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E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo)

Titanfall steals E3 with a mixture of something old and new

by William Schwartz

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Respawn Entertainment has been cooking something up for quite some time.  The newly formed studio has yet to release their first game, but E3 has given us our first glimpses at what the next-generation of shooters will hold.  Creators of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,  Respawn Entertainment is essentially a large chunk of the Infinity Ward team that left Activision during a massive legal dispute between the popular development studio and mega-publisher.  Their new game is called Titanfall, an Xbox One/360 PC exclusive.

We wrote a very brief write-up at E3 about Titanfall in the midst of travelling between press conferences on the Monday ahead of the convention, because it seemed like everyone was talking about the sci-fi shooter.  The game was on the tip of everyone’s tongue, at least everyone that we were speaking with at the show.  The following day, when E3 2013 opened, we got a chance to see Titanfall behind closed doors on the show floor.  The hype had officially been confirmed.

Steve Fukuda, Game Director on Titanfall, walked us through another portion of gameplay.  This time around, we got a full 10 minutes or so of live gameplay to take in, and it completely confirmed our suspicions that EA has something special in their 2014 release.    So what’s making Titanfall so special?  That’s really a hard question by looking at ten minutes of live play, but it’s most simply answered by the progression we’re seeing in the evolution of the first person shooter. While Call of Duty might have changed the game in many regards, Titanfall is showing that shooters can be a lot more than killstreaks and KD ratios, with gameplay that is not only awe-inspiring but something completely and wholly different than anything we’ve ever seen before.

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Our gameplay demo was described to us a land grab of sorts.  The back story for Titanfall is that essentially there are groups of militias on planets who are taking on massive corporations in a space civil war.  The portion of gameplay that we saw was an online match that had two teams of players fighting against each other to capture areas in a point control style mode, similar to something like King of the Hill.  The action starts off familiar enough.  On foot, you can feel the game oozing with the zippy first person perspective found in the Call of Duty games.  Though this is no flat shooter, “Pilots” are extremely mobile and very agile units, they can jump around the map, scale walls, and get creative with the ways they are pursuing an objective.  Players work together to secure locations, fend off enemies, all the while racking up points like other shooters by completing on-screen objectives.

Where in the Call of Duty franchise players stacked up kills to call in massive killstreak weapons against their foes, Titanfall deviates from this in that players are building towards calling in tide turning mechs called “Titans”.  Once called in, these monstrosities can be either driven by pilots or used as support units.  The two pieces to the Titanfall puzzle blend seamlessly, it seemed like no matter where we were looking, there was always some kind of crazy battle taking place.  Battles between Titans, Titans squaring off against players on the ground, it truly looked like the next-generation of online multiplayer experiences.  More importantly was the spontaneity of the gameplay.  You saw players ejecting out of malfunctioning robots and then leaping through the sky to land on another, you saw players even getting sniped out of the sky while trying to make their daring escape.  It was a game that begged to be played, unfortunately we couldn’t get our hands on it just yet.

While it did start out as an on-foot experience for our demo, we were explained to by Vince Zampella of Respawn Entertinament, that the Titan spawning functions with a countdown timer.  All players will have the ability to call in a Titan, its a matter of racking up points to shave units off of this timer to call them in more quickly.  We asked Vince about customization options and class based Titans, but the Respawn Entertainment head didn’t have anything to share at the time.

Once you’ve called in your Titans and made your successful assault in this land grab mode, the work wasn’t quite done.  What we saw was an epilogue, one that tasked players with escaping from the warzone by securing a transport and defending its arrival.  We saw just one of the many possibilities in this part of the game, as a single pilot hopped to a fleeing transport under heavy fire, escaping by only a hair. We could only imagine what it would be like to be fighting alongside our friends in this online universe when the game is finally playable.

We did find out that the version of Titanfall we saw was running on a PC, but the game will arrive on multiple platforms in spring 2014.  Announced as an Xbox One and Xbox 360 exclusive, Titanfall was easily one of, if not the best game, we saw at E3 2013.  It showed us not only a lot of promise from the developers who’ve been on hiatus for quite some time, but that the next-generation of online multiplayer experiences are going to be even better than the last.

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