Prepare for Titanfall - Hands-On with Respawn's Anticipated Shooter
Post by Joaby @ 04:07am 13/02/14 | Comments
Joab "Joaby" Gilroy was given a chance to take on Repawn's Titanfall in intimate out in Los Angeles recently where he also had access to some of the game's devs. Read on for his full experience with the game...
Watch and listen to a full round of the game as narrated by Joab, embedded above
Most first person shooters put very little value in a player's life from round to round. In Call of Duty the shell of a human you currently inhabit is extremely expendable -- the game is about moving around the map as quickly as possible, and so except in a few modes there's little reason for a player not to die -- provided they can keep their Kill to Death Ratio above 1. In Battlefield dying is sometimes the tactically logical option, especially when your douchebag team mates won't throw you ANY GODDAMN AMMO.
Obviously hardcore simulation style first person shooters encourage players to try to live -- even in more casual games of Arma 3's multiplayer you're still better off alive than you are dead -- but most first person shooters these days have abandoned this ideal.
Titanfall is not like most first person shooters. You are repeatedly encouraged to stay alive at all costs, and for the good of your team (and your score line) you absolutely don't want to die -- for a number of reasons.
Prepare for Titanfall
The Titans you acquire during matches are ostensibly very expensive, though I've never seen their dollar value. They're huge machines equipped with outstanding sci-fi technology -- electromagnetic shield systems that allow you to catch bullets, a huge forcefield to protect them while they're initially vulnerable and infinite amounts of ammo. Everything I've seen of Titanfall leads me to believe Respawn hasn't let a universal internal logic ruin the 'play' of the game, which in itself is the sort of logical framework through which Titanfall works.
Still, despite the fact that these massive mecha are apparently constantly readily available, players are still encouraged to keep them alive at all costs -- though as I mentioned this is done via gameplay, not storytelling.
It takes four minutes for Titanfall to be ready, from reset to drop, but players can reduce this time by completing objectives and dealing damage to enemies. Grunts -- AI enemies that aren't pilots -- are perfect fodder for this, as they're simple to kill and they knock off stacks of time. Obviously there's a question of efficiency at play here -- the more time you spend dead the less time you can spend killing grunts and completing objectives.
But it's not until you enter the Titan that you see the immediate benefit to staying alive. The Atlas Titan we were playing with possessed the Damage Core -- each Titan has a different Core -- which allowed it to deal a significant boost in damage as it fought around the battlefield.
The trick with the Core system is that they don't activate until you've spent some time in your Titan. The Core system works on a timer much like the Titanfall one, except instead of four minutes you have a 200 second countdown. As with the Titanfall timer you can reduce this by dealing damage to your enemies, dragging it down to something more manageable than three minutes and 20 seconds, but you need to balance this destruction-dealing with keeping your Titan alive and healthy. If you unlock the Damage Core in under a minute but your shields are depleted and your Titan's nearly dead, it's not much use to anyone.
Once activated the Damage Core is on a quickly depleting metre -- one you can build up again as long as you keep shooting things. A Titan with a Core activated is at its most powerful, so you will then want to take the machine into combat areas to make use of it.
It's a very clever way to get players to fight while also trying to stay alive. It's not the only way players are encouraged to live for as long as possible, however.
Playing with a full deck
The persistent character system wasn't pioneered by Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but it would be tough to argue it wasn't perfected by it. The way the game encouraged players to indulge in 'just one more game' was revolutionary at the time. You were always earning something, always moving closer to your goal -- the next level, the next gun, the next attachment - and so it was easy to lose hours to the game.
It's odd, but games that had tried persistent character progression earlier would later find themselves learning keen lessons from COD4. World of Warcraft gradually allowed players to level faster. The Battlefield games gave players more options and grander reasons to level up. Call of Duty 4 changed how we play games.
The Burn Cards system in Titanfall is the proof this wasn't just a fluke. Respawn Entertainment are just as capable as they ever were as Infinity Ward.
In my brief time with Titanfall last week I leveled up 10 times, occasionally earning multiple levels per round. The quality of my play was above that of those around me in most cases, but the results would have been the same for them in many cases anyway -- most people would have earned at least five to six levels before our short time with Titanfall had ended.
This means they'd have earned an extra Pilot and Titan loadout, they might have unlocked custom classes and, if they went just a few levels more they'd have access to Burn Cards and Challenges -- mini-Achievements players can use to earn extra XP and more Burn Cards.
With Titanfall, Respawn has given players not just characters to customise, to dress up and kit out, but giant robots as well. And more than that they've added a Collectible Card Game into the mix -- though there's not yet any indication that players will be able to trade those cards.
Burn Cards are a pervasive addition to the persistent character system we've all come to enjoy because they introduce an element of RNG into the mix. Battlefield 4 tried something similar with its Battlepack system, tying random rewards to playtime, mini-achievements (like kill numbers) and more, but Burn Cards are different. Where Battlepacks are alternative ways to unlock certain upgrades for weapons -- as well as cosmetic changes for your soldier - Burn Cards are "one-and-done" style items you will be constantly losing and replacing.
Once unlocked Burn Cards are placed in one of three possible slots available to the player in-game, and what they accomplish varies on their type. One card might allow your Pilot to jump higher or move faster while others give you a reduced delay on your Titanfall. By the end of my play session I had a heap which swapped out my default weapons for other, more powerful alternatives, and putting them into use during rounds seemed to be highly effective.
The trick of the Burn Cards is that once a player dies the card they had in play gets burned -- it's gone forever. To get it again, they either need to play the RNG or earn it -- if it's a card players can earn via challenges.
Because the emphasis in Titanfall is firmly on the player doing their best not to die at all, there's rarely any reason to not burn a card -- if you have cards available it makes sense to burn them and try very hard not to die. If you can manage it, burning a card and then not dying before the round ends allows you to keep the card - a very important factor if you burn one of your better cards.
Of course, it's inevitable that players will die while playing. In multiplayer games you're always either the pigeon or the statue, and Titanfall is no different. Every round I had with 10+ kills and three or less deaths logically meant my opponents had not many kills and a shitload of deaths. Nevertheless, the way Titanfall reshapes the way players think is very persuasive.
In my previous hands-on from Gamescom I said I'd welcome a new age of first-person shooters featuring humans and robots. I stand by that statement, but let me add -- if Respawn wants to drag us from the throwaway style of deathmatch they basically pioneered with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and into an era where players take care with their lives, I'm on board for that too.
Deus Ex, GTA: Vice City and DayZ.
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