Behind the scenes at Respawn Entertainment, the final polish is being applied to the hulking mechanical form of this year’s hotly anticipated self-styled ‘COD-Killer’, Titanfall. It’s always welcome news when we hear of a brand spanking new IP being made ready to enter such a corpulent and festering market, particularly when the title looks like it’s got the stones to compete with the big boys that too often suffocate and stifle possible pretenders to the FPS crown with their near ubiquitous household names.
But it’s a new generation, and the times are changing. We’ve had Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts, and enough fanboys for both duking it out over the finer points redeeming each, but the promise of Titanfall lies not just in its technical proficiency, but in its apparent drive towards progressive gameplay and innovation within the genre.
Being created by a team home to some Infinity Ward veterans, including two co-founders, Jason West and Vince Zampella, cast out from the Activision stable in 2010, Titanfall undoubtedly has a wealth of experience behind it, and perhaps even a cause. Mere speculation, of course, but let’s just say if I’d been fired from a company I’d had a hand in founding and then a few years later found myself squaring up to go toe-to-toe with that same company, I’d find myself with some fairly strong motivations and I’d be bringing the thunder, to put it mildly. Zampella denied this sense of rivalry last June, ‘We’re not gunning for Call of Duty. We’re doing our thing.’ (source), so I suppose time will tell, but there’s a part of me that would love for Respawn to come out swinging when the Titans drop on March 14th.
Console Monster will be attending a London event for Titanfall over the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled for our report, in which we’ll be delivering the lowdown on how this machine’s gears grind and some thoughts on how it may fare against the established order.
Until then, a recap of what we’ve seen so far!
In a polarising tweet it was announced that the game will be capped to 12 human players, so 6 vs 6. Whilst this might seem like a regressive step, apparently moving away from the nightmarish dream of massively multiplayer online warfare, the condensed player numbers will prevent Titanfall from becoming a chaotic and unplayable mess, allow for more focussed squad-based tactical opportunities and ease cooperation with team mates, which too often becomes a logistical nightmare in online shooters on a larger scale. Happily, the 12 human players will be supplemented with AI fighters to maintain a sense of scale and improve the experience’s capability for immersion.
An exciting element of the gameplay, and one that is immediately apparent from the footage we’ve so far seen is in player movement. Titanfall looks set to offer a welcome departure from the cloying, boggy and predictable environments often seen in today’s big sh’mups, and it seems to be attacking this through interesting innovations in how players are to navigate the maps. Whilst the Atlas and its super-tank cousin, the Ogre seem to have sacrificed much of their manoeuvrability for firepower and strength, the Stryder class of Titan promises to combine speed and agility in its attempts to outclass and outwit opponents. When on foot, the mini-jetpacks that players are to be equipped with allow for cross-map free running overtures, alongside double jumps, and this function should open up the maps, making high vantage points more easily accessible and improving the dynamics of gameplay in a broader, general sense.
Both in-Titan and on-foot gameplay have their benefits and should also reduce the game’s sense of repetition and as its demands on the player vary, so should the kind of fun to be had. Titanfall therefore has the potential to be a veritable selection box of carnage for those whose gaming tastes err on the side of the kaleidoscopic. From the footage seen so far, all of this looks absolutely brilliant aswell, running on a heavily modified version of the ever-conquering Source engine and if pulled off correctly Titanfall looks to be a comprehensive assault on the senses.
We’ve been shown that there will be a range of pilot classes available to play, which I assume will fit broadly into the usual class kits, but this element of choice in conjunction with a range of Titan class types should provide ample opportunity for squad-based fine-tuning and interesting balance combinations to find the strongest possible team composition.
A taste of Titanfall early E3 2013 Gameplay
That Titanfall eschews standard shooter practice to focus on being a purely multiplayer title might rankle with the old guard and the friendless escapists out there, but indicates that what we’re to be offered will be tightly honed and focussed, and shouldn’t suffer from an excess in diversity. The small(ish) team of around 60 people at Respawn will undoubtedly have worked in a close working environment, and that they’ve not been separated and delegated to work on a variety of subsections to the game should, with a little luck, mean that Titanfall delivers a distinct flavour and personality, rather than a disparate miasma of loosely woven content. Sometimes it is better to do one thing, and do it well, than to spread one’s efforts too thinly, particularly in this industry. Vince Zampella, co-founder at Respawn explained the choice to ditch a campaign mode:
We make these single-player missions that take up all the focus of the studio, that take a huge team six months to make, and players run through it in 8 minutes. And how many people finish the single-player game? It’s a small percentage. It’s like, everyone plays through the first level, but 5 percent of people finish the game. Really, you split the team. They’re two different games. They’re balanced differently, they’re scoped differently. But people spend hundreds of hours in the multiplayer experience versus ‘as little time as possible rushing to the end’. So why do all the resources go there? To us it made sense to put it here. Now everybody sees all those resources, and multiplayer is better. For us it made sense’
Though there will be no specifically single player campaign mode, it’s been said that the story and narrative elements will still find a home in Titanfall, integrated instead into the Multiplayer. Though MP-only the story orbiting the two warring factions of M-COR and the IMC will make itself distinctly present within the multiplayer experience. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how this streamlined blending of the two, which eschews standard practice, ends up delivering and whether it can still provide a gripping narrative amidst the unruly chaos of the online arena.
For now, until we get our hands dirty and our feet wet with Titanfall, this is all optimistic conjecture, however we look forward to bringing you a rusty scoop of bullet-riddled goodness as soon as we can. It’s a tough market for Titanfall to enter: tarry not for here be dragons. Though if the game delivers on its potential, perhaps I might find myself musing, instead, ‘tarry not for here be dragons, but worry not, for here be Titans too.’