Call of Duty might be popular, but do you know what it hasn’t got? Robots, that’s what.
I have to admit – I was wary approaching the recently announced beta for Titanfall, the upcoming first-person mech-shooter from developer Respawn Entertainment, a studio formed by some of the creators of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise.
My wariness was due to the tie between the insanely popular military FPS and the studio – I burned out on Call of Duty’s particular brand of rapid-paced multiplayer matches a few years ago and haven’t felt inclined to return to the series since.
But, having loaded into my first match of Titanfall, I was instantly won over.
It does share some similarities with Call of Duty – you unlock new weapons, Titans and abilities by gaining progressive levels, and post-death killcams entertainingly show you which 20-foot high robot or pinpoint-accurate sniper took you down this time – but beyond that, Titanfall is by every mark its own game.
Movement is versatile and freeform – as a pilot you can wallrun and vault a la Mirror’s Edge, and even give yourself a little boost in the air using a double-jump.
The changes are minor, but make a big difference. The Titans are surprisingly nimble, meaning that the pilots’ added mobility skills help them even the playing field.
Matches consist of six players on each team, for a total of 12 overall. However, every player can call in their Titan after a given amount of time – reduced with each enemy kill or objective completion – and choose to either jump in and control it themselves, or let it stand guard or follow them around, meaning that 12 players and 12 Titans could possibly be running around the map at any one time.
The Titans are a game-changer – literally. Inside, you can simply run around and stomp players or the computer-controlled enemy grunts to death, or choose to bombard an area with a variety of rockets and machine gun fire. Unable to jump or crouch, the hefty Titans have to rely on rapid boosts in each direction to dodge incoming missiles, but Respawn have carried across the tight controls of the human pilots to the mechs, meaning gameplay is tight and quick.
Overall, the game looks gorgeous. Its foundations may be built on Valve’s Source engine, which is now a decade old, but Titanfall looks for sure like a next-gen game. Landscapes are bright and lively, ships and rocket trails glimmering overhead while billowing plummets of smoke signal the titular dropping of a player’s Titan, which hit the ground with a satisfying billow of dirt.
Audio, too, is suitably epic, with booms of falling pods, whooshes of rockets as they track towards stomping Titans.
The beta doesn’t delve particularly into the story aspects of the online-only game, with only glimpses of narrative characters as they pop up in your HUD to commentate on how the match is progressing, but the dialogue that is present feels natural and varied, and bodes well for what's to come.
I went into Titanfall curious, half expecting to come away disinterested and continuing to preach that the first-person shooter genre was destined for doom. I came away a believer, sure that the future of online gaming has rarely been safer than in the metallic clutches of a twenty-foot high killer robot.