March is near at hand and that means one thing: no, not St. Patrick’s Day. Titanfall, of course. Respawn Entertainment’s debut is one of the primary reasons to become an early adopter of the Xbox One and Microsoft and gamers alike are hoping that it pays off. To tease the highly anticipated, online-only shooter, Respawn has released a beta of Titanfall on the Xbox One and PC. After some Microsoft server issues, I was able to get some hands-on time with Titanfall on the Xbox One.
Titanfall’s beta grants access to three multiplayer modes for 6-v-6 battles: Attrition, a slightly twisted version of deathmatch; Hardpoint, a domination variant; and Last Titan Standing, where all players begin with a Titan and cannot respawn. Glimpses into rankings and a challenge system are previewed within the beta. A brief training session will help settle you into the game’s parkour style gameplay.
Many gameplay videos have shown a wide range of fast paced excitement and action within Titanfall. Even with all of the realized action, the game is surprisingly comfortable to play. Pilot control (sans Titan) flows smoothly among the two available maps. Structures aren’t overly complicated to climb or jump between and and movement never becomes a burden, as a pilot’s double jump boost comes in handy. Initiating wall running can be a bit odd at first if you rely on activating sprints with a click of the left-stick. However, it’s simplified if you set your controls to Always On sprint. But you want to know what it’s like controlling the Titans, right?
It’s great. You’ll have a Titan built for you every few minutes and waiting for one to drop to you is one of the more exciting elements of the game. The first 30 seconds of the Titan’s drop will offer a protective shield so you or your Titan can’t be destroyed in an otherwise vulnerable state. From there, there is a few seconds delay until you are fully in control of the Titan. Only the Atlas class Titan is available and it is the
most agile of the announced Titans, but a few variations of the Atlas are available in the beta. While the Titan is a step slower than your pilot, it handles exceptionally well. Since Titans cannot duck or jump, the double jump boost is replaced by a dash feature to increase mobility. One of the handier features of the Titan is the ability to use its AI control. You can ditch direct control and have the Titan protect its current area or follow you. The former can be helpful for Hardpoint. Should your Titan become overly damaged, you’ll be ejected into the air, which, even for a video game, is fairly exhilarating.
Titanfall’s best feature may prove to be its balance. I never felt at a severe disadvantage while on foot as a pilot, nor overly powerful while in control of a Titan. There were only natural disadvantages if I was playing against higher-ranked players with access to sniper rifles, or if I was on the wrong end of a pilot-vs-Titan standoff. Otherwise, there was never an uncomfortable or frustrating part of playing matches. There are plenty of game balancers included in the beta, whether in the form of a tangible feature or a gameplay habit. The Smart Pistol, which can auto lock targets, can be negated by constant movement or a quick fire of the shotgun. A Titan can pound you with rockets, but not if it can’t access the building you’re hiding in. Alternatively, your anti-Titan weapon can be negated with a Titan’s Vortex shield capturing ammunition and spitting it back at you. Many of the features should allow
Titanfall to be consistently accessible.
One gripe coming into Titanfall was the ability for the game to handle over 50 active characters in a match, but limiting matches to 6 human-controlled characters per team. Respawn developers reasoned that this keep the game from becoming uncomfortable and so far, I’ll have to thank them for that. While there are bots around, there isn’t an overwhelming concern that you’re about to be picked off from any angle at any given moment. That element of fear is nonexistent- unless you Rambo into enemy controlled territory, but of course that’s your fault. Bots never feel too cheap, either.
If you’re able to get your hands on the Titanfall beta, I highly recommend you spend some time with it. So far, it’s been incredibly fun to play and with the exception of one in-game hiccup, where the framerate was noticeably slower, I never felt as though I was playing a beta. There were server issues upon the beta’s launch, but once those were address by Microsoft, the game plays smoothly. Should you not be able to access the beta, Titanfall will be available on the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC platforms on March 11, 2014.