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Titanfall

14 for 2014: Titanfall

Respawn enters the first-person shooter arena with high expectations weighing on their shoulders. Huge mechs should help shoulder the burden.

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If you were to say to us "Call of Duty with giant robots", you'd have us hook, line and sinker. Turns out that's pretty much what Respawn Entertainment are offering us with Titanfall, and that's precisely why we can't wait to get our hands on the shooter.

In something of a coup for Microsoft, Titanfall has been secured as an exclusive for Xbox One and Xbox 360 (there'll also be a PC version of the game), and so PlayStation fans will have to watch from afar with longing in their eyes and wait for a sequel before they'll be able to get their hands on the fledgling series.

That excitement building around Titanfall is remarkable when you consider that it's to be Respawn's debut title. The reason behind this groundswell of anticipation? Respawn Entertainment were formed by ex-Infinity Warders Jason West and Vince Zampella, whose pedigree in the first-person shooter space is (almost) beyond compare.

It promises to be a shooter fan's dream, combining sci-fi elements with the classic run-and-gun gameplay and bombastic set-pieces that have dominated the genre since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came to prominence and started to influence the design of nearly other shooter that followed (you could even argue that the process started with the release of Call of Duty 2). The key differences between what's come before and what Respawn are offering to players now are the titular Titans that players will be able to pilot in the game.

Titanfall

Earned over time in matches, eventually players will have access to a Titan, calling them down into the map from an orbital drop. Climbing aboard these huge mechs transforms gameplay into something more akin to Hawken or the Mechwarrior games of old. Those still on foot will have a range of movement and mecha-buster weaponry that promises to level the playing field, and maps have been designed so rank and file soldiers can move across levels without touching the ground, giving them an element of mobility to counter the armour and firepower of the Titans on the opposite team.

At Gamescom this year, Respawn's community manager Abbie Heppe eased any concerns we had that being out of a mech might turn you into cannon fodder: "We have found that in our play tests that we end up playing more than 50 percent of the time as the pilot. Being in the Titan is awesome. Calling down the Titan is really awesome. And there's a lot of really fun gameplay that you can do between them, if you start figuring out how to use the weapons in some clever ways. But the movement mechanic with the pilot gets really addicting."

One notable omission is the lack of a single-player campaign. Respawn has decided not to bother with one here, suggesting that it would be a drain on resources for the small studio to have to come up with a campaign that people would only play for a few hours. The main course of this bullet-filled buffet is definitely multiplayer, and that's whether you like it or not (well, if you don't like it, you'll probably not be buying it). Story will still be delivered in-game, via a combination of V/O and NPC dialogue, but it's not a central feature and it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

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"You're starting off in a drop-ship," lead artist Joel Emslie told us at E3, giving us an example of how Respawn are bringing narrative into the multiplayer space. "You're with a militia side. You're going down, your fleet's low on fuel. As a player you're hopping into this drop-ship up in space. They give you the sense that: 'we're really desperate, we've got to go down there. It's very dangerous, not everybody's going to make it'. You warp down, you jump out of that drop-ship, you hit the ground, [and] with boots on the ground you work your way through the environment. You try to really secure the area as best you can for the mission."

Emslie continued: "Eventually you'll earn your Titan - they'll be prepping it up in orbit - you can earn that Titan to come down, and then the game really starts taking off and getting going. And the idea is to complete the multiplayer mission as best you can, win or lose, and get to a drop-ship at the end, go to an evac point. And what we've been trying to do is, we've been trying to secure the area, get to the LZ, and other players were talking to each other and trying to secure it so that everybody could make it out safe. So it's this real smooth experience that you'd expect in single player, but we're giving it to you in multiplayer now."

If Respawn can add meaningful narrative to the multiplayer while capturing the spirit of Call of Duty, and at the same time add something new and exciting to the mix, we might be in for an absolute treat when Titanfall launches in March. There's huge, perhaps overwhelming, expectations building around the game, and considering it's the studio's first crack at the whip, perhaps these high hopes need to reined back in a bit for fear of disappointment, but we're unlikely to dissuade you all from getting excited about this one. Let's just hope it delivers on the promise.

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