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Red dots on my mini-map indicate a group of enemy soldiers in an adjacent alley. I sprint towards a wall and jump at it, run across its surface for a few steps, and then jump towards another building. In mid air, my jet pack engages, and it propels me high enough to grab the edge of the rooftop. I pull myself up the rest of the way, activate my stealth field, and run to the other side of the roof. Just as my mini-map said, there are three enemy soldiers below me, looking in the direction I just came from. I ready my “smart” pistol, which quickly locks on to all three targets, and leap off the roof. Before I even hit the pavement behind them, I squeeze the trigger and score three easy kills. The operator on board a dropship in low orbit above me speaks through my earpiece, reminding me that my Titan will be ready in thirty seconds. Suddenly, an enemy pilot rounds the corner and dashes into a doorway in front of me, unaware of my presence. I pursue the enemy, my smart pistol acquiring the “triple” lock required to take down a pilot, but I catch up to him at the top of the stairway and snap his neck. The voice in my earpiece accelerates the ETA of my Titan – a heavily armed, thirty-foot-tall, mechanized exo-skeleton – due to my proficiency on the battlefield. A large red triangle appears on my mini-map, representing an enemy Titan a few streets away from me. I hop out the window, spin around in mid air, engage my jet pack again, and pull myself up to the rooftop. As I run and jump across the rooftops, I stow my smart pistol and prepare an “Archer” homing rocket launcher to deal with the enemy Titan ahead. When I reach a rooftop with a clear view of the towering opponent, I ready the sites of my launcher until I get a positive lock on my target. Holding this position is easy, as the giant mech is preoccupied with another Titan on my team. My rocket explodes on contact, finishes the enemy off, and completes the preparation cycle for my own Titan. I look at a clear area on the ground below me and tap the side of my visor to indicate that spot as the landing zone for my armored companion. The voice in my earpiece confirms: “Prepare for Titanfall!”
Preparing for the release of Titanfall is exactly what myself, eBash Video Game Centers, and excited gamers everywhere are doing right now. Ever since the game was teased late 2012 and officially unveiled in the summer of 2013, hype for this brand new game has been building and building. Gaming enthusiasts may have anticipated it for even longer, from way back in 2010, when the heads of Infinity Ward – the development studio in charge of releasing Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and its sequels – quit working for their publisher, Activision. What began as a dramatic event, with pending lawsuits and counter-lawsuits claiming breached contracts and corporate espionage, was eventually settled out of court, and everyone wondered what the former Infinity Ward would do next. They created their own development studio, aptly named “Respawn Entertainment” and started working from scratch. Starting with a small group of former co-workers that also quit working for Activision, Respawn grew to a larger studio after signing a deal with publisher EA. Further development funds were ensured by Microsoft after Respawn committed their very first new game, Titanfall, to be a Microsoft exclusive.
Although it will also appear on the Xbox 360 and PCs, Titanfall is considered to be a flagship title for MS’ next gen console, the Xbox One. Due to a strange method of measuring launch windows – the Xbox One was released at the end of November, and Titanfall will be released in the middle of March – some consider it an Xbox One launch title. Some gamers admit that they didn’t purchase an Xbox One yet, because they are waiting for Titanfall. Before it was officially unveiled, the project was only known by its pedigree of its impressive developers. When Titanfall was finally revealed to the gaming media this summer, it gained unanimous acclaim, winning over 75 awards from numerous gaming websites and publications.
Recently, all that hype and anticipation was put in the hands of regular gamers when a beta test for Titanfall became available. Lucky gamers got to play in a closed beta sooner, but everyone had a chance this past week when the beta was opened to anyone with an Xbox One or a PC. In my opinion, it not only met its already unbelievable hype, it surpassed it. I can sum it all up in three simple words: Titanfall IS FUN. Some describe Titanfall as “Call of Duty with mechs” and they are…not wrong. But that simple sounding premise translates into an amazing, adrenaline fueled, competitive, non-stop-action-shooting game. The development talents of Respawn have touched everything: from creative art designs to tight, polished controls; from the parkour-skilled-jet-packing pilots to menacing and powerful Titans; from choosing “perks” and “loadouts” to choosing “burn cards” and individual strategies, it is easy to find something to love in Titanfall. Personally, I enjoyed running and jumping around as a nimble pilot, and setting my Titan companion to follow me as an AI controlled teammate instead of piloting it myself, but I can easily imagine other players enjoying the exact opposite play style or something in between. The beta only included 2 (out of 15) maps and four different game modes, but the final version is supposed to have many more modes. One game mode that I did enjoy in the beta was a contest of simple elimination: both teams spawned in their Titans, but wouldn’t respawn if their Titan was destroyed, until the beginning of the next round. The one game mode that Titanfall will NOT have, is a single player story mode.
Respawn Entertainment explained that, in their experience developing the Call of Duty games, a studio can spend years and millions of dollars developing a single player story mode – that ends up taking 5-6 hours to complete, and then a large percentage of the people buying those games never even touch it. Instead of wasting that time and resources, Respawn is trying something different: merging the explosive action and dynamic set pieces directly into the multi-player-only online game. The so-called “multi-player campaign” mode wasn’t available in the beta, but it’s DNA was apparent: regular matches consist of 6 vs 6 human players, but the maps are populated with a total of 24 “players” per team. The soldiers that gave me “easy kills” in the story above were actually AI characters. Naturally, real players will provide a more formidable challenge, and will be worth a lot more points. Like every decision affecting the development of Titanfall, these AI “bots” are there, really, for one purpose: to make the game more fun.
Navigating the battlefield from inside my Titan changes my perspective: the two and three story buildings that I was nimbly wall running between and the rooftops I was double-jumping across as a pilot, now are simply waist high obstacles for my powered battle armor. But don’t mistake my towering Titan for a slow machine; when an enemy Titan fires a volley of rockets at me, I quickly dash to the side and let them harmlessly impact one of those small building where I was once standing. I return fire, and work my way around a few more buildings to get into melee range. My enthusiasm gets me into danger, however, as another enemy Titan joins the battle, replacing the opponent I just destroyed. The new foe weakens my Titan, and before it is destroyed, I hit the eject button and fly high into the air. I carefully aim my descent, land on top of the enemy Titan, rip off a protective panel, and start firing my assault rifle right into the exposed wiring. Eventually, the enemy machine is destroyed, and my jetpack automatically propels me high into the air, away from the explosion. As I had done moments before, the enemy pilot ejects from his exploding Titan, and flies right past me. While we are both in mid-air, the enemy pilot blasts me with his assault rifle, and I die before I hit the ground. I may be dead, but that was too amazing to be mad! I quickly respawn as a pilot again, and work my way through the battlefield, earning points to Prepare for Titanfall!
Titanfall launches on March 11 for Xbox One and PC, will be available for Xbox 360 on March 25th, and is rated ‘M’ for Mature for Blood and Gore, Strong Language, and Violence.
Update: A special Xbox One/Titanfall bundle has been confirmed: for only $499 (the regular price of the Xbox One) it will include a digital copy of the game.