadout. That can layer on the variety and force players to make evaluate what they need to do in more interesting ways.
With that said, I also fear that Titanfall could get to the point that it feels a bit too similar each time you play. There were only a few modes available in the beta, and the one I played most was called “Attrition,” which was basically your standard team deathmatch. Each match after a while started to get the same feeling, by which I mean each map progressed almost identically. You would start out by killing the bots and looking for enemy pilots, then when the first Titans start to hit the ground, the game becomes all about them. The objective seems to shift to just rushing down Titans as quickly as possible until the match is over
Also, attrition matches were over far too quickly and didn’t have as much variety in objectives to make it more interesting. Some other incentive besides killing someone would be interesting. However, there are likely many game modes we have yet to see, so I am not particularly worried.
One thing particularly important to an FPS is level design. With the beta, there are only a few maps that I have access to, but from what I have seen, they are quite interesting. And just to mention it, the game does look quite good and each level has an interesting aesthetic.
I think the best way to describe the Titanfall level design is variety. There are rooftops you can be on, windows, ledges, balconies, tunnels, buildings to run through, open areas, bunker-like areas, and more I am sure I am forgetting.
“Verticalization” seems to be a word thrown around a lot as important to FPS level design recently, and I think that Titanfall has achieved that quite well. Not all windows, ledges, etc. are at set intervals of height, but each are different adding to the need for a player to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages from any one spot on the map.
That is what the variety in Titanfall forces you to do – adapt and evaluate your position in reference to all that surrounds you. That is general in a sense to all FPS games to be sure, but I think there is a different element to that in Titanfall when you add the Titans.
For example, I was running through a building to escape from some Titan and I thought that going to a window was a great way to get some quick shots off at the Titan, stupidly thinking I was safe. Next, as I am sure you have guessed, felt like a scene from Godzilla where all you see in the window is his eye. As the Titan poked his head in the window, I was promptly shot down.
To put the level design in Titanfall specific terms, I think it does a fair job. One of the unique things about the game is the movement as a pilot (wallrunning, etc.). However, the few maps I have played don’t seem to facilitate that very well to the point that I don’t have much of an opportunity to do it. That may be deliberate, however. Having too many areas accessible to wallrunning would change the level completely. Players would be able to move throughout extremely quickly.
And, I have not played a lot of it yet, so that feeling may just be my inexperience. It may be best to think of wallrunning as almost a short speed boost on your way to something else, or a variety of other things I am sure. I may just be getting my bearings still.
The level design does a good job of allowing for reasonable Titan movement as well. As mentioned previously, you can feel really exposed as a Titan. The few levels I played had a good amount of avenues I could run down and buildings to hide behind if I felt it necessary. Even then, with all the quick mobility that pilots have and how fast Titans are, you can’t hide for long.
I guess to sum up the feeling of playing Titanfall, nowhere felt safe. I always felt the need to be on the move going somewhere or doing something. It was either that or have someone run into me and take me by surprise.
As for campers/snipers, I think that the Titans themselves act as a way to weed those out and discourage them. Of the levels I played, just about everywhere except the internals of buildings and the very top of some rooftops was visible by a Titan. So, if you see an enemy in an advantageous position sniping down people from some ledge, a Titan will likely be able to dispatch them quickly. And if they choose to stay in areas where Titans can’t reach them, I think the traffic will be far too frequent (in the buildings), or nearly nonexistent (the rooftops).
Overall, I see great promise. I haven’t been excited to play an FPS for quite some time. Titanfall elevates the Call of Duty style running and gunning into something entirely unique, which I haven’t really seen before. The ability to move about the map in a fun and unique way, along with the additions of Titans makes the game feel fresh, new, and unlike anything I’ve ever played.
So you could say that my first impressions are quite good.