Titanfall Beta First Impressions
Titanfall of Duty?
While I watched the E3 2013 reveal with great interest due to the asymmetrical nature of the combat and incredible mobility of those otherwise outgunned little army men I was not slavering at the mouth when the Titanfall beta was announced last week. I think that my lack of enthusiasm was mostly due to my knowing the game’s DNA was heavily informed by Call of Duty’s above all else. I have enjoyed every game in that series up until Ghosts, which I haven’t picked up yet, but I have been progressively less interested in games of its style since Battlefield has shown me that slower, more measured combat can be much more satisfying than the no scope head shot fest I had become accustomed to. But after learning more about its mechanics and MOBA-like systems I thought I owed it to myself to try and participate in the conversation instead of relying on my own assumptions to determine my opinion of the game. I know that many previews and impressions of the closed Alpha and the Beta have been posted so I’ll try not to reiterate what’s already been written.
The Titanfall Beta is currently ongoing on both the Xbox One and the PC and will end on February 19th. I don’t have an Xbox One so my choice of playing on the PC was clear. I also missed the registration window of the 15th of February for the Beta but tried my luck and e-mailed EA’s customer service and asked, and received a code two hours later. Simple right? So after downloading the massive twelve gigabyte client I jumped in. Before even seeing the main menu I was thrown into a twenty part tutorial aesthetically reminiscent of Portal, which covered everything from the predictable, press W or the Left Stick to walk forward, and whether I wanted to invert my camera to the more esoteric mechanics of the game like wall running, double jumping and deflecting bullets and rockets with your Titan’s vortex shield. After completing the tutorial you are given access to four different game modes: Attrition, Hardpoint, Last Titan Standing and the Beta Variety Pack all of which take place on the sole map that’s included in the Beta.
Attrition equates to team deathmatch and Hardpoint is a close analogue to Call of Duty’s Domination or Battlefield’s Conquest mode. Last Titan Standing on the other hand is a different beast, and my current favorite. Everyone starts out in a Titan and face off against six other Titans in a fight to the death where you get only one life, and one Titan. The fact that you can’t respawn makes the stakes that much higher, and situations like this so much more stressful:
Low Player Count? Not A Problem.
One of the biggest complaints against the game has been because of the low player count of seven on seven, which on the face of it is shocking. Battlefield 4 and Planetside 2 have, especially for those of us on the PC made us take huge player counts for granted. But you know what negates that problem? Two things. The first are the grunts, NPCs that are comprised of Humans on the militia side and Spectres (humanoid robots) on the IMC side that you can shoot for points, to reduce the time until your next Titanfall and to protect yourself and your teammates as they are capable of killing you if they outnumber you. The second reason is that when you consider the fact that you can get out of your Titan at any time and proceed to lay waste to NPC’s, Titans and other human pilots while your Titan either stands guard or follows close behind you (those are the only two commands you can give your Titan unfortunately) which means you are effectively doubling the player count. The map isn’t tiny but with multiple building size Titans, other pilots and semi intelligent NPC’s running around you won’t ever truly feel alone.
Gameplay Over Graphics
My PC is definitely not cutting edge anymore, but its no slouch, its a Sandy Bridge i7 with 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 6970 GPU to round it off. With this being a Source based game I thought that I would be experiencing Quake 3 velocity. I was mostly right, but I had to disable anti-aliasing and keep the texture resolution one notch down from the maximum of ‘insane’ to keep the game running at a steady 60 frames per second. That being said I was still a little disappointed at the decidedly dated look of the game, textures and alpha effects were adequate, but still gave the world a more baked in than lived in look that even the amazing skyboxes that had gigantic starships criscrossing it couldn’t compensate for. This is a beta after all, so texture and effects work might yet be improved, but I wouldn’t expect gigantic improvements across the board.
Even though the textures and pop in were distracting, the ease of launching a salvo of rockets towards three Titans that are raining rockety ruin upon you, ejecting and landing on the side of a building, proceeding to run along a wall, double jumping through a window parallel to the one you came from, sailing out another window to land on one of the Titans that took out yours that you leap off just as you put one final bullet into its cranial servo makes you forget all about inconsequential things like texture resolution.