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Now that Titanfall’s been out for a few days, players are finally getting a handle on the highly mobile, fluid controls of their pilots and their massive, two-story tall mechs of destruction. Before Titanfall, fans of first-person shooters expected a standard from contemporary shooters: the view down the sights, the addictive nature of the role-playing-esque progression, and fast-paced action. How do you introduce new dynamics to the genre without isolating the existing demographic?
This is an obvious feature of what makes Titanfall appealing, but the effect it will have on fans of the genre is a little bit more implicit than just the face value of “parkour Call of Duty with robots.”
Fans of first-person shooters have perfected their skills over the years. Since 2007, the annual installments of the Call of Duty franchise and other games replicating the successful formula (here’s looking at you, Medal of Honor) have perpetuated a very linear style of tactics and gameplay. Regardless of iteration or title, you can drop into one of these multiplayer games and know exactly what to expect from the mechanics, weapons, and maps. With Titanfall, that knowledge is extremely useful. But by adding a layer of vertical awareness and speed, the game teaches a whole generation of players new tricks, which is extremely exciting for the genre.
After playing Titanfall for the past couple days, I gradually witnessed players adapt (some more quickly than others) to the game’s style, yet others were still stuck in the mindset of Battlefield or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. They became easy marks and points to the more flexible players, who realize that the hanging platforms 40 feet above them lead to better vantages and faster objective fulfillment.
Those unlucky enough to be at the bottom of the gamer food chain don’t last for long. What it takes to be successful in the Titanfall environment is to constantly move vertically, take notes of the environment’s nuances, and give up those instinctual feelings of hanging out in cover.
But there are few moments in Titanfall where you use the game’s advanced double-jumping and wall-running, and it rewards you with some more classic shooter-style situations. For example, in Colony, at the center there is a tall, monolithic tower that overlooks the majority of the map. Getting to the top of this sniper haven is no easy task. It requires a little more finesse than what the game usually demands, but once you reach the top, you can (somewhat) effectively camp and snipe in a full 360 degrees, which instinctively feels like you are playing a more traditional military shooter. Its a nice little nod to old gameplay tropes, and I hope it was purposefully placed there.
Movement is not the only other aspect that Titanfall uses to try to change a gamer’s play style. To reenvision the now-expected player persistence that was popularized with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, developer Respawn Entertainment made every unlock just as important and unique as the previous one. Each choice has a larger impact on the gameplay based on your decisions.
For example, with each installment of the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises (I reference these because they’re what people will most likely compare Titanfall to), the player persistence and unlockable content has become grossly convoluted. It’s either too confusing or too irrelevant. (Why do I need four different silencers?) Respawn made each unlock, loadout, and ability notably different from each other simply by slimming down the choices. My custom classes have a completely distinct feel, and the roles I use them for mix up the game for me rather than making the loadouts all feel like different shades of an assault class.
Titanfall has been out for less than a week, and I expect players’ comprehension of the gameplay mechanics to exponentially increase with time. The matches people are playing in a few months from now will look and play wildly different to how gamers are playing them now, and that is interesting for the overall progression of Titanfall and multiplayer shooters in general.