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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.

Joab "Joaby" Gilroy is a huge fan of sports games, racing games, first-person shooters and 4X strategy games. He's awful at fighting and real-time strategy games although he'd love to get better. He thinks the Halo universe is hollow and that Arkham City was the real game of the year in 2011 and that AusGamers' managing editor Stephen Farrelly only gave Skyrim the nod because he is a filthy Marvel fan. His top three games of all time are (in no particular order) Deus Ex, GTA: Vice City and DayZ.

Recent articles by Joab:Find him or follow him on Twitter - @Joabyjojo, Steam - Joabyjojo, Xbox Live and PSN - Joaby, Twitch - /Joabyjojo, Battle.net - Joaby#6688, and Origin - Joaby.

Read more about Titanfall on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Posted 08:38am 13/2/14
No mention of no Aus servers on Launch?
Posted 09:32am 13/2/14
I asked everyone I could and the answers were essentially the same as what we already know. Microsoft provides the servers, not EA or Respawn and they think it will be fine but they hope to have some ded servers in Australia as soon as possible. Essentially - we'll have to see how the beta plays tomorrow.
Posted 10:44am 13/2/14
Such a cop out they don't know what's happening.
Posted 10:53am 13/2/14
Everything looks and sounds so promising of a great game with excellent gameplay, but now that there is the possibility of no local servers on launch my entire hype train has been disassembled. You can not play an FPS on anything above 100ms, it is just impossible to think that this will be fine for a game that relies on precision.

Great preview though Joab, looks amazing and very fast-paced for my liking.
Posted 10:56am 13/2/14
why not? people used to play Action Quake 2 or Quake World on dialup, easily pings of 200+, and those games required a lot more precision then i see demonstrated here...
Posted 11:21am 13/2/14
Different time back then when you took what you could get. We've had a taste of better now. Every missed shot would now be frustration. You can't be competitive with a ping over 100.
Posted 11:25am 13/2/14
why not? people used to play Action Quake 2 or Quake World on dialup, easily pings of 200+, and those games required a lot more precision then i see demonstrated here...

and 640x480 was an acceptable resolution 15+ years ago. We should be beyond this in 2014.
Posted 11:40am 13/2/14

why not? people used to play Action Quake 2 or Quake World on dialup, easily pings of 200+
Because that was 1996 and the people doing that had no other choice. That's like saying why does it matter if Titanfall runs at 240p?, people ran Quake World just fine at 320x240.

Just to clarify to anyone else commenting on the latency factor. Joaby's hands-on with the game was hosted in San Francisco, so we still can't attest to what the Australian experience will be like if there is or isn't any kind of local server infrastructure.

This is the best we can do until the beta kicks off http://www.ausgamers.com/news/read/3412337/from-the-titans-mouth-respawn-addresses-lack-of-aussie-dedicated-servers-for-titanfall
Posted 11:43am 13/2/14
why not? people used to play Action Quake 2 or Quake World on dialup, easily pings of 200+

And remember how much fun it was to play on dialup, against someone who was on cable? Thats the experience you're in for.
Posted 11:48am 13/2/14
why not? people used to play Action Quake 2 or Quake World on dialup, easily pings of 200+, and those games required a lot more precision then i see demonstrated here...
As others have said, comparing older times to now just isn't possible. Also take into consideration how evolved games have become, the need for local servers is much greater with how much is packed into a game that needs to be transferred across every user in-game.
Reverend Evil
Posted 11:59am 13/2/14
Remember when cable first started getting rolled out and anyone who had it and was playing games like Q2 was called a low ping bastard? Like that really hurt my feelings when I was owning noobs still stuck on dial-up. lol
Posted 12:08pm 13/2/14
Ahh the days of leading shots.

Now with client side prediction based on lower ping ranged such as 20-60 sort of area, it wont work as well as prediction based on 200-300ms pings when it comes to playing a game with 150ping minimum.

Also packets traveling over such long distances.. packet loss anyone?
Posted 01:30pm 13/2/14
Yep I'll pass on this too due to no local servers.
Posted 02:54pm 13/2/14
im mad as hell and im not going to take it any more.

Instead of companies passing the buck or shrugging their shoulders we need action.

1st up should be awareness that a 100+ ping just does not work for FPS. That is a broken game. It should totally be a thing. Make it a standard. Right now saying you will get a 200 ping in a FPS is like releasing a platformer game with no jump key or a diablo type game where the mouse wont click. Broken.
2nd: The game makers need to be asked how are they going to make the game work.
3rd: if they cant say how they are going to make the game work they should be made to pull their game from the Australian market. We don't allow broken things to be sold here by reputable companies why should it be different for broken FPS games?

That will get them interested in fixing the situation. Sure it might mean some games just wont come out here but in general its pretty safe to say devs want our $$$. Soon as we start hitting them in the hip pocket they will make the changes to get us local servers ASAP.

This goes for titanfall and any other game that needs a ping < 100.
Posted 02:58pm 13/2/14
1st up should be awareness that a 100+ ping just does not work for FPS. That is a broken game. It should totally be a thing. Make it a standard.

I've played in CS and DoD servers that kick you when you spike over 100ms for ruining everyone elses fun lol
Posted 03:11pm 13/2/14
This isn't a broken game. It works just fine where local servers are available. I think it is a bit rude to sell it in Australia without local servers, some people are going to get burned over this. Buyer beware.

2nd: The game makers need to be asked how are they going to make the game work.

By waiting it out until MS get their servers in Aus, they have said as much.

3rd: if they cant say how they are going to make the game work they should be made to pull their game from the Australian market. We don't allow broken things to be sold here by reputable companies why should it be different for broken FPS games?

They have said it, I agree they shouldn't sell it here until they have local servers.

However, before a final judgement can be made, we should see how it goes with the current system. It may actually defy gaming trends and be playable AND enjoyable with a high ping.
Posted 08:03pm 13/2/14
its nothing like saying 'quake world ran at 320 by 240, why does titanfall need 1080p', what im saying is; i think even with the local server in singapore, that the experience isnt going to be as bad as when we played on dialup. Plus with all the fancy hit detection factors in recent games... and by the looks of the titanfall video, u probably dont need to rail some one from across a 100m map anyways. More than half of joabs kills were all splash damage.

I wasnt saying 'we did this in 96, it will probably be just the same now and thats ok'. All im saying is dont judge until u try the beta. it might not be that bad. Im certainly reserving judgement till then. And yes, australian servers would be great.
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