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Titanfall Beta Impressions

Titanfall
Respawn Entertainment

The long-awaited Titanfall beta opened today, and we were lucky enough to get a code to dive into one of next-gen’s most anticipated titles. How does it play on the Xbox One? We spent some time this afternoon with Titanfall’s multiplayer to find out.

When you finally download and install the beta, Titanfall presents you with its tutorial. It’s a simple and easy way to learn how to play, and only takes about ten minutes or so to complete. Having never laid hands on Titanfall before, we couldn’t be more impressed with how intuitive and smooth the controls are. As a pilot, you’ve got a range of traversal options available, including wallrunning. Just moments into the tutorial, our fondest memories of Mirror’s Edge came bubbling back to the surface. We can perform parkour and there are giant mechs to pilot? We’ll take two. Shooting works like you’d expect, especially if you’re a Call of Duty veteran, but it’s the movement that really sets Titanfall apart from contemporaries. Did we mention you can use stealth to sneak around for a limited time? Yeah, you can do that.

Learning to control the Titan is a little different, though it does have some nifty maneuverability aspects of its own. Though Titans can’t leave the ground after they land from orbit (at least those in the beta, who knows what Respawn has in store for the future), they can strafe quickly left, right, forwards or backwards. The Titans can also be left on auto-pilot, with you taking care of business on the outside of he hardened exterior. Both ways make for different play styles, but it’s hard to abandon the firepower and special abilities of the Titans behind. While you have some cool weapons (the auto-targeting Smart Gun comes to mind), the Titan has even more impressive defensive capabilities. When destroyed, they can go nuclear, doing damage to anything an everything in their wake. They can also use a bullet shield to catch and deflect enemy fire right back at the point of origin.

Respawn Entertainment

This is all stuff you learn in the tutorial, but putting these skills and weapons to use in an actual match is far more challenging. Anyone can shoot computer-controlled bots. It’s how you hold up against a half-dozen other humans that really puts you to the test. While there are some AI soldiers running rampant on any given map, they never really pose much of a threat. Of course, they do work as decoys for more skilled players, though you can usually tell a human by the way he hangs from the side of a building and shoots you right in the back. Maps are massive, and have plenty of nooks, crannies and many other descriptors for hiding spots you can think of. The terrain offers plenty of verticality, as that’s part of the appeal. At times, we found it to be just as entertaining to run around the map testing our parkour skills instead of fighting. Our teammates probably weren’t entertained, but who cares? It’s just a beta. There are no real lives on the line like there would be in the final build due out in March. But seriously, if you’re as desperate for a Mirror’s Edge experience as we were, Titanfall is a more than acceptable fill-in for the upcoming sequel. Plus you can shoot things with robots.

Of the three multiplayer modes available (Attrition, Last Titan Standing and Hardpoint), Hardpoint was definitely our favorite. Capturing and holding key points on the map has always been a great multiplayer experience, and Titanfall makes it even more enjoyable by adding Titans to the mix. Attrition is fine and dandy for a team deathmatch mode, but Last Titan Standing is the real test of you skills. You’ve only got one life and one Titan per round. The team left standing wins. It’s simple, but instead of the other modes where Titans can drop multiple times, you tend to employ better and stronger strategies in combat. You learn the ins and outs of the maps much more, and focus on chokepoints where you can ensnare enemy Titans with impressive flanking tactics. Oh, it is joyous. Unless you’re on the other end of some solid strategy. Then you’re left watching from the sideline, unable to contribute and unable to anything but obsess about how to do better next time.

The action is fast. The combat is furious. The world is impressive. Titanfall has, after about an hour, lived up to the expectations and weight such a lofty exclusive had placed upon it. There’s still a lot we don’t know about Titanfall, but the competitive multiplayer we’ve seen so far bodes well for its potential. Now, if you’ll excuse us, the siren song of Angel City is blaring, and we must answer the call.

Next: E3 Preview: Titanfall

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