As much as it still made millions and got good reviews, the buzz surrounding the latest Call of Duty game, Ghosts, was lukewarm at best. The game was fine, as usual, but it was more of the same and ultimately it felt from the comments of gamers and to some extent reviewers as well, that the series was getting a bit old.
The timing couldn't have been better, as just around the corner was the reveal for a game from Infinity Ward founders Vince Zampella and Jason West, under the banner of their new company, Respawn. The game was one we've all heard of by this point, Titanfall and by god has it had some hype surrounding it.
Billed as the next big CoD like franchise, with fast paced, run and gun gameplay, but adding in aspects of games like Mechwarrior and Mirror's Edge and Titanfall looked likely to revolutionise the contemporary FPS. It's been designed to take all of the features people know and love from games like CoD and Battlefield, strip out the nonsense and make enough changes to really separate it from its competitors.
That's why you've seen banners like the ones on this very site, saying, “Titanfalll, winner of X number of awards,” and how much critics love it, despite the fact that the game isn't even out for a few more weeks. Titanfall has been praised and awarded and rewarded since it was debuted, but every accolade it's won so far, has been at preview shows and every critical thumbs up has come from a demo.
Fortunately now the beta has been opened up to the public as well as testers, so we know a bit more about what the game will be like when released. The question is, how does it play now? And when it does hit the shelves, digital and retail, will it be able to live up to its monstrous hype?
Conventional wisdom would say no, as when does anything live up to the kind of hype Titanfall has going for it? However if beta impressions are anything to go by, it should still deliver at least a big portion of the experience people are hoping to get from it.
The consensus so far is that while graphically the game is a bit drab, with a somewhat outdated engine and a lack of anything really aesthetically eye catching – we've seen a grey/brown, battlworn city many, many times before – the actual gameplay is pretty good.
The game is quite distinctly split into two separate modes: on foot and in Titan. You begin by yourself, fighting sans-giant-robot, running and gunning CoD style, but with the added ability to wall run and double jump, throwing in some of the features that were a staple of FPS titles back in the Unreal Tournament and Quake days of yore. These have been implemented in a fashion that makes them very easy to pick up and play, but will take some time to master – which is the sweet spot for game controls, especially multiplayer ones.
Everything's pretty fast paced though, even when you get into the Titan's later on in the level, which is something everyone gets to do, but you can get into one faster if you gun down more enemies. This can also be pretty easy since with only six human players per team, you're more likely to run into one of the groups of AI controlled soldiers, which provide convenient ways to pad your kill count.
The AI is a bit of a sticking point for commenters at the moment though, as while they serve a purpose, their stupidity makes them little more than target practice and progression aids. It would be nice to see them smartened up to provide more of a challenge for real players, and then there's all sorts of things you could do with them.
However, as it stands they decrease the learning curve, which overall is said to be much smoother than other games in the FPS genre. Pros can play alongside noobs and both can have fun and perhaps more importantly, can get a lot of play time in, since you aren't killed as soon as you spawn but when you are, you almost instantly get back into the action.
Take that as you will. It might mean that killing an enemy doesn't count for much, but it does mean when you die you don't ragequit because there's a countdown timer. It's a trade off but one that will no doubt be adjustable with server customisation.
As with CoD and Battlefield, there's a lot of upgrades and perks to unlock in Titanfall, which while somewhat reminiscent of the RPG genre's standout feature, is still designed to tap into that part of your brain that feels like you're progressing. Unlock a new weapon? Here comes the dopamine.
It's somewhat exploitative and it seems a shame that so many games have it as a near mandatory feature, somewhat taking away from the clever game design which is certainly present in aspects of Titanfall, like its level design. Unlocks are part of every game now, so those complaining are likely to be very quickly drowned out.
As are any real nay sayers at the moment, but looking at the comments from a lot of players, you'd get the impression that the real proponents of Titanfall are too. In reality, it seems like some of the hype for the game has run off, leaving a much more realistic impression of the game, which is essentially, CoD, plus robots and wall running. That's not exactly a bad thing, but it does need to be put into perspective, that there's a lot of much prettier, much more inventive and much more revolutionary shooters on the horizon.