Hands-On Impressions of the Addictive Xbox One Titanfall Beta

Believe the hype

After a rough go on Friday, the Titanfall beta was in full swing yesterday thanks to the efforts of Respawn and Microsoft. With the server issues out of the way, and thousands of new beta participants being added by the minute, Respawn’s super-hyped title really started to hit its stride on the second full day of the beta. If you have been skeptical about Titanfall and all of the industry praise it has been getting since E3 2013, I can now safely, and confidently say that it deserves every last bit of adulation it has received from the gaming press and fans alike. Respawn Entertainment most definitely has a special title on its hands, which in the end shouldn’t really surprise any of us considering the pedigree of it development team.

 

Titanfall Beta – From Download to Gameplay

The Titanfall beta itself is a fairly heavy download, so depending on the time of day you try to install it, you could run into a lengthy wait time. In general you should expect about a 20-30 minute download and install process, which could be much faster or slower depending on your broadband speeds.

Once the beta is installed it can be launched just like any other digital game you’ve purchased for the Xbox One. When you first connect to the Titanfall servers you will be put through a training regimen that serves as the tutorial to get you acclimated with the game’s controls. Your Pilot is placed into a Portal-like testing facility to educate you on his move sets. Pilots can wall jump like a parkour athlete, which is simple to pull off by running at a wall and jumping towards it. Pilots can also double jump thanks to the limited jetpack attached to their suits. After the basic controls are explained you are then put into a simulated battlefield to test them out. This is the first time you get to see the Smart Gun in action, and it’s impressive to say the least, but more on that later.

After you conquer the skirmish on foot the tutorial switches its focus to Titan gameplay. Once again you’re put through the paces to learn the ins and outs of piloting a Titan, and how to best use the hulking mech to your advantage. The tutorial allows you to drive the Titan, but it also shows off the Titan’s AI abilities for guarding you in battle, or following you like a loyal puppy. Once the basics of piloting a Titan are explained you are placed in another simulated battlefield to test out some Titan on Titan action. Once this is complete the tutorial ends, and you’re able to get into the real meat of Titanfall – it’s multiplayer modes.

Before getting into the multiplayer matches I just want to touch on Titanfall’s controls. The tutorial mentioned above is a perfect introduction to how to play Titanfall. While the controls do feel familiar to other FPS games, they also feel unique to this game. The inherent fast paced nature of Titanfall matches bodes well for the control scheme, which is setup in a way to give you the fastest means possible for dispatching bad guys and enemy Titans. All of the shoulder buttons are used efficiently, and the same can be said for the D-pad and face buttons. None of the default inputs feel out of place, and the way they’re mapped to the controllers makes it easy to accommodate the twitchy pace that Titanfall’s gameplay requires. In short, the controls kick ass!

 

The Main Menu

Titanfall Beta - Xbox One Screen Shot 2:16:14 11.43 AM

Titanfall’s main menu serves as a hub to your character and Titan loadouts, as well as the entry point into the various multiplayer game type matches. It’s organized neatly, so getting around to the appropriate stat sections, or settings pages is a breeze.

The main menu allows you to deck out your custom load outs (3 for Pilots, 3 for Titans) for your character and Titan, and for the most part the loadouts offer a similar setup to other FPS games. You can toggle your primary and sidearm weapons, your chosen Anti-Titan weapon (for when you’re a Pilot taking on a Titan on foot), two perks, an ordnance type, and a special ability.

Three custom loadouts are available for Pilots and Titans

Three custom loadouts are available for Pilots and Titans

Players interested in match statistics will appreciate Titanfall’s main menu as well. Recent match summaries and career highlights can be viewed easily from the main menu to keep a gauge on your playing abilities. Progress towards the hundreds of different challenges can be viewed here too.

 

Titanfall Gameplay

Enough with the tutorials and menu speak, it’s time to get down to what matters most about any video game – the gameplay. During the beta Titanfall allows players to sample its Attrition, Hardpoint, and Last Titan Standing match types. Teams of 6 humans and bots take on each other in each game type, but the objectives are slightly different in each.

 

Attrition

For all intents and purposes the Attrition match type is the typical Team Deathmatch found in most FPS titles. Both sides are tasked with laying waste to each other by taking out human controlled pilots, bot controlled, grunts, and Titans. This match type is hands down my personal favorite due to its familiarity, but also because of how frenetic the gun fights get. Even with just 12 total human players in each match there’s still plenty to shoot at in Attrition matches thanks to the included bots, so from the onset these matches feel like you’re battling in a futuristic war.

Regardless of match type the action is insane in Titanfall

Regardless of match type the action is insane in Titanfall

Say what you will about bots, but for people like me who have lost the ability to compete competently in FPS multiplayer matches, they’re a God send. The bot AI is definitely not the best, so scoring a few easy kills from their stupidity goes a long way to boost the ego, which in turn usually leads to more Pilot kills and a huge grin on your face. For the first time in a long time I actually felt like I was a contributor to my team, rather than the guy that gives the other team an easy target to kill, and it felt damn good.

The weapons of Titanfall also help to make killing bad guys a bit easier in Attrition. One gun in particular gives noobs a fighting chance unlike any other user friendly weapon before it, and its called the Smart Gun. This little gem essentially auto-targets enemy Pilots and bots and only requires you to focus on them until a lock on is achieved. Once that is set you can pull the trigger once and your targets will drop like a sack of potatoes. The Smart Gun can even be used to take down multiple enemies at once, so it truly is the great equalizer in Titanfall.

The Smart Gun is COD's noob tube times 100

The Smart Gun is COD’s noob tube times 100

In an Attrition match it’s much more fun to play as a Pilot than I initially thought thanks to the kick ass parkour moves and jetpack, but this game isn’t called Titanfall for fun. The Titans themselves add a whole new dimension to FPS gameplay thanks to their power and size, but also thanks to their highly useful AI.

Once a Titan is called into the field of play (they spawn about every 2-minutes) you have the option to enter it, set it to Guard mode, or set it to Follow mode. Obviously the first Titan I called down I had to control it, so upon entering my Atlas’ chest cavity I took it over and realized just how smooth the controls are. Controlling a Titan feels just like controlling a Pilot, but somehow the weight and size of the Titan also translates to its controls. It feels familiar to control one, but at the same time you can feel their immense size between your finger when you’re in the driver’s seat.

After a few matches I started to mess with my Titan’s AI controlled modes, and found them to be even more useful than controlling it myself. While in Guard mode your Titan will shoot anything that comes into its line of sight, which makes for some interesting defensive and offensive tactics. In Follow mode your Titan will trail you like a shadow and obliterate any enemies that cross your path. You may think you could get more kills and use out of your Titan if you manually control it, but I found that to not be the case in my situation. Allowing the excellent AI to control my Titan for me usually yielded me a higher score, and many more kills, so again Titanfall provides means for being successful even if you’re not the best FPS player on the planet.

Titans have some highly useful AI modes

Titans have some highly useful AI modes

 

Hardpoint

Hardpoint matches are Domination matches in Titanfall. Now most of the gameplay tactics explained above also apply to Hardpoint, so the major difference lies in how your team wins. Rather than killing off the other team you must hold three hardpoints on the map with your team to build up a winning score. These matches require a bit more strategy than Attrition, and a ton more running to manage the hardpoints, but they’re equally as fun and definitely more team oriented.

Defending hardpoints isn't easy

Defending hardpoints isn’t easy

 

Last Titan Standing

The final match type featured in the Titanfall beta is Last Titan Standing, which is essentially Warzone from Gears of War with Titans. At the start of each round every human player on both teams gets a Titan right off the bat, and whichever team has the last Titan standing at the end of each round wins. If you get killed you have to wait until the next round to respawn again, so Last Man Standing requires the most patience out of the three match types in Titanfall. If I had to pick my least favorite match type it’d definitely be Last Titan Standing, but this match type does offer up some ridiculous skirmishes between Titans, so if you prefer to fight like a robot, then you’ll totally enjoy this match type.

 

Final Thoughts on the Titanfall Beta

Coming into the Titanfall beta I respected the hype the game was getting, but I hadn’t completely bought into it yet. After spending just one day with the beta I’m now drinking from the Titanfall Kool-Aid with massive gulps of adulation. Respawn has shown why many of its developers are considered to be the best when it comes to FPS military-centric gameplay, and this taste of Titanfall is just a tiny one, an unfinished one in fact. I can’t even begin to imagine how much fun this game will be once the full version ships on March 11, 2014.

I haven’t played a FPS game for hours on end in years, so Titanfall’s ability to get me to do so is impressive. I thought my days of enjoying FPS multiplayer matches were over thanks to my waning skills with a controller, and the ever growing population of younger more experienced gamers out in the wild, but Titanfall may help to get me back into the swing of things. Even if I’m killing more bots than humans, and using a Smart Gun to do so, I still find myself thoroughly enjoying the Titanfall experience, and actually feeling like a productive gamer again helps to boost my fragile FPS ego. Titanfall truly is deserving of its hype, Microsoft definitely scored big with this console exclusive.

Job well done Respawn, job well done!

Check out the gallery below for HD screenshots of the Titanfall beta running on the Xbox One.

 

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