Did you get in on the Everything else we know about Titanfall beta test this month? Lorenzo and I did. We played a lot of it. And while we both loved it, we found ourselves with slightly different opinions by the time our glorious week of robot-smashing ended. Lorenzo ultimately preferred playing as one of the game's lithe, nimble, parkouring Pilots, whereas--while I adore the Pilots' versatility--I found myself a big fan of Titanfall's even bigger mechs.
You see, while they initially seem like blunt, unsubtle pieces of hardware, after prolonged play I found a whole lot of deeper, more subtle nuance underpinning their design, leading to a boatload of smart, brash, but incredibly satisfying fun. Lorenzo's thoughts on the Pilots will be coming soon, but for now, I'd like to give you my own personal guide to just why Titanfall's Titans are such a hoot to be around. I guarantee you'll want a real one of your own by the time you hit the last page. The future can't come soon enough.
1. You'll get REALLY attached to them
This might seem an odd point to start on, but trust me, its important. The reason? Your attachment to your big robot buddy adds an extra level of fun that filters down through everything else, coating every element of Titan-use with a warm, sticky, golden layer of delicious satisfaction.
Theres just something wonderfully loveable about the way the Titans are presented. Between their massive but not unrelatable size, their pleasingly stompy but altogether human animation, and their deliriously giddy arrivals on the battlefield (Daddys home!, they seem to yelp, after enigmatically hurtling down from the sky. Who wants to smash some stuff up? And then they scoop you up into their faces, and away you merrily skip to cause havoc), the Titans arent just vehicles or tools. They're big robotic playmates just waiting to rocket-punch their way into your life and whisk you off for a fun day out.
2. Titan use is way deeper than you think
Do not go into Titanfall thinking, as I at first did, that its mighty metallic warriors are simple blunt instruments. These noble, robotic knights are not simply to be smashed repeatedly into the enemy until exploding, like some mere killstreak reward, or the hastily grabbed small dog of a nearby old lady in a January Sale crowd. No, piloting a Titan is a complete, nuanced game all of its own.
The first thing you need to learn is how to manage your horizontal boost power. Although theyre fast as standard, Titans are nothing without it, particularly when fighting each other. Powered by a regenerating, two-step gauge (giving you up to two, omni-directional boosts to combo together at any given time), dashing is key to long-term, tactical play. A well-timed boost will dodge rockets, sidestep Titan punches, and turn a maps buildings into a fast-flowing three-storey cover system. You can spot a rookie (or just stupid) Titan pilot straight away. Theyll be the only one not rollerskating everywhere. If your play-style makes you look like someones recreating a 90s tampon commercial with actors made out of washing machines, youre doing it right.
3. They're incredibly well balanced
If two Titans of the same class go up against each other in one-on-one gladiatorial fisticuffs, regardless of how different their load-outs might be, the better pilot will always win. Always. Theyre that well-balanced. Its just impossible to imagine any one Titan comfortably beating another in a pure battle of attrition. Try blindly duking it out, and youll be celebrating your victory while frantically researching affordable skin-grafts. Because youll have a lot of burns. Because youll be on fire. Because your Titan will be about to explode. Because you won't have won by very much.
Instead, turning the corner of a city street to be confronted an enemy Titan is always an event. It feels a lot like the intro sequence at the start of a fighting game. You size each other up, raise a rakish eyebrow as the scampering, fleshy, ground-level skirmish around you fades away, and then charge in to have at it like giant duelling gentlemen. And the fighting game allegory remains apt throughout, the resulting battle defined not by your hardwares stopping power, but by your own dexterity, inventive control of space, and second-to-second decision-making. Giant-robot fighting. Its a noble art.
4. They make a great tactical decoy
If you dont mind feeling like a great big bastard, you can use your jolly grey robot friend as the bait for a great trap. Hop out of the cockpit, and hell continue to fight the good fight on his own. Alone. As you run away and leave him. But he understands. Its okay. He knows that you have to do what you have to do, and those arent tears in his eye-cameras, but condensation from a nearby explosion.
But then, as long as you leave him in guard-mode, you can keep running away from him. Hell longingly watch you as you go, but thats fine. Hes probably just doing so for your safety, rather than out of heartbreak. And because Titans are always a massive draw of attention, and because every nearby enemy player will be too lustful for his noble, sacrificial death to notice that youre not in him, theyll all charge at your Titan like murderous Lilliputians. And then you can kill them all from the safety of cover. Particularly easily, if you have the auto-targeting Smart Pistol. If he survives, you can always switch your Titan to follow-mode, and have him come joyfully bounding over to you like a big robot Labrador. But hell probably die instead. And although you wont hear them over the sound of gunfire, his last words will be a heavily distorted Iii looooovve yoooo.
5. They're REALLY versatile
Titans are not just about smashing things up. Theyre great at that, of course, but to treat them as no more than walking tanks is like putting Stephen Hawking in charge of accounts at a local garage. To jump into a Titans cockpit and fire up its display is to open up a sprawling horizon of eclectic possibilities. Okay, all the possibilities are basically really violent, but imagine some rivers and lakes as well, for the sake of this metaphor.
Want to turn around an attritional choke-point battle? You can do that, no problem. Want to lead the charge on a base-capture? Play it right, and your men will rally around you and immediately turn the tide. Want to go on patrol, covering a perimeter around the map in order keep enemy numbers down? Perfectly viable tactic. Want to act as a guard-dog on a captured base? Hell, want to program your Titan to act as a guard dog as you run in to capture a base? You can do all that and more. Including an impromptu jet-powered boxing match-cum-Royal Rumble with any other Titans on the map. You know that sounds good.
6. They're rationed perfectly
Never too frequent, never too rare, the Titans would get a double-thumbs up from Goldilocks any day of the week. Shed just bloody love them. Reiterating the point that Titans are not killstreak rewards, you will get one during every round you play, guaranteed. Several, probably. Initially primed to drop at the end of a two minute timer, you can speed them along slightly by doing big damage to the enemy team. But however you play, those apocalyptic ground-stomps are going to be raining in thick and fast.
That said, the Titans timing is set up brilliantly so as to never dominate the match. Although they come in frequently, Titanfalls moment-to-moment pacing is so jammed with brilliant things to do and rapidly evolving, emergent set-pieces to be part of that in even just a minute or two on foot you can get involved in a glut of cool stuff. The fact that you have the arrival of your Titan ticking down as an ambient bonus is just a wonderful background pleasure, building its own tailored pacing to the ebb and flow of your own personal game. Even better, you can hold off their launch for as long as you like, making them as big or small a part of your game-plan as you like.
7. They alter, but never dominate, the flow of battle
This is an important thing to know. Given that the game is called Titanfall (and not, say, Jumpy Man Warzone), and has a big old Titan on its box art, but could be forgiven for thinking that its all Titans, all the time. Its not. At all. For all of the reasons listed previously, and all the subtle little inter-related systems and balance tricks at play, Titans never lead the fight. Rather, theyre part of a perfectly weighted, asymmetric battlefield in which creative thinking, agility, on-the-fly tactics and good old fashioned, Quake-style arcade skill are just as powerful as giant robots with car-sized guns.
See the Titans the same way that you see the vehicles in Battlefield. An amazing, empowering, game-changing thrill-ride that nevertheless requires intelligent, nuanced play to get the best out of, and which never steamrolls over the efforts of the honest, rifle-toting meat-soldiers on the ground.
8. They can punch men into red mist
You hear that? Mist. And they can stamp on people. And pull them out of their cockpits, if you manage to finish off their Titan with a ballsy melee attack. And even crush them to death if you time your Titan-drop well enough.
But the main point is that punch. You can even use it to bro-fist your fellow Titans in celebration if you get your spacing right. Bro-fisting robots. Yeah.
So that's my overview of your big robot buddies. Sound fun? Better than you expected? Or do you have any other Titan-based notes or anecdotes from the beta you'd like to share? If so, put them in the comments and get the conversation going, before I start dropping accidental rhymes in any more sentences. It's not my fault, It's an illness in a way.
And while you're here, why not check out Everything else we know about Titanfall? And then maybe have a look at my editorial addressing the question of If Halo 5 misses 2014, will Titanfall really be enough?.