The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Titanfall- A First Look

“Standby for Titanfall” —Titanfall tagline

It was one of the most anticipated games of 2014, and when Titanfall was released in March this year, people jumped into the game. TheRadBrad began playing it on release date for the Xbox One, but by the time he had reached the third mission in the campaign, there were already people who were level thirty five. This was on March 11, the day Titanfall released, which really showcases how much effort some individuals put into games. While I certainly don’t have that sort of tenacity for games, over my very own experince with Titanfall for PC, afforded once again by Origin’s Game Time program, I was able to reach level twenty five after seven hours of gameplay over two days. After hearing that Titanfall would be available on Game Time, I jumped to download all 48 GB of the game. I heard that much of this extra space is because the PC has uncompressed audio files so the game can direct more CPU power towards running the game itself, rather than decoding audio files to produce a smoother experience on lower-end PCs. However, armed with a 2 TB hard disk (plus a separate SSD for my OS and another external 1 TB HDD), as well as a blazing fast internet connection, 48 GB isn’t really that big of a deal, and after downloading Titanfall, I began playing on a moody, grey Thursday morning off work. By the time the afternoon got around, a thunderstorm had rolled in, and I prepared myself a bowl of ramen before heading off to the lab for a summer’s end meeting. After I got home, I played a few more matches, and spent the entire Friday, a day off, playing Titanfall, accumulating some seven hours during my 48 hour-long trial period. Over this time-frame, I became familiarised with the controls and mechanics, learning how to wall-jump, make the best use of the pilot and Titan’s different abilities to survive and ultimately, figure out how to start contributing to my team’s efforts towards victory.

  • It should be appropriate that the first screenshot I take is of me summoning my first-ever Titan onto the battlefield. I don’t think I’ve ever fit in seven hours of gaming into a forty-eight hour period in living memory, but over the course of these seven hours, I had a great deal of fun and accumulated some 157 seven images; I’ve picked out thirty of them for this post (which was no easy task).

  • The R-101C Carbine is Titanfall‘s equivalent of an assault rifle, being a versatile weapon well-suited for combat at medium range, but, in the right hands, can also perform reasonably well at shorter and longer ranges. The weapon starts out with a HCOG sight by default, and has a 24-round magazine. Its rate of fire means that the magazine empties quickly, forcing players to reload frequently. The guy I just pwned here has a name that somehow reminds me of OreGairu‘s Hikigaya Hachiman.

  • My first Titan kill comes from the Atlas type armed with the XOTBR-16 20mm chaingun, a weapon with a high rate of fire and excellent accuracy. Despite its lower damage against other Titans, it is quite effective for shooting down pilots. I typically reserve the Titan’s ordnance for while I’m either reloading my primary weapon, or if I need increased firepower against another Titan. Each salvo consists of twelve rockets, and are more effective against armour than soft targets.

  • Anti-Titan weapons ensure that players on foot stand a good chance against enemy Titans. With support fire from allied Titans, I’ve doomed several Titans using man-portable weapons; in the chaos of battle, pilots often focus on engaging Titans and forget that pilots can do some serious damage to their Titan. Here, I’m using the Archer Heavy Rocket, which does a substantial amount of damage and can doom a Titan in four shots, but also warns enemy pilots they are being painted. The other anti-Titan weapons I have are the Sidewinder, which fires micro-missiles rapidly to damage a Titan’s weak spots, and the mag-launcher, which fires magnetic grenades that latch onto an enemy Titan.

  • While the campaign is quite superficial, it adds a small degree of immersion to the online matches, adding a bit of story to each match’s objectives. Titanfall does not have a campaign proper; the campaign mode overlays some cinematic elements prior to and following each multiplayer match. The dialogue and story are quite generic, but the cinematics are spectacular and does provide some explanation as to why each match is being fought.

  • Burn cards are an addition to Titanfall that confers advantages, such as reduced Titan build times, boosted weapon performance and other forms of bonuses. Wiping a pilot who had an active burn card confers a bonus, and as this moment demonstrates, it is possible to step on pilots. This occured to be quite a bit in the beginning when I was learning how to rodeo (ride on top of and damage enemy Titans), but in the end, I got the hang of things and doomed a few Titans using my carbine and shotgun.

  • The EVA-8 shotgun excels at CQC and, like almost all shotguns in every FPS in existence, is useless at a range beyond 20 meters. Equipping a shotgun is to adopt a play-style suited for hardpoint capture and defenses. Sometimes, unsuspecting pilots will enter a building to capture a hardpoint and can be downed quickly, although smarter players may toss in a grenade to flush out any defenders. Because of its limited usability at longer ranges, on most attrition games, I stick with the R-101C Carbine.

  • The Ogre-class Titan is a more heavily armoured, slower Titan compared to the Atlas and wields the 40mm HEAT cannon by default. It’s slow firing rate is offset by the fact that every round has a long range and does significant damage, being able to doom an enemy Titan with as few as 12 shots. In one of the more chaotic matches, I terminated an enemy Titan pilot: this is a special type of melee finishing attack done on a doomed Titan from a certain angle, and the Ogre’s animation is to shred the other Titan.

  • The splash damage from each 40 mm shell makes the cannon excellent against groups of enemies and can take out pilots in one direct hit. Despite having a smaller ammunition capacity, it reloads more quickly than the chaingun (3.0 seconds to reload from empty, compared to the chaingun’s 4.6 second reload time from empty).

  • The Stryder-class Titan is the fastest of the Titans, featuring greater mobility at the expense of armour. By default, it comes with a quad-rocket launcher, which fires four rockets per shot and can devastate enemy Titans at close range. Despite being mounted on the Styder-class, the quad rocket’s effectiveness at close quarters means it is better suited for the Ogre-class Titan. Its special ability is the dash core, which allows for unlimited dashes, allowing the Titan to evade enemy fire or else flank enemies. There’s a similar power-up in 007: Agent Under Fire, called the Q-Jet, which allows for one short boost and can be used to either escape enemy fire, or reach otherwise unreachable locations. I call the Q-Jet the dash core primarily because of Titanfall, and the name has stuck ever since.

  • The Stryder-class Titan has what I consider to be one of the most brutal termination animations; instead of tossing an enemy pilot away after punching through their cockpit and pulling them out, the Stryder crushes the pilot, who then explodes in a shower of blood. This finishing animation is so extreme, I feel bad for the pilot at the receiving end, and to the best of my recollection, I’ve only ever been terminated by enemy Atlas-class Titans.

  • The Longbow DMR is quite the opposite of the EVA-8 shotgun, excelling at long range combat but being woefully inadequate for shorter range engagements. The default Longbow comes with a 6x scope and can down enemy pilots in two body shots (or one headshot). This weapon is intended for a support role from long distance, although the high pacing in a match means that players will typically get a few kills from one location, then quickly move on to another location to avoid being detected.

  • Like Battlefield, it’s faster to switch to a sidearm than to wait for one’s primary weapon to reload. I typically pick a sidearm to complement my primary weapon; the slow rate of fire from the Longbow means I would prefer a sidearm that can fire more rounds at close quarters to suppress and down nearby enemies: in Titanfall, this role is fulfilled by the RE-45 autopistol, which makes up for its low damage output with a high rate of fire.

  • For some reason, victories are quite rare for me in Titanfall, and I usually wind up on the losing team. However, I’ve won some matches; after a victory, the objective is to locate the extraction point and destroy the enemy dropship before it evacuates. In games where I do lose, it does not feel like a total loss, since Titanfall offers the losing team the opportunity to reach a dropship for evac and fight another day. Successful evacuations deny the enemy team the satisfaction of killing me.

  • The fact that the Longbow is semi-automatic makes it effective at making follow-up shots. The Titanfall E3 Trailer was unveiled more than a year ago, and when I first saw it, I was very excited to see which direction the game would take. However, I never did imagine that I would have a chance to try the game out for myself; while Titanfall is a little limited in regards to maps and game types, its new spin on player movement makes the game incredibly highly-paced and remarkably entertaining, adding a new twist to what would otherwise be a traditional shooter with mecha.

Titanfall may initially seem like yet another modern military shooter with giant mechs, featuring familiar weapons, game-types and even dialogue that gives a “serious military” feel. However, the way pilots move around, and how fluidly navigation around a map is, are two things that really set Titanfall apart from most shooters. I can jump onto walls and parkour between walls in a narrow alley-way to get the jump on an unsuspecting pilot, or double jump over wide spaces to quickly close the distance between myself and a foe, or else escape heavy fire. This mobility makes it easy to get right into the thick of things or beat a hasty retreat to recharge one’s health. The weapons, though immediately recognisable as slightly more futuristic variants of weapons found in Battlefield or Call of Duty (as opposed to the Spinfusors from Tribes: Ascend or the Covenant weapons from Halo), were immensely satsifying to fire, especially so when they down enemy pilots; Titanfall matches are set on maps with both computer-controlled grunts and human players. By adopting a high-mobility or stealth-driven playstyle, players can make enough kills or hardpoint captures to shorten their Titan’s deployment time. Summoning and boarding a Titan is a remarkably novel mechanic that never fails to impress. After boarding a Titan, the battlefield suddenly becomes about tactics rather than speed. The Titans are lumbering, powerful machines that can devastate the enemy, but possess a unique set of vulnerabilities: this is where Titanfall truly shines, and regardless of whether one is on foot or in a Titan, they are both combat-ready and vulnerable at the same time. On foot, it’s possible to down a Titan by capitalising on the pilot’s anti-Titan weapon and the advantages associated with being on foot. Though they’re small, fast-moving and hard to hit, a few good shots from a Titan weapon will annihilate any pilot on the ground. Titans and pilots alike also have unique abilities to counteract one another. At no point in Titanfall does being a foot mobile or piloting a Titan confer any overwhelming advantage, giving Titanfall good balance that ensures the game remains fun whether I’m on foot or whether I’m behind the wheel of an awesome war mecha. Over the course of my Game Time trial, I had a thirty percent win rate, but even though I was losing more games than I cared to count, the inclusion of an evacuation feature to leave the combat area and fight another day meant that losing a particular battle wasn’t really the end. For those few times I was on the winning team, it brought back memories of wiping floor with the losing team after winning in Team Fortress 2. Even though one doesn’t get crit-boosted weapons, the winning team gets to mop up any enemy remnants, giving each battle an additional sense of depth that many shooters seem to forgo.

  • Unlocked at level 12, the plasma railgun is a weapon that fires a charged plasma rounds at high speeds. Of all the weapons, it does the most damage per individual shot and is immensely effective against Titans, but stymied by an extremely low firing rate. Unlike the other energy weapons, the plasma railgun can be charged indefinitely.  As cool as this weapon is, it takes a fair degree of skill to make effective use of it, so I did not wield it for my Titans too often.

  • There is something immensely satisfying about the Titan’s primary weapon, whether it be how cool it looks, or how every shot fired feels powerful. During the chaos in battle, Titans can wreck unsuspecting pilots. Here, I’ve got a cool double kill after stepping on one pilot and blowing another pilot away with the chaingun, in the process, finishing a challenge for the chaingun. Challenges are like Battlefield‘s assignments and are completed once a certain number of kills, games played or other milestones are accomplished. Instead of unlocking new weapons, finishing challenges provides experience points and sometimes, burn cards.

  • While Titans can be summoned after they are built, it is also possible to spawn and drop into the battlefield  in a Titan. This factor is particularly cool, and as with TheRadBrad, I found myself saving my Titan so that I could spawn in it. I think that after an hour and a half of gameplay, like TheRadBrad, I was also at level nine, although I think that my performance is just slightly more solid than his =^.^= Of course, I love TheRadBrad’s video commentaries, and although he may not be the best player out there, he has a talent for making dull games look fun, and fun games even more alluring.

  • I wonder if TheRadBrad could make something like Kantai Collection seem fun and worth playing, although given the amount of setup, I’m fairly certain it won’t be worth it. The areas around hardpoints are usually packed with pilots trying to capture them, and in hardpoints with more spaces, even Titans can join the fray. Having a Titan capturing hardpoints is quite nice, offering some extra armour to preserve my lifespan, although for the most part, I will disembark my Titan, set it to automatic mode and then enter a building to capture the hardpoint.

  • The holographic sight is the next sight unlocked for the R-101C Carbine, featuring closed 2.1x sights that act as a fine balance between the default HCOG sights and AOG sight. With a high enough magnification to allow for engagements at range, but also permitting for a greater spatial awareness, the holographic sights were my choice of sight for the carbine. I think I have the extended mags unlocked, too, and having a 30-round magazine makes the R-101C the ideal all-purpose weapon.

  • The AOG sight provides 2.4 x magnification and allows for longer range engagements, giving the R-101C more usability at longer ranges while obscuring most of the screen and reducing effectiveness at close ranges. Unlike the ACOG sight from Battlefield, the AOG provides a simple red dot at the center, making this sight far easier to use.

  • The Atlas-class Titan tends to be my favourite Titan because of its balance, being more mobile than the Ogre-class and more resilient than the Stryder-class. It features a damage core that improves its damage output, and with no special edge or disadvantage, it’s most useful in attrition matches. I prefer weapons and tools that are versatile because, while they may not excel at any one role, they can perform admirably across a variety of roles.

  • Around six hours into Titanfall, I reached level 21 and unlocked the Arc Cannon as a primary weapon for the Titan. The Arc Cannon is the Titan’s equivalent of being able to summon Sith lightning to damage opponents. A directed-energy weapon that arcs over and can strike multiple opponents, its a powerful weapon that is only limited by its extremely short range of 48 meters.

  • Owing to the way the campaign works, I played on a few maps. Of these maps, I enjoyed Angel City quite a bit: it’s an urban environment with alleyways, tight spaces inside the buildings and plenty of space on the rooftops, making it quite suited for sniping. Besides Angel City, I really liked Demeter, as well: the oranges from the sunset and the combination of open and closed spaces made this map a thrill to play. In general, all of the maps have a very stylised design befitting of a science-fiction story set in the future, which adds to the sense of immersion in Titanfall.

  • If memory serves, I’ve lost every single game I played on Airbase and Outpost 207, two maps set during the darker hours. Despite these losses, the maps themselves are artistically designed: on Outpost 207, a rail gun fires upon an enemy ship when the match opens. The arc cannon continues to be useful here, and I get another cool double kill thanks to the projectile’s capacity to damage multiple opponents at once. After Halo 2, multi-kills and kill streaks have been more difficult to come by, since many shooters out there feature slower health regeneration to encourage more strategic thinking.

  • As a result, though I usually end up doing quite well (top five if I’m playing a match from the beginning, and usually top ten if I’m joining a match in progress), my KD ratio tends to float about 1.0 for most matches. In Battlefield 3, my KD ratio is comparatively poorer because I started out as an atrocious player and kept dying. In Titanfall, my KD ratio against pilots is roughly similar to that of my Battlefield 3 performance; in the beginning few hours, I had trouble figuring out which entities were pilots and which ones were grunts: for reference, pilots can cloak and have significantly higher mobility.

  • Unlocked at level six, the R-97 Compact Submachine Gun is a short-range weapon with a low damage output, larger magazine size and high rate of fire, making it suited for engagements at close quarters. It’s best used for hardpoint games with many indoor hardpoints, since grunts and other players tend to congregate at hardpoints. However, I ran with this weapon in an Attrition match just to see what would happen, and its low recoil means I can continue to keep the gun on a target even while its moving.

  • Unlocked at level 18, the G2A4 rifle is a battle rifle that fulfils a role between that of the Longbow DMR and the R-101C Carbine, featuring a higher rate of fire and magazine size than the former, and a greater range and damage output compared to the latter. It’s effective against pilots at even closer ranges, although ammunition can be expended quite quickly when going up against minons. During the course of this match, I turned the G2A4 towards terrorising enemy pilots inside the hardpoint capture point and in the process, wiped out the match’s MVP.

  • Owing to my preferences for the chaingun and 40 mm cannon, I have the extended magazines for both. Because the Titans draw from a vast ammunition reservoir, they appear to have infinite ammunition, and so, having extended magazines greatly extends one’s suvivability in combat when reloading means giving an enemy Titan or pilot breathing space and a chance to counterattack.

  • In the final moments before my trial ended, I experienced my first ever “first strike” bonus during a hard point match. I noticed that another pilot was capturing the point, so I tossed in a grenade that pwned him. Even though I ended up losing the match, I was able to make it to the evacuation point and was pulled out to fight another day, marking the end to my Titanfall experience. It’s now been a week since my Titanfall Game Time ended, and I spent today out on a few errands, stopping by TD Square to enjoy tempura before term starts. When I think about it, I had fried squid at TD Square just as the summer was beginning, so my summer began and ended on a similar note.

I know that Titanfall has won some sixty awards upon being previewed at E3 2013, and that reception to the game is largely positive, but there are a few downsides to the game I can think of. The first of these would probably be the campaign, which seemed to lack impact because of how limited the story was: all I picked up was that there’s a conflict between the IMC and Militia, and that there was a betrayal of some kind, but that’s about it. With how Titanfall was set up, there is a vast potential for telling a story about the IMC-Militia conflict, but this world-building is almost non-existent. Playing the campaign itself was difficult: contrasting some of the videos I had seen for the console, there was no way to pick and choose specific levels, meaning that during my trial, I only finished the IMC campaign, and a poor map rotation meant I would never finish the Militia campaign, instead, playing many of the levels I had already finished. The setup for custom loadouts is also a little clumsy, and I found some of my loadouts being overwritten if I were modifying them in between matches. Lastly, the HUD can be very busy at times. This about sums up some of the weaker aspects in what is otherwise a solid game: in particular, playing the campaign still yields plenty of experience while shining (a very small amount of) light on the Titanfall universe. I may have only put in around seven hours, but as time wore on, I became more efficient from a combat perspective, even ending up MVP a few times and earning a reasonable pilot KD ratio (I only died to a grunt once because a Titan had seriously weakened me). Despite having limited diversity in game-type and maps in its basic edition, Titanfall is a surprisingly fun game that allows players to explore new ways to move around on the battlefield. I admit that I’ll miss being able to run on walls and double jump now that my trial has ended, I am left with seven hours of a decidedly positive experience, and I might consider purchasing the game if I can find the time to play it in the future.

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