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Beta Impression: Titanfall

Let me just put it out there that this abbreviated Beta Impression should by no means be indicative of anything. Titanfall had me by the nucleus accumbens before I even got out of the goddamn tutorial. I can sum up why in one hyphenated word: wall-running.

Run for about 30 meters or so...

Run for about 30 meters or so and then jump…

...wall-run, leap off, double-jump (!), and then pull yourself into the 2nd window.

…wall-run, leap off, double-jump (!), and then pull yourself into the window.

If I had to use an un-hyphenated word, it’d be “mobility.” Take away the guns and giant death machines raining down from sky, and Titanfall is everything that you loved about Mirror’s Edge. I mean, double-jumps! I haven’t had this much fun simply moving around since… well, Mirror’s Edge and maybe Tenchu. I’m spending so much time belaboring this point because I had a big stupid grin the whole time I was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-ing every single match. Goddamn is it fun to run around.

Now, Titanfall has some problems. And I don’t mean graphical problems (I had 50+ fps at high everything) or beta-esque problems like bugs or whatever. I mean, some pretty structural problems, or at least issues to keep in mind. First, the guns are a bit ridiculous. There is your standard assault rifle, sniper rifle, submachine gun and shotgun that is a one-hit kill (sigh). Then there is also the “Smart Pistol.” What does it do? Oh, it locks onto players and instantly kills them when you get three locks.

Titanfall's version of the noob-tube.

Titanfall’s version of the noob-tube. Except worse than that, really.

That screenshot is from the kill cam I watched after wondering how I instantly died. You might notice that the guy is cloaked. Actually, every player has a cloaking device by default, although the Smart Pistol can defeat it (taking a few seconds longer to lock on). You might also notice how the line curves a bit towards the end. Yeah, Smart Pistol bullets can bend around in mid-air. You don’t have to lead your target or even aim directly at them – as long as they’re within the blue box on your screen, you’ll get your locks, and just pull the trigger.

Look at that Pro Skill.

Look at that Pro Skill, killing me in midair at a full sprint.

Now, this gun is also tremendously fun to use, especially when you use it to kill the NPC fodder running around as they die in one lock. But every time you die to it, you’ll be thinking “Bullshit.” Doubly so when you’re dueling some guy who’s dancing around the sky and instantly kills you because he doesn’t have to aim.

About the biggest, most important thing I can talk about is the 6v6 limit to matches. I mean, I filter out anything that isn’t 24v24 or higher in Battlefield 3 & 4. While I was playing though, I have to admit: the environments felt pretty busy. Admittedly, this is entirely because the devs seed the battlefield with NPC fodder troops that you can kill for XP and to accelerate your Titan timer. As some other bloggers mentioned, I didn’t entirely notice all that much damage coming from them either, but it’s possible that is a beta thing. Still, it’s usually worth shooting them to get your goodies faster. Plus, they definitely add to the sort of manic ambiance with their shouts, gunfire, and even random quips.

How are the Titans themselves?

It feels all Warhammer 40k up in here.

It feels all Warhammer 40k up in here.

The Titans are fantastic. You get to call one in every 4 minutes, and the timer speeds up by 15 seconds every time you kill a Pilot. They feel powerful without feeling omnipotent, and it’s sometimes correct to call one in and not pilot it – letting the AI engage with the enemy is a great distraction as you cap a strategic point. Every player has an anti-Titan weapon by default, so it never devolves into that depressing Battlefield scenario when a tank rolls by and you can do nothing about it. Plus, if shooting rockets at a Titan doesn’t sound badass enough, you can run up to and “Rodeo” (in-game term) one yourself, which involves scrambling on top and shooting your weapon into the circuitry.

Despite being positively juiced about this game, I still want to make sure you come away with a wet blanket firmly wrapped around your shoulders. Because for how amazingly fun and slick it feels – I let out an audible groan of pleasure when my Titan snatched me out of the air and deposited me inside the cockpit like a goddamn anime – I cannot help but worry this is one of those wirehead moments. In other words, I worry it’s all surface-level pleasure without deeper substance.

I guess it’s arguable as to what substance Battlefield or the latest Call of Duty have, but I feel with Battlefield at least that there is a good variance in map experience precisely because there are 32 different enemy players to run across. While getting matched against 6 clan members isn’t a total shut-out here necessarily (you can still kills NPCs), matches last less than 10 minutes and you can get stomped even faster than that.

They absolutely nailed the sound effects.

They absolutely nailed the sound effects.

Supposedly the PC version of the beta is going to be opened to the public soon, so I recommend trying it out for yourself if you can. My interest in the game went from around ~20 to over 9,000 based on playing it all day Sunday, but I don’t know if I’m willing to pull the trigger on even the discounted pre-order price of $48. I have over 250 hours in PlanetSide 2, over 100 for BF3, and only about 38 hours in BF4. Will Titanfall meet or exceed any of those? Hard to say. There are unlocks, achievements, XP, and all the “normal” FPS trappings. I just… sigh, I just don’t know how long the honeymoon will last, you know?

Until it does end, I suppose I should be getting back to getting busy while I can.

Reviews: Mirror’s Edge, SPAZ

Game: Mirror’s Edge
Recommended price: $5
Metacritic Score: 81
Completion Time: ~5 hours
Buy If You Like: First-person platforming, parkour, novel videogames

More of this, please

I had somehow missed most of the other reviews out there regarding Mirror’s Edge, so when I booted the game up I was a blank canvas upon which the designers could paint a visually-striking first-person platformer that worked (far better than others, anyway). And while I have seen those other reviews in the time after having completed this game, their legitimate criticisms does not change my mind regarding badly wanting Mirror’s Edge 2.

It is difficult to say much more than “first-person platformer” because that pretty much sums up Mirror’s gameplay. You control a Runner named Faith, as she delivers packages and unravels a conspiracy in the unnamed City sometime in the (not so distant?) future. Most of your time is leaping from rooftop to rooftop, vaulting over AC units, scrambling over fences, busting down doors, shimmying up or down pipes, and basically making a circuitous path from Red Point A to Red Point B. Pretty soon, helicopter gunships and trigger-happy police officers are firing on you as you maintain an addicting sort of manic momentum and leaps of faith. Perhaps ironically, I felt more like a ninja in Mirror’s Edge than I ever did in Assassin’s Creed, despite this game being more realistic in terms of your ability to take falls and so on.

Unfortunately, the reviews are correct in criticizing the game’s split personality when it comes to combat. While you have the choice early on to simply run around the police you encounter, by mid-game you are frequently required to take on armed guards with your relatively ineffectual unarmed attacks. There is a disarming method that will take out a guard in a single button press, but the timing is so ludicrously short – even with your recharging slow-mo ability – that most times you are better off flailing at the guards until you or they go down. Once the first guy drops, you can pick up his gun and take out the others with however many bullets are left in the clip.

Ultimately though, when Mirror’s Edge is good, it’s great. Much like Portal 2, you will end up surprising yourself with the solution of “how the hell am I going to get over there?” – and managing to get a few stages correct the first time left me with a metaphorical runner’s high. Other times you will get stuck, shot, or take a flying leap off a building only to realize that wasn’t what the game wanted you to do. If you can accept the (minor) frustrations as the price of admission though, I highly recommend checking out the show.

Game: Space Pirates And Zombies (SPAZ)
Recommended price: $5
Metacritic Score: 74
Completion Time: ~38 hours
Buy If You Like: Overhead view spaceship pseudo-RPG action games

Amazing visuals for a 2-man indie game.

Originally, I pooh-poohed SPAZ based on the demo not being not particularly impressive. Having acquired the full game as part of an indie game deal, I decided to give the game proper another shot. And what I discovered, 38 hours later, is both a deeper, more impressive game… and one sorely in need of a larger-than-two-developer crew.

The basic structure of the game is destroying other spaceships, reverse-engineering their designs so you can build them, collecting Rez to build said spaceships, and basically having around seven different excuses missions to destroy said spaceships. In many ways, SPAZ is sort of like Gratuitous Space Battles aside from being able to control the ships flying around. The underlying problem with the setup though, doesn’t creep up until around hour 10-15: pacing.

The early game is extremely exciting with each new encounter resulting in new ships to pilot, there being many new components/weapons to try out, and so on. Unfortunately, the game becomes considerably less fun when you are piloting the same exact ship you were dozens of hours ago. Then, when you finally get towards the endgame and unlock those capital ship designs, the game’s difficulty evaporates as you steamroll them with a clearly overpowered design. I defeated the last boss in literally 20 seconds of holding the left mouse button down while stationary.

Overall, it’s tough to be too critical though, especially considering the game held my attention for 38 hours. There is a lot to like about the things SPAZ accomplishes well, and rather than being disappointed with some of its failings, I simply wish MinMax Games had the additional resources to polish up on its potential.