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Titanfall was one of the great new surprises of the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video game trade show in Los Angeles last week. The sci-fi shooter has cool, next-generation 3D graphics and definitely has a Call of Duty-style feel to it.
That’s no surprise because it comes from Respawn Entertainment, the game studio that former Call of Duty developers Vince Zampella and Jason West founded. The title offers innovative play and a fresh new intellectual property for gamers to enjoy as they make the leap to next-generation consoles. Set in a distant frontier, the game features a war where 24-foot-tall Titan mechs square off against elite mobile infantry known as Pilots. That might not sound like much to you, but this multiplayer-focused shooter has some wonderful characteristics.
The title emerged from a state of legal warfare. In March, 2010, Activision fired Infinity Ward chiefs Zampella and West for breaching their contract and plotting to start a new studio while still working for the publisher. Electronic Arts stepped in to fund Respawn and lock down the rights to its first release. The litigation almost went to court, but the companies settled the lawsuit on the eve of the trial. That left the team with the creative freedom to do what it wanted and compete with Call of Duty.
Titanfall will come early next year as an exclusive on the Xbox One and Xbox 360 video game consoles. That’s a coup for Microsoft, which promises a lot of exclusives in its war with Sony for the hearts and minds of players. Zampella appeared on stage at the pre-E3 Microsoft press event to announce the game. Titanfall incorporates the Source game engine that Valve uses for its releases.
One of the first things you notice is that the game makes use of vertical space. The demo that Zampella showed featured multistory buildings. You could climb up a wall, parkour style, and surprise enemies who think in a two-dimensional way. If you earn a few kills, you can get enough points to jump into a mech, or Titan. Once you are in there, you become much more powerful. You can riddle your opponents with bullets or missiles. And you can jump to the top of buildings much more easily to gain a height advantage.
But the Titans are not invulnerable. Infantry can fire shoulder-launched rockets at the big mechs and eventually bring them down. As a Titan falls, it makes a big explosion. The battle teems with soldiers, including non-player characters that give you the feeling that the game is heavily populated with troops. This allows even weaker players to succeed by getting multiple kills, and it reduces the number of player deaths.
The game is multiplayer only, but it has single-player elements such as a narrative that serves as a backdrop for the gameplay. It’s too bad that the title doesn’t have its own full-blown single-player campaign because Respawn’s team has a definite flair for the dramatic, as you can see in the trailer below. But you will experience story elements during the launch sequences for the multiplayer matches. Each drop into a fighting zone is epically presented, as you jump off of a drop ship and then run for hardpoints. Once you secure the hardpoints, you can set up a coordinated defense. Clearly, the side with the most Titans is going to have an advantage.
The shooter has the same kind of score points and name tags on friendly players as in Call of Duty offerings, but the gameplay is cinematic in almost every way. You can catch your enemy’s bullets with a force field and send them back in the other direction. As a Titan, you can pick up soldiers and toss them. Or you can stomp on them. You can add jetpacks to your feet and jump off the ground in thrilling fashion. You can also run up walls, and get the jump on rivals. It’s very cool when, as an infantry soldier, you can land on top of a Titan, shoot its computer out, and jump off to watch it explode.
I thought the demo for Titanfall was superb and the action very intense. Here’s a video trailer for the upcoming release.