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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.

In Titanfall, you have numerous options: Hop across from an adjacent roof, run up the wall to the roof, eject from your Titan and land on the roof, jump off the back of an enemy Titan and chain that into a wall-run onto the roof, or yes, just walk up the stairs. An experienced player can use movement to great advantage here.

Choice. That's Titanfall.

Exploding chess
...Which brings me to Titanfall's similarities with semi-tactical shooters like Battlefield.

Titanfall , for all its flash and visual pizzazz, is an elaborate, explodey game of chess — a series of checks and balances that imbue this twitch-shooter with a surprising amount of tactical depth.

Take the Titan, for example. In any other game, the Titan would be the be-all-end-all weapon — a gigantic robot tasked with destruction. You'd be crazy not to get in the Titan and go all wrecking-ball on the opposing team.

But I rarely got into my Titan. I preferred to leave it on autopilot, so it could follow me around and pick fights while I attacked other enemies or captured areas in Hard Points mode.

The tradeoff is simple: If you get in the Titan, you have full control of its massive firepower. If you don't get in the Titan it's going to act a little dumber about which targets it picks, but you effectively double your firepower. Also, your Titan will draw most enemy fire away from you because it's seemingly a bigger threat.

Or look at Burn Cards. Burn Cards, one-time-use perks that last for a single life, are unlocked after you've leveled a few times. Some are passive abilities, such as one that shoots pulses out into the world and can spot enemies through walls. Others grant you a special weapon, like a sniper rifle that fires exploding rounds. Used appropriately, Burn Cards can alter the tide of an entire game.

My favorite check and balance: Your character has a built-in cloak function that's useful for sprinting across open battlefields or lying in wait at a capture point. When I unlocked the sniper rifle, I triggered cloak and hid on a rooftop. Looking through the scope, I was surprised to see the aiming reticule had disappeared — presumably to prevent exactly what I was attempting.

Like I said: Titanfall isn't Arma 3. It's still an arcade shooter at heart, and unapologetically so. But I was surprised to find that it has a lot more depth than pre-release footage indicates. As a result, players should find the skill ceiling is a lot higher.

As far as progression systems, challenges, meta-systems, and the like — it's all here. You'll spend the first few levels playing as preset classes before earning the right to build a custom class. You'll unlock attachments on a per-weapon basis by completing challenges. You'll make tough calls among a multitude of useful perks. In other words, it's like Call of Duty with mechs.


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