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E3 PREVIEW: Titanfall (PC, 360, One)

Titanfall is the product of a few years of development by Respawn Entertainment, founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella after their defection from Activision and Infinity Ward, a studio they also founded to create the Call of Duty series. It was finally unveiled at both Microsoft and Electronic Arts’ pre-E3 2013 press briefings.

The first thing that was striking was the use of sound in the game, which was a strength of the early Call of Duty titles. The sound and action made the games immersive, whether having to land on a beach under heavy fire or deal with artillery fire. In Titanfall, the action is anything but clean, as explosions, the sound of dust and pebbles being scattered, gunfire and mech movement give the player a sense of being in a gritty, violent battle.

Respawn stated at the private demo of Titanfall one team had to protect an incoming fuel ship called The Red Eye. The game mode was a capture point variation in which there were three points that could be captured that would give the team points over time.

The game works on two levels: the pilot play and the giant robot play. When a pilot is waiting for his mech to arrive (called Titans in the game), they are equipped with a jetpack, allowing quick, fun maneuvering around the battlefield, with double jumps, wallruns and wall-scaling.

This part of the game tops Call of Duty’s action alone, which even includes Call of Duty’s constant point awards for successful actions, but then the mechs come into play.

Unlike most mechs, the Titans are just as agile as a human, with none of the pondering, stomping about. Instead, the Titans are an extension of the pilot, running and jumping neatly.

The entire game, in fact, is based on speed. When a pilot enters a Titan, which is deployed via airdrop (hence “Titanfall”), the transition is quick. Pilots can latch onto enemy mechs and sabotage them, while a pilot in a Titan may finish another Titan by grabbing the pilot from within the chest and throwing him away like a ragdoll. Even ejecting from a Titan feels badass, as the pilot is launched several hundred feet in the air, though sometimes that might invite target practice from enemy Titans.

When the team managed to keep The Red Eye safe, the game started a post-game epilogue, in which the winning team had to bolt for their evac, with only a minute to get on or be left behind. This game the losing team a chance to extract some revenge on the winning players by preventing them from escaping.

Titanfall represents vindication for the former Infinity Ward developers, as the game surpasses Call of Duty in many ways, not the least of which is the fast-paced visceral gameplay that will be available on PC and Xbox One in 2014.

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