Titanfall, it’s probably fair to say, is now a very anticipated title. Last year, at game expos around the world, it was easily one of the most queued-for exhibits on the show floors. I know this for a fact, because I was one of those people. But curiously, the second I’d finished playing it, I immediately queued again.
We can probably deduce two things from this. Firstly, that I’m typically British, and for that reason I’m OK with politely and quietly (but all the while secretly resenting) waiting in line for things. Secondly, and perhaps more crucially, that the game was worth spending mind numbing hours of time waiting to play.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and I was skeptical too. ‘Just a Call of Duty clone, set in space or whatever’ seemed to be the general consensus of YouTube commentators and fellow queuers alike. And maybe they had a point. There’s a certain look and feel to it that is immediately comparable to its divisive spiritual predecessor. But is that enough to condemn it? Is the fact that it’s a fun game enough to revere it as the saviour of the modern shooter?
Or to put it another way (and make it seems like I’m posing an intellectual question), will Titanfall be the reason Xbox One owners can finally rejoice in their first brand new, next-gen IP, or the reason Microsoft cynics will have a field day mocking an over-hyped failure? Let’s examine the evidence.Next
5) EA Online
OK, let’s not beat around the bush here. Between Sim City, FIFA, and Battlefield, EA have managed to accrue a less-than-reputable position with regards to their online services. And when I say “less-than-reputable,” I of course mean “staggeringly shit.” So now that they’re at the helm of Respawn’s online only shooter, you can’t blame us for feeling just a touch nervous about the potential result. It may very well be the greatest game ever made, but that only counts for so much if only about 3 people in the world can actually access it.
Naturally, they’ve been more than reassuring about the matter, and have gone on record as setting up an architecture that will allow for swift and simple updates should any problems arise. It has also been confirmed that an Xbox One update will release on March 4th, specifically in anticipation of the game. Fingers crossed on this one then.Previous Next
Kind of a subjective one, I guess, but have you ever played a good mech game? I mean, like, an actual really good one? Don’t lie to me. You haven’t. MechWarrior was just kind of slow and dismal, ChromeHounds even more so (and in fact the only game I’ve ever returned to the shop because it was so mind-bendingly atrocious) and the less said about Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor the better. It’s a pretty turgid history, all considered.
The concept of a mech is quite superb, however, and it’s miraculous that people consistently make such a hash of it. They’re even frequently draughted into various other franchises too, in the hopes of making a them cooler. Long running tropes such as Gears of War, Metal Gear Solid and Lost Planet, to name a few, have all inserted a swaggering, metal killbot, but all with the end result of making them exactly 0% more fun.Previous Next
Perhaps I’m being a little too hasty. There is one game that surprised a few people more recently, with its unusual mixture of triple-A sensibilities and a small production team. Hawken is still in beta, as it has been for the last 200 years or something, but as mech games go, it wins my lauded accolade of being “not that terrible.”
A production team that barely stretches to double figures managed to turn out this very pretty little game quickly enough (up to the beta stage) and that’s undoubtedly an achievement, but it’s the few criticisms it received that are the warning shot for Titanfall.
And what are those criticisms? It’s too much like Call of Duty. Too ‘run and gun-y’. Too much like every other shooter, just with a mech skin over the top. And if a small, indie team with nothing to do with Call of Duty made a mech game that’s drawing comparisons to it, how will a more sizeable, mainstream team with direct connections fare? There’s too many actual Call of Dutys as it is, and this kind of thing hardly leaves one with a lot of faith about getting the fresh, totally new gaming experience we’re being promised.Previous Next
2) The Internet
That’s right, the internet. Knower of all things. And there’s one thing in particular that it knew after it read this innocuous Tweet, from lead designer Vince Zampella:
Yes, all it took was two numbers sandwiching a single letter for the entire internet to know that Titanfall would suck. It would suck because less is less, and having so few players on technology this new is an absolute travesty. Battlefield copes with 64. The old Playstation 3 game MAG even managed to sputter along with 256, yet these punks at Respawn have the audacity to cap us at 12?? What fresh insanity is this?
That was the general consensus, anyway. And whether these internet-dwellers are right or not (they aren’t, by the way), the sheer volume of people with this same opinion could easily spell disaster for the game.Previous Next
1) Respawn, respawning
A chequered history. I think that’s the best way to describe this. It all began when two gentlemen named Jason West and Vince Zampella worked on a game called Medal of Honor: Allied Assault in 2002. It was an amazing game, and EA gleefully published it. Then a few things happened, and the two of them went off to Activision and made another game called Call of Duty. It too was amazing and Activision gleefully published it. Then a few more things happened and the two of them went back to EA to make a game called Titanfall.
If you follow the pattern, it may seem logical that this game would also turn out to be amazing, but plenty of complicated legal battles with their former publishers have kept them pretty busy in the meantime – and it’s also worth noting that exactly 50% of the duo (that is to say, Jason West) has since departed from the team due to an “internal fued” with his former partner. Although it was downplayed at the time as a “family issue,” it was since alleged that the pressure of the lawsuits was getting to West, who displayed increasingly erratic behaviour. Doesn’t sound good at all, does it? And with recent news that the Xbox 360 version has now been pushed back, it leaves me a little hot under the collar.
So, can they make lightening strike twice? Can they build a stable house on shifting sands? Can they eliminate the need for ponderous sayings? Let’s examine five reasons why they absolutely can.Previous Next
5) Respawn, respawning
Looking at the other side of the coin, you can’t deny that no matter what they’re being sued for, these guys sure have pulled it out of the bag before. And the departure of Jason West, although undoubtedly a blow to the company, should not in theory affect the overall quality of the product.
We know, for example, that the rest of the team they assembled were strongly talented developers, and over 40 of them straight from the original team that worked on the Modern Warfare behemoth. You know, from back when it was actually good.Previous Next
4) The Audio
A hugely underrated, and frequently unappreciated, part of any videogame design, it’s easy to forget just how important sounds are when you’re busy concentrating on all the pretty pictures. But important they are, and Titanfall has reassuredly spared no expense.
In fact, they roped in none other that Stephen Barton, who although not a household name, is a name that you should use more often in your household. Why? Because he’s the British musical genius whose previous credits include soundtracking films such as Sir Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, his late brother Tony Scott’s Man on Fire, and even the Shrek franchise, among others.
His most notable foray into the videogame world? He wrote the now iconic music for a certain game called Call of Cuty 4: Modern Warfare. Listen again and tell me it’s not supremely evocative. Shame it’s now just associated with a terrible matchmaking system. Obviously this does nothing to help the earlier case of Titanfall potentially being too similar to said game, but he’s confident he’s got something completely different – but just as notable – all ready for us to slay to.Previous Next
3) The Cloud
The cloud has a lot of potential that PlayStation users are as yet unable to tap into. According to Mircrosoft, PS4 may have a slight edge when it comes to the physical circuitry within the plastic, but Xbox One users having access to magical in-the-sky storage could technically make the machines up to four times as powerful.
How will this manifest itself in Titanfall? Well for starters, it means freeing up the precious memory that makes the game look and run beautifully. But there’s more. Jon Shiring, Respawn’s software engineer explains that “The extra bandwidth is what lets us build a world with moving objects, and the available CPU is what lets us do things like AI. So it’s not just a bullet flying through the air and moving and causing network data, it’s an actual AI that’s making decisions and trying to shoot at things and looking around.”
Sounds terrific, but also worryingly like we’re one step closer to SkyNet, and being enslaved by machines, which is obviously not quite as cool. Still, speaking of AI…Previous Next
2) The Source Engine
‘You sure this one’s a positive?’ you’re thinking? After all, it was cutting edge 10 years ago, but it’s definitely showing its age now, and recently the games that run it are not notable lookers.
But there’s two reasons why we can pound these thoughts into the ground. Firstly, it’s a highly modified for next-gen application, and having seen it running, I can happily declare that it looks absolutely nothing like Portal 2. Secondly, Portal 2 was a design masterclass, regardless of its slightly naff textures. As was Left 4 Dead, another Source game where the online player count is low. The aforementioned critics of the 6v6 cap perhaps haven’t experienced the joys of teaming up to slay countless bots, because if they had they wouldn’t be nearly as concerned about how much fun the game might be.
It’s not like Titanfall will feel like an empty battleground with over 50 seemingly pretty smart AI running about the place, and the option for Titans to be AI controlled following on-foot players about means you’re going to be kept pretty busy. Too busy to worry about the fact that there’s only five other real people on your team, anyway.Previous Next
1) The Response So Far
This one’s kind of hard to ignore. It’s won literally everything there is to win during its run-up world tours of gaming shows and seemingly has more awards to its own name than all the Oscar winners this year put together. It went to Tokyo and got the ‘Future Game of Show’ award. It went to PAX and won the GamesRadar ‘Best of PAX’ award. It went to Gamescom and won the ‘Best Next-Gen Game’ award. It went to E3 and won just about everything else. Genuinely more awards that I could list, but they included Game Critics ‘Best of Show’, IGN’s ‘Best Overall Game’ and Polygon’s ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards.
And then I went to Eurogamer and I tried it. All those previous awards are no doubt fantastic accolades, but we all know that the most prestigious vote one could possibly hope for is that of my own endorsement. And if you hark back to the beginning of this epic narrative, you’ll remember I began the highbrow inquest as to whether Titanfall could be the reason Xbox One owners can finally rejoice in their first brand new, next-gen IP. So, the answer? Well, all things considered, I did queue twice to play it…
What do you think? Excited Xbox owner? In-the-dark PlayStation owner? Believing the hype either way? Let us know below!Previous