Saturday, February 15, 2014

Titanfall Beta Impressions (PC Version)

Let me start this blog with some quick facts about me and my feelings toward the First-Person Shooter (aka FPS) genre as a whole. I absolutely loved many of the games that were known for making the genre what it is today (this goes all the way from Wolfenstein and DOOM to Goldeneye and Half-Life). I was also one of those “oddballs” that loved playing FPS games with great campaign/story modes in them more than multi-player. That always just struck me as something that was simply “tacked on” in a lot of those earlier games, and it more or less was, with a few exceptions like Counter Strike (which still hold up well even now). As we continued to move forward through the years, multi-player gaming slowly started to become a bigger and bigger thing with games like Quake, Unreal Tournament, and eventually releases like Halo and Call of Duty. I was part of the (small) group that never really saw what the big deal was with these types of shooters. I thoroughly enjoyed many of them (Halo especially at the time), but I never quite caught on to why it appealed to the casual audiences so much (ala the groups that would play sports games and almost nothing else at the time).

Now, we’ve reached a point where (in the shooter market at least), multi-player gaming has become the main selling point of a majority of these titles; series such as Bioshock being one of the few and rare exceptions. As such, developer Respawn Entertainment (started by two former members of Infinity Ward) began working on a title that focused solely on multi-player, instead of tacking on a single-player campaign that they felt no one would want to play. I can certainly understand this decision (as they’re correct in that barely anyone plays the campaign modes on those types of games; Battlefield 4 especially), though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed to hear it at the same time. Personally, I’ve always wanted to see an FPS with a world like the one in the Halo games, but with a much more fleshed out story. I suppose that’s just the RPG fan in me talking.

So with all of that said, how did a gamer who generally favors single-player games feel while playing a multi-player only beta? More content than you may think actually. Despite all of my feelings on the FPS market as a whole, I did find myself really getting into the game-play and the world surrounding it. Before being thrown into everything without mercy (like most games of this type are notorious for doing), you’re actually given a brief set of tutorial stages to cover all of the elements of the game you’ll be focusing on. Some of my favorite additions were the wall-run (very reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge) and the double-jump. The ability to grab ledges also added another layer of flexibility to the movement. These made the game feel less like the clunky jumping you’d see in games like Halo, and something a bit more fast and immersive.

You’re also introduced to some unique weapons and controlling of the Titans themselves. Most of the weapons are standard shooter-fare, but the smart pistol is likely going to get mixed results from gamers, and I admit it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. With this, you point your gun at one (or multiple) targets, and it will in fact, fire multiple quick shots, shooting everything you locked on to. Even if you were only locked on for a second and move the target reticule away, it’ll still remain locked on as long as you don’t exit the target range. The only thing preventing it from being really unstoppable is its short lock-on range and the fact that actual (non-bot) targets can dodge it much easier as long as they keep moving, and won’t be killed in one shot like the AI-bot characters. Still, I can imagine some players getting really deadly with this, really fast; especially after upgrading it.

Now let’s talk about the Titans; what really separates this game from all other FPS shooters currently on the market. After a certain amount of time, you’re given the ability to call on your Titan and have it land somewhere near you for entry. When a Titan lands, it has a small blast shield surrounding it, so no one can cause any damage to it while you’re trying to get inside. Once inside, you’re movement is slower, but your weaponry is much more powerful and destructive. Titans are also given the ability to bring up a small shield in front of them, not only stopping bullets and missiles from hitting you, but allowing you to even fire them back at the target that shot them at you in the first place! There’s a limit to how much of this you can use, however (just like the shield in the Smash Bros. games), so it’s important to keep an eye on this.

While these features will give players an edge so long as they know how to properly handle it, there are still plenty of ways to stop a Titan as well. On top of being given regular guns to fire at other players, you’re also given a more powerful weapon to fight off Titans with to help even the playing field. It is even possible to jump onto the back of a Titan and fire at the headpiece from close-range. Once the Titan’s health is depleted, the player has a small time limit to eject from the seat and not get blown up alongside it. Players can decide if they want to risk the extra time attacking more targets, or getting the hell out of there! It’s also possible for the Titan to be destroyed before the meter is depleted if other players can attack it enough.

One more layer of depth that the game decided to add is what happens after a team either wins or loses. Instead of the round simply ending, the losing team is given the chance to reach an evacuation point and escape, while the winning team is told to stop these players from being able to get away. If the losing team escapes, they’ll still get more points despite losing the round. It’s a good way of still feeling like you accomplished something, even if your team didn’t manage to snag the win this time.

One more aspect I’m very much enjoying, is the fact that the game seemed to take a page from the Borderlands series and added RPG elements to the mix. Netting more experience from kills and other feats will enable your character to level up and gain new abilities/types of gear, as well as new builds for your Titan. Add on being able to customize these features, and you’ve actually got yourself a hell of a setup.

Overall, I’m actually very happy with the game so far, and I’m surprised to say that I’m actually really looking forward to its release next month. I’m still not exactly keen on the FPS genre so much, but realizing that this was much more than just “Call of Duty with Mechs” has gotten me pretty psyched to play it with my friends. Hope to see you all there (on the PC of course)!