New console cycles always come with a few standout titles announced in the months leading up to their release, and the upcoming winter 2013 iteration marks one of the rare times when multiple consoles debut in the same season. Since E3, no title has garnered more buzz and shown a more ambitious concept than Titanfall, the debut game from Respawn Entertainment.
Let me cut to the chase, after an intense 15 minute session in the heart of the exhibition hall at this year’s PAX Prime: Titanfall has an excellent chance to redefine the first person shooter genre. Infantry combat is a mix of the powered suit experience from Crysis and the wall running experience from Prince of Persia, a pseudo-physics movement style that still has a realistic sense of weight and momentum (at least, comparable to other modern shooters). Weapons have articulate models and sound effects that are commensurate with their functions, and the level in the alpha build (featured in the Gamescom trailer) has a mix of Brutalist architecture and destroyed ruins that offers plenty of scalable surfaces and cover to challenge both soldiers and mechs.
Titanfall really stands out when the aforementioned infantry gameplay combines with mechanized combat. The seamless integration really highlights the sophistication in design and user experience that Respawn carries over from its Infinity Ward legacy, and it feels phenomenal: I approached my Titan from various angles and speeds before initiating a boarding, and the game handled them all without a hitch. Weapons have a heavy look and feel that strongly demonstrate their high level of damage, and a range of complementary skills such as shielding that savvy gamers can use to engage in extended runs in their Titans.
It’s hard to distinguish if the experience at PAX better represents the eventual console or PC experience as an alpha likely running on an Xbox One developer console or equivalent PC, but my early session with The game indicates that the look, feel and behavior of the game will be immensely satisfying. Titanfall is a fresh and bold new world that the stagnating genre of shooters desperately needs, and Respawn is well on its way towards delivering on its immense ambition.