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Titanfall: Jetpacks. Parkour. Mechs.

Company: EA Games

Let someone pitch the idea of Titanfall to you, and you might think it's the brainchild of a 12-year old boy. Think about it: two teams of gunners equipped with jetpacks and possessing agility in spades duke it out with the help of giant mechs that come crashing down from orbit. Does that not sound completely awesome to you? Having sunk an unhealthy number of hours into the beta, I can already say with no hesitation whatsoever that Titanfall is going to be the shooter to beat this year, and all of its competitors have their work cut out for them.

So what's so great about Titanfall, considering that it belongs to a genre that seems to value iteration over innovation? Well, if it's one thing, it's innovative. Here is a game that is bursting at the seams with new ideas, one that feels primed to transform the landscape of the genre.

I can't really speak to the strength of Titanfall's story elements, since I haven't really encountered any of them. However, the beta did give me a pretty good idea of the setting: it's a futuristic conflict between two primary factions: the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Frontier Militia. Whether this is developed into something truly interesting or just a bit of science fiction fluff simply designed to provide a stage for each bit of robot armageddon, it probably doesn't matter.

First things first, this is a multiplayer-only shooter. There are campaign elements at play, but they are not the focus. Perhaps this is unsurprising, considering that Titanfall comes to us from Respawn Entertainment, the new studio headed by former Infinity Ward bosses and employees.

Titanfall facilitates matches between two six-player teams; A.I.-controlled soldiers help fill out the numbers (though they're woefully dumb). The beta features three game types: Attrition (Team Deathmatch), Hardpoint (Conquest/Domination), and Last Titan Standing (Single Elimination). Neither EA nor Respawn have divulged the entire feature set for the finished product, but it's safe to say we'll see more than just these three.

So everything I've mentioned thus far might not sound particularly innovative, and if you've already jumped to conclusions, you might already be a victim of genre stagnation. Why is Titanfall an innovative game? It all boils down to one thing: mechanics. This shooter isn't as concerned with the rules of the game as it is with the tools you have at your disposal. As a result, Titanfall feels like a bona fide game changer.

It's been kind of disheartening to see shooters crank out the same rote gameplay style of run around, jump over small obstacles, point and click. Despite the best efforts of games such as Brink and Tribes, the simple act of locomotion has been criminally overlooked in favor of bigger and badder weaponry. Not Titanfall. No, this game puts all three dimensions to use and amazingly balances the emphasis between each of them. As mentioned before, pilots have jetpacks that are capable of providing quick but effective boosts. Pilots are also capable of mantling with ease and grace; much like in Dishonored. Perhaps the best tool they have at their disposal, however, is their natural agility; they can wallrun with ease and even chain them together. Wallrunning greatly increases your momentum, and can often be the difference between life and death.

At the beginning of each match, a four-minute countdown begins. Once that timer reaches zero, you can call down a Titan, a cutting-edge battle-ready war machine. Titans are fast, resilient, and powerful, as capable of sniping pilots and crushing them under feet as they are of entering brutal fisticuffs with other Titans. The timer can be shortened significantly by killing other pilots, but even lesser skilled gamers will have the opportunity to use these at least once in a game.

By looking at them, you'd think that Titans were unstoppable. But the game seems to be incredibly well-balanced between pilots' enhanced mobility and verticality and the wealth of anti-Titan weapons and tactics they can employ to bring them down. Pilots who are confident enough in their movement skills can clamber onto the back of a Titan; friendly ones can offer rides and shielding benefits, and enemy Titans can be "rodeoed," a process that involves tearing off the shielding on its neck and firing into its internal systems, causing serious damage. It's a risky strategy, but it's amazingly effective when it works.

I could say so much more about this game and why you should be excited for it, but I'll hold off until the official review. To make a long story short, I completely sympathize with anyone who suffers from shooter fatigue. It's a totally rational response to the kind of saturation we are now seeing in the market. This game might be the first serious shot in the arm since, well, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Every console needs its killer app, and as far as the Xbox One goes, I'm convinced that Titanfall is it.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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