The temptation to compare Call of Duty and Titanfall is strong, and with good reason—Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment was formed by former CoD devs from Infinity Ward.
But when Jason West and Vince Zampella left that franchise behind them, they also threw away the rule book.
For a game that on the surface looks like Call of Duty with mechs, Titanfall could not be more different. And at a preview event in Los Angeles we got to find out just how different it really is.
Prepare for Titanfall
The addition of those giant armored mechs, called Titans, is not a superficial one. They fundamentally change the game, and gameplay is totally focused around them. As a pilot on the ground, you rack up kills in order to speed up your moment of "Titanfall," when your custom-outfitted Titan is dropped from orbit onto the battlefield.
As part of your soldier's loadout you'll carry anti-Titan weapons like guided rockets and chain guns that shoot missiles. In a one-on-one fight soldiers will usually lose to Titans, but if you're sneaky you can jump on their backs and beat them up from there.
Getting up there isn't as hard as it might be in a different game, because Titanfall is all about movement. That's another difference from Call of Duty: camping is discouraged, and constant movement is key. New abilities like double jumps, wall runs and ledge grabs help with that.
There's also no prone position, so you can't lie down in wait for other players to run by. And pulling up your weapon's sights doesn't auto-aim at the nearest target like it does in CoD, so Titanfall is much more about raw skill.
During the preview we played two levels: the cramped, urban Angel City, and the more wide open Fracture. We also played three game types: Attrition, a standard team deathmatch; hard points domination, capturing and holding strategic points; and a last titan standing elimination mode.
As we gained levels we outfitted our soldiers and Titans with crazier and crazier weaponry and perks, like a "smart pistol" that locked onto other players' heads, Titan-crippling arc grenades, electrified smokescreen emitters, and even defensive boosts for faster shield regeneration.
The ultimate weapon for us was definitely the sniper rifle, though, especially after we traded out the long range scope for a medium range one. The rest of our playtime was spent hopping from rooftop to rooftop capping players from above, putting our Titan on autopilot so it would engage enemies while we sniped. Yeah, you can do that.
That Feeling of Power
The most remarkable thing about Titanfall may be how powerful you feel as a combatant. There are only 12 players in each match, but there are dozens of AI-controlled grunts running around as well. They're easy to pick off, but they don't provide many points.
More importantly, you feel like a god the first time you get in a Titan. They're equipped with a crazy arsenal of weapons and abilities, like automatic missile launchers and a Vortex Shield that absorbs enemies' bullets and rockets and shoots them right back. Titan-on-Titan combat can be a game of cat and mouse, or it can be two behemoths butting heads like stags—or it can be a chaotic storm of metal and explosions as multiple Titans join the fray.
To get some more perspective on all the craziness, we also spoke with Respawn Entertainment Community Manager Abbie Heppe about the game. Head to page 2 to read our Q&A.
Titanfall enters open beta on Xbox One and PC this Friday.
Complex: Call of Duty basically set the standard last gen in terms of first-person shooter controls and mechanics. But in Titanfall there's no snap-to-sights auto-aim, there's no prone—what other kinds of things are you doing differently?
Abbie Heppe: I try to imagine, because I got asked that a few times, what [going prone] would look like in this game, with the movement. And I feel like some sort of extreme version of doing the worm.
Because it's all about moving a lot?
Yeah. It's sort of difficult to do some of the things you would do in other games, like, camping is the example I use. I mean, you can sit there, but you're not going to rack up tons of kills, because players aren't corralled through a couple points. You can really move through the maps very vertically and take multiple paths. So it doesn't have quite the same effect. And also the AI will at some point flush you out.
They're programmed to do that?
Well they will go through areas and they'll follow the course of battle. So they're always looking for players to kill and things to do. And while the grunts are not particularly deadly, a Specter will get you, and it's really embarrassing to get meleed by the AI.
Plus if you're sitting around passively you're not going to earn your Titan drop as fast. How does that progression work?
If you're making kills and accomplishing things you are earning the ability to bring in your Titan faster. You're not helping yourself or your team if you're sitting around waiting.
There are some hidden moves, like the ability to hang on vertical walls for several seconds. What other tips do you have?
One is teaching people to deal with rodeo. When somebody's on your Titan you have a few options. You can use the electric smokescreen to get them off your back. You can get out and shoot them. I started noticing when we've had play tests before that people know now, when you see the Titan bend over, that they're getting out to shoot you. So they'll jump off, and then you get these pilot battles outside of it. But if you're really quick you can jump up and jump-kick them off, which is just comical.
Really learning to use the Titan abilities, though, and to do more than just run at other Titans, and to play with the Vortex Shield and catch people's shots and throw it back at them—like, you don't just want to keep holding it. Wait until they fire at you, catch it, and then throw it back, so you're not wasting your whole meter. There's stuff that you start getting better at, especially as you unlock abilities and other weapons.
But yeah, the hang-on-the-wall one is the one that always gets me. I started doing it when we had our alpha test and I'd go into a thing and I'd see everybody sitting around on the ground and I'd hang off the wall and then shoot at them a couple times so they saw that you're there. And then you'd notice in the next match everybody's hanging out.
Are you going to be able to customize your Titans a lot, like aesthetically?
Not in this game, sadly. But you can customize your loadouts and your abilities so you're always playing to your play style. And there's a bunch of things to choose from that will change the way that you play. Like if you use the quad rocket and the electrified smoke you can do a lot of, like, disappearing around a corner while you fire through since people are held at a distance because it slows them down. And do that so they don't see you and then come around to the other side and attack because they're coming this way.
I guess that gets back to tactics, but there's a lot of fun that you can have with the toys that you get for your Titan and pilot.