Let me get this out there first and foremost, if this beta has been any indicator of the final product’s quality, Titanfall will live up to all its hype and then some. I spent many hours over the past weekend with the beta, and I enjoyed every single one.
The first thing that stands out about Titanfall is how combat consists of switching between your pilot (human operator) and your Titan. At first glance, one would assume that it is better to spend all of their time in a Titan. After all, you’re enormous with a ridiculous amount of firepower. Why would you ever want to be a lowly human? Well, if that is your initial thought about the paradigm, then you are sorely mistaken.
Both types of combatants are well-balanced. Titans are not indestructible, and Pilots have many ways to eliminate them. Likewise, Titans can take out Pilots in various ways, though these methods are more conventional and predictable: shooting at them and stomping them (the big bullies that they are). Pilots, on the other hand, are equipped with Anti-Titan weaponry designed to do massive damage to Titans. Moreover, Pilots can jump atop a Titan’s back and sabotage it like a flea on a dog. However, do not let me confuse you: Titans are very powerful combatants and do not go down easy. My point here is simply that Titans are not indestructible and can be brought down by even tiny little humans, giving both sides a solid amount of worth and merit on the battlefield.
Another point of note regarding these two combatants is how fluid it feels switching between them. Both Pilots and Titans have their own unique goals and talents in battle, but that does not make transitioning between them a rocky experience. Taking command of your Titan is not an entirely at-will experience. You can only take control of your Titan when it is ready to enter battle. You enter battle as a Pilot, with a timer and mission control reminding you of when your Titan will be ready for deployment. Though this time is influenced by a number of factors, expect to wait approximately 3 minutes between Titan falls. (Heh.) At that point, you are free to call your Titan whenever you want. But once you do, you only have it until it gets blown to smithereens by opposing players. Then, you will have to wait another few minutes until your replacement Titan is ready. And so the cycle repeats itself. So essentially, unless you’re really good, you will spend a healthy amount of time playing as both a Pilot and a Titan. Still, both combatants are very enjoyable and neither breaks the balance of power between one another.
A fun spin that Titanfall brings to the FPS genre is that not all Pilots nor Titans are built the same. While options were naturally limited in the beta, it seems as though there will be a good amount of customization available. More importantly, there appears to be good variability in terms of combat abilities. Pilots have a variety of gun types available to them, but, more notably, they also have a set of ordinances at their disposal. Think of ordinances as just special powers or abilities. Powers can consist of invisibility cloaking and faster health regeneration and movement. Similarly, Titans have defensive abilities such as a Vortex Shield or a smoke cloud, both of which have their particular uses. And, as you might expect, they also have varying ways of making things go boom.
But of course, no game is made perfect, and I did find some flaws with Titanfall. The maps in Titanfall are enormous (beautifully-detailed and designed, but still enormous). Moreover, the 6v6 combat scheme allows for only 12 player-operated Pilots on the map, the rest of the battle being occupied by bots. Now, I don’t think either of these is a problem considered individually and independently. The problem arises when they are taken and considered together. Because of the few combatants over the grand scope of the maps, most of the figures you will be shooting at are bots and NPCs. This is due mostly to the fact that, to fill up the map, there are more bots than there are opposing players. Simply put, you are more likely to come across the bots than you are other players. Without a doubt, I find this disparity between map size and amount of human players to be Titanfall’s most annoying and frustrating feature. It is significantly less satisfying to shoot down bots as opposed to other people, especially considering that this game is an entirely multiplayer experience.
Unfortunately, this annoying and frustrating experience is only worsened by the fact that the bots’ artificial intelligence is essentially nonexistent. Seriously, they are practically brain dead. If you come into their line of sight, they have a pretty noticeable delay in firing their gun. Considering that you can only take so much damage before respawning, I think it’s notable that you can storm a room and take out three of them without so much as even a scratch to yourself. Still, the low AI does provide for an interesting entry point for players unfamiliar with the FPS genre. Taking out bots still earns you points and probably gives you a feeling that you’re actually doing something. For a game that seems to be attracting a lot of “hardcore gamer” attention, it is important that Respawn include a mechanism by which even inexperienced players can feel like they are contributing to the team.
Still, don’t think that my criticism on the map sizes, bots, and AI is indicative of the game’s overall quality. Titanfall is still an incredible game and seems to have rightly earned its title of King Hype. Put it this way, as somebody who really isn’t that crazy about first-person shooters, I will miss being able to play this game between the two or three weeks of the beta’s end and the game’s official launch.
Standby for Titanfall, launching March 11th for Xbox One and PC, and sit tight for the Xbox 360 release on March 25th.