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Eurogamer Expo 2013: Titanfall hands-on preview

Eurogamer Expo 2013

Winner of multiple E3 awards this year and receiving promising previews across the board, it was now time to get some hands-on preview time with Respawn Entertainment’s debut title Titanfall myself.

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“Instant gratification”Prior to engagement we were to be sat down and shown a video demonstration that explained the central mechanics and objectives. However, before that could happen they needed a single person to jump the rest of the queue to fill up a last remaining station on the next game about to commence. I happily volunteered.

The start-up loadout screen offered three separate classes and Titans. With the shotgun a personal weapon of choice, the CQB (close quarters battle) loadout and heavy firepower Titan were quickly selected. We were then deployed into the fray.

The pre-alpha demo placed two teams against one another in a futuristic metropolis area called Angel City. The mission opens in a campaign manner with the setup and end goal delivered via voiceovers from command headquarters. We had to secure and hold the area from enemy forces.

Straight away the match kicked off and there was an instant gratification. Through knowledge of the first-person genre it was simple enough to pick up and jump in. The movement is slick, athletic and every element coalesces together to birth a real showstopper. The onscreen display is filled with information but never overloading. You know as soon as you’re in danger and where to be. Not once did I think “this is just another first-person shooter”. For a demo to leave as strong an impression in the opening minutes is hard to accomplish on a heaving convention floor.

Graphically it’s clear this has not been designed to be a screenshot powerhouse. The core philosophy is speed, accuracy and clarity. To that end Respawn has achieved its goals. Aiming is responsive and tight. It belts along at a satisfying pace without causing confusion or covering the screen in visual effects.

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“Rewarding sense of bravado”As a ground soldier you can run, jump and sprint across walls before leaping off onto adjacent buildings. By using the terrain you’re able to avoid the Titans whose firepower and defence is far superior. Sprinting down side streets I leapt over a fence, darted off my feet, wall sprinted, lifted myself over a wall and caught onto a Titan who was using missile attacks from safe distance.

Climbing onto the Titan’s back – this is auto-controlled – the power hatch is ripped off and the internal wiring is exposed. A clip of shotgun shells were unloaded into its mechanical brain and a clear warning signal flashed up. The Titan was about to explode. Jumping from the machine I sprinted into a nearby building to watch it blow.

It’s brilliant. These scenes are neither a rarity nor a final climatic scene. The rewarding sense of bravado it imbues the player will encourage the ‘one last go’ mentality that Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer was able to achieve.

The Titans themselves are more agile than expected. They are not the traditional walking, hulking tanks. Their restriction comes from being grounded. This is their weakness. It allows soldiers on foot to use the surrounding environment to gain the advantage and attack from all angles. The Titans can retaliate through being bullet sponges and returning high-powered artillery. Stalking the streets in my Titan enabled me to easily dispatch of the enemy whenever they failed to take cover or use the rooftops for a quick escape.

The inclusion of AI controller soldiers that mix in with the real players isn’t a new concept but is one that shouldn’t have fully gone away, and it’s used with a slight twist. Rather than AI controller bots to replace missing players, generic soldiers will be deployed that you’ll gain experience for defeating during the skirmishes. It allows newcomers to feel empowered without discouraging more advanced players. A simple and appropriate balance that doesn’t discriminate any player ability.

Having a playable demo this early before release, in comparison to Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs that wasn’t available for hands-on and releases 19th November, is a statement of confidence. One that from my short preview time is completely valid.

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The hands-on preview flew by. Multiple Titans were dropped, opposing ones destroyed. Walls were scaled and the trusty close encounters shotgun came into use repeatedly. The scoreboard came up and we were victorious, my soldier topping the leaderboard. It was fast paced and furious. It’s too early to call it the true predecessor to Call of Duty 4 but it sure felt like Infinity Ward of old. Titanfall will drop spring 2014 and is unlikely to disappoint.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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