“Titanfall,” the first game from Respawn Entertainment, made its hands-on debut at gamescom in Germany, and then on North American shores at PAX Prime. Inside the game, which is a first-person shooter, you can call down enormous mechs called “Titans,” which provide the ultimate in vehicular combat. When one is assembled and ready for you, they plummet from low-earth orbit, and crash to ground wherever you have designated. As they drop, the operator (voiced by Abbie Heppe, formerly of G4 and X-Play) barks “Prepare for Titanfall.” But no matter what you do, you just can’t prepare yourself for this one until you get your hands on it.
Despite only having one map and one mode available at PAX, as the game isn’t out until 2014, “Titanfall” had one of the longest lines at the show, full of gamers eager to get their hands on the latest and greatest from the original creators of the “Call of Duty” series. The mission starts out with some of your (non-playable, at least for our demo) soldiers dropping into a sewer system, while the rest of us headed into a city to buy time by doing battle with the enemy. There were two types of enemies, NPC foot soldiers and soldiers being driven by other humans. In other words, our opponents in multiplayer. The three loadouts provided, Assault, Tactical and CQB provided different types of weapons and abilities, like Smart Pistols and shotguns, and each one comes with a different anti-Titan weapon.
You’ll need those weapons badly, because the game isn’t called “Titanfall” for nothing. When those mechsuits come dropping from the sky, you’ll want to keep yourself out of sight and try to bring them down by any means possible. Thankfully, while on foot, you have a few tools at your disposal to do so. You can try the old “shoot and scoot” method of taking some shots with your anti-Titan weapon, and then getting your ass immediately back into cover. Or you can go vertical, as each solider is equipped with jump jets that basically provide a double-jump, and wall-running or landing on a surface will reset them, allowing you to scale buildings quickly. Since Titans can’t fly (that we know of), you can rain pain down on them until you get spotted and taken out. You can also jump on the back of a Titan, scramble to the top and rip open a vital panel and then rapidly fire your pistol inside. It won’t take the Titan down quickly, but is very effective if you don’t get caught.
Speaking of getting caught, if you’re on the other side of that equation and piloting a Titan, you’ll find that while you’re wielding enormous firepower … you’re also a gigantic target. If you get boarded by an enemy soldier, you basically have three options: have a buddy shoot him off, jump out of your Titan and go after them yourself, or deploy a secondary function like Electric Smoke that will damage them. Whatever you do, make sure to keep that mech in one piece, or you’ll find yourself ejecting (if you’re fast enough) or you’ll have to wait until another one is constructed and readied for you, which can take an agonizing two minutes. That feels like an eternity in a fast-paced, multiplayer game. But with careful piloting and teamwork, including help from the soldiers on the ground who can provide cover fire and spot the enemy Titans, you should be able to make that metal last for a bit.
Speaking of piloting a giant robot, it is just as satisfying as you would imagine. And not only can you enter and exit your Titan at-will, provided it isn’t in the process of blowing up, you can also set it to follow you and provide cover fire. You can also reach down and snatch up enemy soldiers and hurl them into the distance, or melee-punch your way into an enemy Titan’s chest and rip out the pilot and squish him. Visceral, creepy, and amazing. Of course, you’re wearing a giant, robotic suit, so why not? You can even pick up weapons from other downed Titans, provided you with an array of firepower and options as you try to top the other team. And even when the match seems like it is over, you get a tacked-on epilogue where you have to either flee to the dropship and survive, or try and shoot that same dropship down and kill the enemy pilots trying to get there, depending if you were on the winning or losing side.
“Titanfall” will be out next year for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC next Spring, which seems like a long time to wait. Maybe we’ll be able to prepare ourselves in the meantime.