I fear I wont survive. My vision is blurred. Im being chased by a pistol-packing militia member across the rooftops of an abandoned neighborhood. Hes already shot me. One more shot and I might be dead.
Then I hear: Your Titan is ready to drop. Signal when ready.
I point to a nearby parking lot below me and boom! a Transformers-like robot descends from the sky. Leaping from the buildings roof, I slide into my mechanized beasts chest and quickly assume the controls, swinging the 24-foot-tall walking tank around to my pursuer and blasting him to smithereens.
Thats just one breakneck moment among the dozens Ive experienced while playing the frenetic Titanfall (Electronic Arts, for the Xbox One, PC, $59.99).
Titanfall is the ambitious inaugural game from Respawn Entertainment, a studio that includes developers who worked on the landmark Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. Its clear after spending a few days clashing with Titans that theyve changed the game again, refreshing the static shoot-em-up genre with this fabulously fluid sci-fi shooter.
Any notion of interactive storytelling has been ejected into space in favor of a strictly online-only affair where each matchup between the games warring Frontier Militia and the Interstellar Manufacturing Corp. is comprised of real players portraying balletic gun-toting pilots. Theyre each equipped with jet packs and can call on those behemoth Titans for support.
Pilots begin most matches without a Titan sidekick. They can speed up its construction occurring in a ship overhead by shooting down foes and completing objectives in the games five multiplayer modes from the death match-like Attrition to the rock-em-sock-em Last Titan Standing that are spread across 15 of the most vertical levels ever depicted in a shooter.
The expansive battlefields arent merely populated with other human pilots. There are also dozens of computer-controlled foot soldiers whose presence imbues Titanfall with the feeling of an epic war. Enemies serve as fodder. Their deaths shave off time until the next Titan is ready, while allies helpfully lead pilots to the next closest kerfuffle on the map.
It might all seem complicated. Its not. There are so many different ways to play as either a free-running pilot on the ground or inside a lumbering Titan that its always entertaining, no matter if youre a shooter newbie or hardcore Halo and Call of Duty devotee. Heck, even losing is fun because the missions end with an adrenaline-pumping race to an escape vessel.
An unfulfilling but necessary campaign mode attempts to make sense of the man-versus-machine conflict thats waging between the militia and the IMC. Its inadequate because it provides zero background on how or why these factions are at each others steel throats, but its paramount because playing completely through the mode unlocks two of the games three Titans.
No, Titanfall isnt 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its Space Mountain. By relinquishing a true plot and instead masterfully blending guns, robots, parkour and sci-fi cliches into a giant interactive thrill ride, Respawn Entertainment has put together an innovative toy box where players can act out their own stories on otherworldly front lines.
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