Let us tell you a story. Back in 2007 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was unleashed upon the world. It kicked off the trend for shooters with a Modern setting, and delivered a spectacular cinematic campaign, but its most influential contribution to gaming was neither of these...It was its multiplayer. With its Character Progression, kill-streak rewards and fluid map design, Modern Warfare changed the face of online gaming forever A sequel only strengthened its grip, sending millions of players online to their untimely deaths. Developers Infinity Ward went down in history as pioneers, and Call of Duty’s dominance was unstoppable. But that’s not the end of this story. 

Because in March 2010 Infinity Ward’s founders Jason West and Vince Zampella were fired. Accused by publishers Activision of plotting against them with other companies, they were thrown out of their own studio, and half of the staff left with them. This kicked off a lawsuit that lasted almost two years... but when the dust settled, a new studio was born. Respawn Entertainment.

Why are we telling you all this you ask? Well, Respawn have announced their new game, a Microsoft exclusive, online shooter called Titanfall. And guess what? With it, they are about to revolutionise multiplayer. All. Over. Again. Hang on tight, this is going to get heavy.

Set against the backdrop of an interplanetary war, where corporations are battling settlers in massive land grabs, Titanfall’s defining element is its towering mech suits. Huge pieces of industrial machinery, but also agile and adept war machines. They are contrasted by their pilots, foot-soldiers equipped with jump packs that let them nimbly leap around the battlefield, running across walls and climbing structures. Each pilot can summon their own titan, or fight on foot, and when you put both together in the same battlefield you have a war of Davids and Goliaths.

 

 

But unlike David and Goliath, neither the titans nor the pilots have the upper hand in combat. Sure, Titans may wield bigger weapons, but they are also bigger targets, and pilots, despite their vulnerability, have plenty of ways of taking down the Titans. This kind of balancing is combined with the games flair for the spectacular, to create some amazing gameplay possibilities. For example, if their Titan is low on health players can eject, launching high into the air. This makes them an easy target for enemy pilots and titans, but it also provides them with a vantage point from which to drop onto the enemy titan, and bring it down.

One of the main aims of Titanfall, like many games shown at E3 2013, is the blending of multiplayer and single player. This is a concept that has been tried many times before, and has also failed many times before, in titles like Brink. What makes Titanfall different is that through their Call of Duty expertise, Respawn truly understand how to make epic, coherent and sleek single player campaigns. In Titanfall’s battles this means that waiting times have been replaced by in dropship flights, objective markers by NPCs who brief you on the ground, and match information by characters who call in to keep you updated. Battles are also populated with AI controlled enemies, designed to combat the frustration of being constantly killed by skilled human opponents. And this is just the simple stuff, matches revolve around individual narratives, with the one we saw being a battle to protect a settler transport. When one team failed the match didn’t simply end. Instead, the losing team were tasked with retreating to dropships to be extracted from the battlefield, granting them a reward if they made it in one piece.

It’s these kind of ideas that make Titanfall feel truly revolutionary; both in its sense of scale and drama... and in the multilayered human vs mech battle that rage across its stunning maps. We’re sure there will be plenty more to see over the coming months, but even from this early taste we can’t wait for 2014, when this metal monster drops.

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  • Developer: Respawn Entertainment
    Publisher: Electronic Arts