Tuesday, March 11, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

I almost envy those who were exposed to Titanfall for the first time today. I had no intention of even bothering to pursuit beta keys to get an early look at the game until the beta went public. Much of the novelty of Titanfall’s evolutionary multiplayer washed past me as different aspects of its design caught my attention.

One of which was how Titanfall handles story.

I can’t give Titanfall’s scripted narrative a whole lot of credit. It feels very familiar in that it’s what you’d expect from a story of a militia resistance battling against a well established military force. Corny one-liners, unintentionally yet well broadcasted twists, it’s your run-of-the-mill video game story. What did hold my attention however was how their decision to have it intertwined with the multiplayer and how it allows us to get past all the Call of Duty bullshit and bring us to what we’re really playing these games for.

Respawn finds every opportunity to drip its narrative without getting in our way of us diving into the shit. Leaders lay down their heavy handed broadcasts in match lobby screens, the story manages to squeeze a little bit of narrative in the few seconds you’re in the drop ship, and then in game events offer a bit of storytelling flow as you progress through a multiplayer match. Scripted set pieces are very rare, but when they do appear, they are delivered with such unappreciated precision that they hardly give you a chance to say, “That was kinda awesome” before you’re gunning full sprint into battle.

They are rare not only because they do a fantastic job of staying out of your way, but such directed sequences are unnecessary because Titanfall’s matches are procedurally generated set pieces in and of themselves.

Playing through Titanfall’s campaign also gave me a chance to appreciate Hardpoint, a mode in which hadn’t exposed its full potential in the beta due to both what players were comfortable playing and how players were comfortable playing. Directing players to different points of the map allows for a level of appreciation and mastery of Titanfall’s mobile design that Attrition simply doesn’t. Hardpoint challenges you to read the maps in a way that don’t just smash you up against your opponents. How can I get from Alpha to Bravo in the shortest space of time? Where can I enter to capture this point? Through the front door, or the ceiling?

My experience with Titanfall was unlike any other multiplayer shooter not just because I ran along walls and over roof tops and frequently jumped into robots, but the un-intrusive story gave me the chance to see how Titanfall’s mechanics work within the context of other game modes, and how unfamiliar and liberating that can be. 

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