Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Titanfall Beta Impressions

It's good. Extremely good.

There are things about Titanfall that I haven't liked that much. The most egregious: once one team gets rolling, it can be very hard to stop them (since having a gang of Titans rolling around can be hard to break up,) so some games can snowball pretty quickly if your team isn't on top of things.

There are also some hiccup-y behaviors with how the pilots handle in terms of jumping and trying to navigate around walls. There are times that the parkour logic seems to get confused, so instead of doing a sick wall jump you end up just kind of bouncing off the wall and fall straight down. The automatic parkour logic also gets funny sometimes when you try to jump through windows - I think the logic "catches" on the window edges and tries to get you to wall jump, so instead of leaping gracefully out of a window you end up kind of sticking to the side of it for a second.

The two maps featured so far are awesomely designed, but Fracture seems like it can lead to an all out stomp-fest faster than Angel City. Because the map is so open, Titans are really dangerous and it's harder to get the drop on them. If the opposing team gets a Titan pack together on Fracture, things can go south very quickly.

However, none of that really matters to me, because the good moments of Titanfall are absolutely amazing.

For every one glitched up parkour moment, I've had a dozen where I've glided gracefully through a level, navigating it as I see fit. For every imbalanced, one sided fight I've been in, there have been plenty of moments during that fight where I felt like a bad-ass. For every hiccup with the wall jumping logic, there have been a dozen moments where it works flawlessly.

Titanfall works because it's not a game of small things. Don't get me wrong, the small things still matter, and they're handled well. What I more mean is that this isn't another iteration of one of the big franchises; a game where the reason to play are the handful of things that were tweaked from last year's version.

Titanfall is worth playing because the sense of freedom of movement is astounding, and I've played precious few games in all my years on consoles that has allowed the player to feel this empowered and in control of how they move. Titanfall is worth playing because the two combat systems - pilot and Titan - are very well integrated, flow together seamlessly during a match, and actually balance out against one another remarkably well (considering its a dude versus a gigantic robot.) Titanfall is worth playing because the Titans feel like giant robots: powerful, momentous, and imposing, but they're easy, intuitive, and fun to control.

Titanfall is worth playing because its the first genuinely new arcade-style shooter experience in a decade, and it's not just an incremental upgrade to an existing template (every other FPS has been iterating on some variant of the Modern Warfare formula since it blew up the scene.) Titanfall has an interesting setting, far removed from the "modern day give-or-take" setting that's supremely popular right now, and it's managed to do so without falling back into "space marines vs some alien menace." If I'm being honest, it's like a splicing together of the modern warfare and space marine tropes, but it's handled in a way that makes it feel fresh and interesting.

Titanfall is the first game in a very, very long time that I am genuinely excited to play (the last one being Killer Instinct, which is still holding up as a fantastic fighting game.) My time with the beta has been the most fun I've had playing a FPS in a very long time, even if 95% of the matches I've been in have been loses. Its a game that is just flat out fun to play, and that counts for a lot to me nowadays.

Since it is a FPS game, I fully expect the game to run into plenty of moments that drive me nuts, just like it did back in the Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 days. However, if Respawn Entertainment is able to stay on top of bugs and glaring balance issues (the two things that made MW2 a nightmare to play for a long time,) I think the game will do very well; it's a huge compliment that I'm comparing this game to the earlier Modern Warfare games and not the shallow, c+p Call of Duty games of late. March 11th can't come fast enough.

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