Vince Zampella has had quite a history with the first-person shooter. As the lead designer of two of the largest game franchises in the genre, he's proven that he knows how to create games. He's also proven that he can create new developers when things go sour in past publisher relationships. Now, he's back with former rival EA, and his team has proven that it still has big ideas with his latest and most epic-scale multiplayer game yet. Titanfall will not feature a single-player story line at all; instead, it'll try to bring many of the key elements of a single-player presentation into the multiplayer to tell the story. This idea has been explored before with, among other examples, Bethesda's Brink, but never to this extent. As demonstrated at E3 2013, the idea is a lot more sound than one would expect.
The demo began with several players in a dropship. NPCs explained the objective of the mission, and then the ship "jumps" through space to the battlefield. The players dropped in to what looked like a classic "hold three points" mission, and the gameplay promptly ensued, with voice-overs providing details in an entirely in-universe tone.
The gameplay starts with the classic first-person shooter core, but there are a large number of wrinkles to make sure the game doesn't descend into being or feeling like a Halo clone.
Players have double-jumping and wall-running abilities from the outset, allowing them to maneuver around the tighter quarters of the map with a smoothness comparable to Mirror's Edge. It produces a distinctly more vertical game than is common to the genre, even without jetpacks.
More iconic is what players can access in the open areas. On a cooldown, players have the ability to spawn Titans, which are giant robot armors capable of ruling the open areas of the field. Naturally, robots drop from the sky and crash down on poorly positioned enemies, successfully copying and one-upping the best idea of Section 8 in one fell swoop. All players have access to these mighty machines, and they're not the be-all-end-all of play, since their ability to maneuver in tight quarters is slim to none. The mechs can act on their own if unpiloted, and they can be "ridden" by other players. Mech-versus-mech combat is an active thing, as is ejecting when your mech is about to explode or robot-punching a nearly destroyed Titan, yanking the pilot, and throwing him for an instant kill if he fails to get out in time.
The interplay of highly mobile foot and ground play with the field-ruling robots felt right, and it certainly wasn't hurt by the quality of the graphics. The demo featured silky-smooth 60 frames per second, with lush, detailed jungle environments throughout the demo map. The gameplay also promised significantly less lag in console multiplayer by taking advantage of one of the Xbox One's quieter features: integration with Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud technology for free, dedicated servers. This eliminates the concept of "host advantage" without necessarily introducing "admin dvantage."a
There are progression elements in Titanfall, including score earned in a variety of fashions. Killing opponents is one option out of many, and it's not as valuable as controlling points. One of the biggest bonuses a player can gain comes after the scenario ends. Once a team has enough points to win the match, its map lights up with an evac point that it needs to reach within a minute. Reach the point, and you get a very large bonus. It provides for a very frenetic last minute even after the game has concluded, taking an idea from Team Fortress 2 to its logical conclusion.
Titanfall possibly represents the biggest game of EA's E3 2013 lineup —more so than even Battlefield 4. Its combination of sci-fi action, multiplayer, and epic presentation could make it the Xbox One's killer app — though it's also coming to the X360 and PC. It certainly earned its status as one of WorthPlaying's Best of E3 2013 Finalists, setting the potential bar for the genre as it approaches a new generation of consoles.
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