Titanfall E3 2013 Preview

Respawn Entertainment is looking to change the way gamers perceive multiplayer first-person shooters, moving beyond mindless action and plot neglect and infusing single-player elements into its multiplayer-only title, Titanfall. During E3 2013, I got a look at just how this team made up of Infinity Ward alums aims to use this method to change the way we look at shooting each other in the digital space.

When a match in Titanfall commences, players aren’t simply dropped into a pre-determined spawn point to watch a timer count down until the game begins.  Instead, a prologue cutscene shows the entire team entering orbit via drop ship for the coming battle. Players are given a debriefing by an AI commander and dropped into the map. The team’s objective: capture three strategic points in order to take down an enemy battleship and secure the battleground for your forces.  This scene gives the upcoming fight some purpose aside from running around and shooting things for points and stats, though it is still just a prettied-up way to hide the void that most multiplayer shooters have left in this place.

Combat shown during the hands-off demonstration revealed AI-controlled soldiers fighting on both sides of the conflict. The decision to include these bots is undoubtedly intended to increase the scope and chaos of battle without straining servers with an excessive number of connections. For balance, the game weighs AI and human foes differently, granting only 25 experience per AI kill and 500 for every player kill.

The lesser skill and versatility of the bots will make players feel more significant in battle than than they would in a normal multiplayer game, where the field must be level for all involved. Player-controlled characters can use jetpack boosts, double jumps, and wall runs to more efficiently traverse the map and avoid or sabotage the other team’s titans, while other enhancements like a cloaking device allow for a small aspect of stealth, ambush, and other varied strategies.

Then of course there’s the ability to pilot the titans themselves. These behemoths are spawned on a timer and launched from above by using the D-pad. Once inside, the cockpit closes and the front interior of the mech turns into a massive screen. As constant reminders, the titan’s health is displayed above the middle of the screen, with enemy titan health appearing just above that – the latter bar is also visible when on foot.

Titans come with their own set of weapons and abilities at the player’s disposal. A machine gun for tearing into all foes and a rocket launcher to blow them up come standard; and if shooting ground troops gets boring, there’s always the old fashioned pound and trample option. The mechs can also charge an energy blast from one of their hands at enemies and launch a barrage of bullets in a manner similar to what was seen earlier this year in BioShock Infinite and the Return to Sender vigor. If all of that bores players, they can always charge right up to a wounded titan and rip its pilot straight from the cockpit.

Though powerfully offensive, titans are not without defensive or precautionary measures. One of their key abilities is a shield that can limit some of the damage being flung their way. Should the heat get too intense and the titan deemed doomed, players can eject to avoid the impending explosion. Though ejections can also be triggered whenever players feel bored of using their titans, it’s best to be mindful when doing so as they will become free target practice in the air for any enemy within the vicinity.

No matter what a player was doing in the midst of the engagement – taking control points, leading the charge or holding down a location with a titan, taking said mechs to their knees, etc. – Titanfall will keep reminding them that there is in fact a story weaved around this competitive conflict. The top right-hand corner of each player’s screen will have a video screen pop up frequently with the faces of AI military intelligence characters giving information and instructions on major developments in the skirmish. Surprisingly, seeing the characters’ reactions to the battle helps create a connection with those who inhabit the game world and lends a larger sense of belonging to the players.

When the battle is over, Titanfall’s appreciation for narrative within a multiplayer contest keeps the match going. As with any normal conflict, a losing force – when not wiped out – would retreat and evacuate from the battleground in order to fight another day. This is exactly what happens here: an “epilogue” to the match changes objectives for both teams once one destroys its opponent’s capital ship.

On the losing side, this means holding out until an evac ship can arrive on the scene. Once it does, players have a very limited amount of time to make a mad dash for the ship and get aboard before it takes off. If a player is on the winning side, it’s his or her job to kill all enemies in sight, preventing them from escaping. This gives winners the glory of extra kills as a celebration and losers a chance to redeem themselves with the silver lining of escape and the extra experience points that come with it. It’s also a lot more narratively relevant than showing a recap screen with winning and losing scores before returning players to the game’s lobby.

It’s no secret that FPS multiplayer – or most multiplayer modes in general – had become quite similar to one another in structure as the current console generation matured and came into its own. Many gamers, myself included, have been lulled into a sense of contentment with multiplayer structure, expecting innovation only in terms of combat mechanics and player abilities. As we enter this new generation, Titanfall is showing me that there are more ways to freshen competitive play than I thought possible. Whether or not the game’s new features will have a substantial impact on the genre will be determined following its 2014 release on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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