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Titanfall hands-on preview: Surprisingly deep robot-on-robot violence

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 13, 2014
I'm being chased. I can't see the enemy, but I can hear it crashing through the streets mere seconds behind me. I vault through a window, then through a burned-out floor to a second story landing. I jump from another window to an adjacent rooftop, careening across the metal and concrete of this industrial landscape.

The gathering of journalists played three different modes: Attrition, Hard Points, and Last Titan Standing.

  • Attrition tasks you with killing enough enemies to reach a score limit — similar to a Team Deathmatch mode, except that there are fodder AI enemies in the mix. Scoring is tiered based on difficulty. Basic grunts, for instance, are worth a single point, while player-controlled enemies are worth four.
  • Hard Points is similar to Battlefield's Conquest mode, with multiple points to capture and hold, except your team is filling a meter over time instead of decreasing the enemy's ticket count.
  • Last Titan Standing is — as you probably guessed — a duel to the death between two teams of Titans. If your Titan is destroyed, you can eject and still participate in the game on foot, but ultimately whoever pilots the last Titan wins the game for his or her team.

You may have heard the dismissive description of Titanfall: "It's just Call of Duty with mechs."

On the one hand, it's not a bad description. If you've put a lot of time into the Call of Duty franchise, your fast-paced arcade-shooter skills will come in handy here. The game's not quite as twitchy as Call of Duty, but this is not a bide-your-time game like Arma 3. Sprint into the fray, shoot as many enemies as possible, die, mash the respawn button, get back into the action. It's definitely frenetic.

But oh, it's so much more.

Titanfall is essentially the point on the map where three very different types of shooters meet: your modern Call of Duty-esque arcade shooter, your fast-paced retro shooter (a la Quake or Tribes), and your semi-tactical shooter (Battlefield).

New meets old
Movement is important in Titanfall. It's one of the first things you notice when you play the game — how easy it is to leap across rooftops, or chain wall-runs together to traverse seemingly inaccessible areas.

It's funny that an increased focus on movement feels like such a new thing nowadays, because it's actually a very old and well-tread argument. In older shooters — Quake, Unreal Tournament, Tribes — movement was key: Double jumps, rocket jumps, and skiing were all part of a competent player's arsenal. But over the course of the last decade or so, movement fell out of fashion in favor of an increased focus on realism.

Titanfall's movement feels new, but it's in large part a return to that older philosophy. The game is fast, hectic, and all about verticality. If a sniper is camping out on a nearby rooftop in Call of Duty, for instance, you're going to walk up the lone set of stairs leading to the roof and hope you don't get killed along the way.

 

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