If you’ve been following the videogame industry for the last few years, you would know about how Infinity Ward co-founders Vince Zampella and Jason West left the Call of Duty developer after Modern Warfare 2 had gone out into the world and broken entertainment industry sales records – a constant achievement for the series ever since.
You would also know that the pair went on to found another company, Respawn Entertainment, before striking a publishing deal with EA and getting to work on an all-new game that many in the industry continually referred to as a Call of Duty competitor, despite knowing absolute nothing about the title.
After working in secret for a number of years (and seeing Jason West’s departure from the project), Respawn and EA finally unveiled the pair’s vision for the future of first-person shooters during E3 2013 with the showing of Titanfall, an Xbox One and Xbox 360 exclusive with PC tagging along for the blazingly fast mech-infused action game.
During an El33tonline-attended presentation of Titanfall at E3 2013, game director Steve Fukuda walked us through a session of the game played by the team at Respawn in a room adjoining our own, separated by glass and bathed in shadows pierced by the bloom of blue and red lights, complete with eerily disembodied faces illuminated by flashes of light from the action on their monitors.
What’s significant about Titanfall is that none of the gameplay or ideas that I saw during the demo were entirely new, per se, but have been collected together from other games and popular culture to form something quite extraordinary.
The basic aim and shoot formula of a competitive first-person shooter remains intact, but what about adding the ability to double jump to get to higher areas and wall-running to effortlessly continue your forward momentum to run towards (and away from) battles? Respawn thought it was a good idea. How about focussing entirely on multiplayer and attempting to imbue the game with set-piece action usually reserved for a crafted singleplayer campaign? Titanfall will attempt it.
And what about the ‘small’ matter of including mammoth hunks of metal, circuits and machinery called ‘Titans’ that players are able to call onto the battlefield and climb into, all the better to wreak absolute destruction on their opponents? Titanfall takes mech-based combat to a whole new and exciting level.
Watch the debut Titanfall trailer:
Titanfall – E3 Announcement Trailer
Set during a future war for resources between the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Militia, Titanfall features the same experience points-based gameplay you’ve come to expect from first-person multiplayer shooters and adds its own flair for unique results. Playing as a jetpack wearing soldier, you’ll begin each mission with a quick cinematic briefing as other players join your game online before slamming into the ground and your battle arena.
It wasn’t clear what machines the team were playing on (either high end PCs or Xbox One), but Titanfall so far not only looks very detailed and sharp with convincing smoke effects, soft lighting, crisp animations and a grand scale provided by dropship activity in the sky, but the game also runs at a very rapid rate which makes the unfolding action that much more impressive.
Chasing an enemy through a series of crumbling buildings by double-jumping your way over rubble and rebar is made more fluid with the addition of wall-running to help you cover great distances in the blink of an eye, effectively getting the drop on your opponents below if they decided to run along the ground. It’s obvious to see that even though they look fairly easy to perform, these manoeuvres will lend themselves to high level play as skilled gamers get to grips with the mechanics.
If Respawn had simply introduced a regular mech vehicle into Titanfall, it wouldn’t have been as intriguing a prospect to play as it is with the team’s own versions of the mechanical beasts. Standing 24 feet tall (over seven metres), the Titans of the game are fast, agile, responsive and incredibly powerful – no punches have been pulled when placing these giants into the battlefield and will be tough to take down.
After waiting for your own personal Titan to become ready (which is based on a timer and cooldown after using it), you can call it down from a dropship before it crashes to the ground at a location of your choosing. Depending on the direction in which you approach the vehicle and choose to climb into it, the machine will scoop you up from the ground or catch you as to jump towards it, and carefully place you in its belly giving you full control of its might.
Everything about the Titan is supersized, from its weapons and movement to abilities and the punishment it can take. You can choose to shoot down tiny soldiers or squish them under your feet, or slam your metal fist into an opposing Titan and snatch its pilot out from the cockpit and toss the lifeless, limp body far into the distance. Using thus far unexplained technology, a Titan can also ‘catch’ incoming rounds of bullets or rockets and hurl them back at its attacker.
You’ll need to be careful, however, because as you’re blazing a path of furious devastation, a sneaky enemy soldier may just hop onto your Titan and attempt to destroy you up close and personal with a few rounds of well-placed gunfire. If your Titan gets beaten up too much, you can either choose to stick it out and fight on until you explode or you’re able to eject yourself from your seat, which means a very quick trip hundreds of meters into the sky, making you vulnerable to sniper fire. If you plan your route down well enough, however, you could find yourself in a better position with a chance to fight another day.
Seeing the action play out between teams of roughly ten people each is a spectacle quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. The intensity and pace at which battles take place was wonderful to behold and seeing skirmishes naturally break out between a group of soldiers and a single Titan stomping around the field is incredible, as the diminutive fighters do their best to outrun and circle the monstrous power of the vehicle by flitting around ledges and buildings with jumps and wall-runs. The Titan’s own speed, arsenal of weaponry and abilities, and agility makes it a truly overwhelming opponent and a set-piece encounter for all involved. Titan VS Titan combat is just as amazing to watch, and I’ve got a small inkling it’ll be crushing to play.
It’s remarkable, then, that the action of Titanfall is all very familiar with numbers popping up after skilful kills and specially performed manoeuvres, first-person weapons bobbing in your view, objectives to claim, and chatter nagging in your ears, but the addition of refined movement capabilities and the ability to call in, control and destroy Titans moves Titanfall a few steps closer to a ‘next generation’ experience than anything Call of Duty or Battlefield has mustered in the last few years, even though it’s possible to recreate on current generation hardware.
While Titanfall was strictly a hands-off affair at E3 2013, I sincerely can’t wait to play the game for myself as soon as possible to put those Titan abilities to the test and skip around the world as a jetpack packing future soldier.
Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment will be available exclusively on Xbox One and Xbox 360, as well as PC, in the ‘Spring’ of 2014.
Enjoy the recently released gameplay demo showcasing just some of the action I was treated to at E3 2013 below:
Titanfall – Gameplay Demo
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