So in a haze of misty eyed trepidation, we put ourselves right in the iron sights of the kindly folks that stole our bloody name. Which is entirely debatable, but no we won’t stop mentioning it. Yes, Respawn Entertainment’s first foray finally elbowing its way into existence was always going to be a magical moment; given the uphill struggle it’s taken to get here, but we never expected it to be quite as enchanting as this. We’re kicking off our Eurogamer coverage right at the end, with the Game of the Show.
And why are we doing that? Well firstly, it’s our website and we’ll do as we damn well please. Secondly, though it’d be a lie to say we managed to get to grips with every last game on offer at this year’s EGX, as it appears to now be known, we’ll be putting a good deal of money that we don’t have down on Titanfall cleaning up on the Game of the Show awards. So we’re copying? Nope, we’re dropping to our knees in the light of Respawn’s eminently blaring reverence. Or. Something similarly over-stated. You get the picture. Probably.
During our short time with the game, we died many, many times in the title’s unique (ish) Attrition mode, a gameplay variant that focuses on genially smushing together a campaign style narrative and directional, mission-based objectives, with multiplayer team deathmatch. If the second part of that phrase made you groan then we suggest you crack out the Respawn staffers’ portfolios.
There were two lingering concerns we had with Titanfall prior to playing the game. Firstly; it’s not entirely inappropriate to be concerned about Call of Duty cloning. Considering we’re talking about the minds behind the last CoD that was truly great (the first Modern Warfare), some will consider that very idea sacrilege. Still, we couldn’t help but worry where they would be taking their FPS mastery and how they’d get there with Titanfall. Our next uncertainty regarded those big, clumsy old, tall-standing-lamp obliterating mechs. The heavy-machinery operating elephant in the room. Let’s face it; the giant robots versus tiny people scenario is a breeding ground for cathartic imbalance, and with the Titans woven so palpably into the core of the game, implementing these correctly is make or break.
Fortunately, you’ll be pleased to hear Titanfall is an absolute joy to play. Or at least, the version flaunted about at Eurogamer was. The lithe, gymnastic parkour of the pilots, the timed release of your Titan (as opposed to awarding the mechs based on how good you are at dishing out the bullets) the carefully developed level design and that beautiful, solid, familiar core mechanic that makes just rattling off a few rounds fun, all contribute to what appears to be a masterfully balanced gameplay mode.
The closed urban environment we got to die in somehow handled both gameplay ideals soundly; allowing pilots to leap from rooftop to skyscraper, wall running and boosting about without ever touching the floor, whilst simultaneously giving Titans room to join the fray. Wandering down a seemingly abandoned street to see a Titan stomp into view, ablaze and under heavy fire just a few feet away, before sprinting up a wall and adding your two cents to the piece brings an unforgettable dynamicity to the proceedings of what could have been a rudimentary shooting game. Though it was never going to be that. Really.
In a move of beautiful, simplistic yet ingenious innovation, when a game finishes, the match gives everyone a last ditch attempt at scoring some points. The losing side must all make a mad dash to the extraction point within the time limit, whilst the winning team is tasked with taking out the fleeing opposition. It’s a brilliant example of the kind of in-tune creativity that we have forgotten to expect in a genre so dry and catatonically deprived of fresh ideas. It’s also roaringly good fun, even for the defeated team.
On a number of occasions the button layout, and more specifically the switching between anti-Titan and anti-human weapons (something we needed to do pretty often) lacked an intuitiveness that caused us to fumble awkwardly and then get shot; though with several months of development left, there’s time for such minor, and largely preferential creases to be ironed out.
Lastly, we were playing this latest build on PCs with 360 pads. It looked and ran beautifully, without hinting at frame rate drop, even in some of the more intense, charging-giant-robot-on-fire based moments. That said, with the game heading out for Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC, it’s difficult to say how this early impression will translate in terms of performance. All we know is, the word ‘system-seller’ is being enunciated with increasing clarity everytime we hear from the Respawn boys and girls. Stay tuned to this Respawn for more kids.