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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

[ZOMBiE CyGiG] ranted at 2:06 AM --- Post#5771908181016174659

There is a saying that you cannot go wrong with having meccha in anime (or maho shoujo) and I guess that translate very well to video games as well. Even with badass Abrams or Vipers in Battlefield 4, you don't feel as good as piloting a Titan, although in Titanfall you are technically no more superior in a Titan than being just a pilot. As you might have guessed it, Titans refers to the mechs the game, and pilots are the people controlling the Titans. Similar to most science fiction, a pilot controls the mech by getting into one's cockpit and controlling it like a vehicle. At the point of writing, I have reached level 50 in game and played for around 50 hours.

The first person shooter combines elements from many other games, such as pakouring from GunZ Online and mech controls from Mech Warrior. The most commonly played multiplayer mode, Attrition, has point based scoring system instead of kill base, similar to Battlefield 3 and 4.

In Attrition, you start off as a pilot, and fight on foot (6v6 human players) until a timer runs down and you would be able to Titanfall, which drops a Titan from the sky. You can accelerate the timer by killing enemies. You can then ride in your 10m tall Titan, move it around the area while prejudicing on infantries scurrying away from your metal shoes. You are equipped with a variety of sci-fi weapons like laser beams and electric arc guns, as well as your own Titan fist to bring down enemies Titans and pilots. Your Titan does not have regenerative health, so the fun ends when the HP hits null and you are forced into Doomed mode. It is much like the disabled vehicle mode in Battlefield 3 and 4 where a timer will count down that gives the pilot time to either escape or inflict more damage to the enemies. If you choose the former, you pull the all familar Eject Lever under your seat and blast upwards into the sky out of your titan. From up there, you can see your precious metal blow up into pieces and also decide where you want to land on. Killing enemies and perform certain task (hacking Vectors and turrets etc.) earns you Attrition points, and the battle repeats and carry on from there until one team has enough Attrition points to be considered the victor.

Single Player
The single player on Titanfall is so simplified that there might as well be none. There are nine campaign missions, playable on two sides (IMC or Militia), making it a total of 18 levels. Each level is nothing but a standard multiplayer game with some narration and extra scenes added in to fill it up with a story. The narration and key events usually take place during the middle of the game where I would not have the attention to listen to. After completing the campaign with my two other friends, none of them can recall what the main story was about, other than two fraction fighting against each other.

The matchmaking process is split into two parts: Party forming and the actual matchmaking. Before starting any game, you can invite your friends on Origin into your party. Once your friends are all in, the one who initiated the invite will now be able to choose and join a game. You are guaranteed to be on the same team as your party and team balance will not switch anyone of you guys over. This is such a simple and yet elegant way to play with your friends, unlike in most other games where you have to hurry your friend to join in the last empty slot in the lobby.

The game has six game modes: Attrition, Capture the Flag, Last Titan Standing, Hardpoint, Pilot Hunter and Variety Pack. The observed most played mode is Attrition, where killing enemies and hacking certain characters gives you points, you team wins when it is the first to reach 300. Capture the Flag is, well, just capture the flag. Last Titan Standing spawns everyone in a Titan right from the start and has no respawns. This game mode is the second most fun in my opinion as it switchs from the usual chaotic and fast Attrition to something more tatical and strategic. Hardpoint is similar to Conquest in Battlefield where you capture and hold strategic points. Pilot Hunter is the same as Attrition but points are only rewarded to pilots killed and not Titans destroyed. Variety Pack mix and match game modes each round.

At the first glace, the weapons and perks in the game are obviously over powered. As a pilot, cloaking turns you almost fully invisible to Titans. When the game tells you that using Power Cell will hasten the recharge of your cloaking ability, they meant it a whopping twice as fast. You start off with a pistol that automatically aims and fires homing rounds, then you will be given an SMG with a mod that can negate all recoil while firing from the hip, soon after you will be given an anti-titan Charge Rifle with infinite ammo and finally an LMG that destroy an enemy Titan when you mount on one within 5 to 10 seconds. As a Titan, you get a Worms Chiquita-like Cluster bomb that continues to pepper the area after the initial explosion, make yourself into a nuclear bomb after being Doomed, an assault rifle-like rockets called the Quad Rocket with Rapid Fire mod and a multple grenade launcher where the grenade get stuck to the ground and becomes a mine if it did not hit a target.

However, since every player is over powered, no one is really over powered. Rather, all players will be niche in one area and being all average on the other. In fact, the weapons are balanced out very well, and from my observations, there is no one predominant setup like what usually happens in unbalanced games. This is unlike weapon attachments in Battlefield 4 where they provide mediocre stats change, the mods in Titanfall changes your weapon significantly, making the weapon extremely niche. As mentioned earlier, adding Counter Weight to the C.A.R. SMG turns your weapon into a specialised firearm for players who prefer to spray and fire from the hip and adding Slammer to Spitfire LMG turns it into a specialised enemy Titan rodeo tool. Those design choices actually promote different players to adopt a play style different from others, but tend to encourage players to stick to their own play style without change as well.

Another great balance comes between the pilot and Titan. At no point in the game did I ever feel that I lost out because I am a pilot and my opponent is hiding in his metal battle exoskeleton. A lot of times, I called down a Titan not really because I need it in battle, but simply to enjoy the visuals and experience. Being a pilot grants you the ability to parkour with your jetpack, and even the fastest model of the Titans would not be as nimble and agile as you are, not to mention the tight and easy control makes it a breeze to move as you desire. With the map cleverly designed with lots of cover, you can easily zoom in and out and between buildings. You can easily move to a place higher than the Titan and drop down on them. Once you mount an enemy Titan, referred in game as "rodeo", they are pretty much defenseless. There are certain counter measures the pilot can take, such as demounting his Titan to kill you on foot, using Electric Smoke (smoke grenade with lethal smoke), using cluster bomb or asking an ally to finish you off. The first three attacks takes time to initiate with time for the attacker to realised the enemy's intend and simply flee, while the last is the most effective but require good teamwork. Pilots as also given one anti-titan weapon that damages Titan much more than regular arms. And did I mention that pilots get cloaking ability to turn almost invisible to Titans as well?

Of course, that does not mean that Titans are useless. One shot, one punch or one step is likely to annihilate any pilot if they get close enough. Within near range, Pilots may rodeo Titans but risk death should the enemy succeed in using his counter measures, while it is safer to use your Titan against the enemy Titan as you have less chance of dying, as long as you eject in time and land somewhere safe. At far range, Titans would be the best weapon against other Titans as the pilot's anti-titan weapons usually are less effective.

To balance off pro and noob players, NPCs are placed in games as grunts or spectres. Grunts are NPC infantry that cannot parkour like pilots while spectres are NPC robots that have a harder hit and more health. Points are awarded for killing enemy NPCs, though not as high as killing a human player, they help new players contribute to the game. NPCs are usually quite easy to kill, but you can get overrun if 5 or 10 of them are firing at you. Spectres could also be hacked to fight on your side. This game design also marks a new way AI players are used in multiplayer games. The game also gives the losing team a second chance after defeat is announced, where a drop ship will come to the rescue and the losing team is given some time to make their escape. However, there will no longer be any respawn and the victor team will also have the chance to destroy the drop ship as it makes its brief appearance.

It is actually pretty amazing for a game to have such extreme weapons and yet achieve a good balance. It reminds me of Dishonored where me and my fellow gamers thought teleporting (Blink) and time stopping (Blend Time) will ruin the game or make it too easy, just to realised that it sparks off lots of creative kills and retains difficulty.

All characters start from level 1 and work his or her way to 50. At the end of level 50, you will be given the option to Regenerate. Regenerating strips off all your unlocks, achievements and levels, with the exception of Titan chassis and burn cards. You will then be rewarded with a "Gen n+1" tag, where n is the number of times you Rengenerated. The maximum is Gen 10, or equivalent to level 50x10=500. You will also gain more experience with with generation, but the criteria to go up to the next generation will be tougher in the form of harder achievements. I personally think that Regeneration is rather pointless, other than having a Gen tag next to your name for bragging rights, as I would need to grind my weapon and levels all over again. I find myself often play matches with weapons I do not like to grind them for unlocks, instead of using my best set up to win the game.

Each pilot weapon comes with one mod and one sight. Like Battlefield 4, you need to kill a certain amount of a certain enemies to acquire those unlocks. Titan weapons only has mod with no sight and are unlocked the same way. Most of the requirements to unlock are fine and fun, with the exception of those that need to kill spectres. I am more than willing to accept the challenge to take down tough enemies, but spectres are not tough - they are just hard to find. They spawn much lesser than grunts and it is a waste to kill them for achievements when I could have hacked them to be my ally, making it a fustrating experience.

Despite the seemingly complicated movements in games, the controls are acutally pretty simple and intuitive. To double jump, simply press jump twice. To wall walk, run to a wall and press jump, to exit a wall walk, press jump again and upon jumping off the wall, your character will automatically chain up anotherwall walk on the opposite wall if there is one. When you are nearing a ledge, press jump to climb up one. These simple routines make your character one hell of a ninja when traversing through the map. As mentioned earlier, for those who were used to GunZ Online, this is no kick at all.

Controlling a Titan is similar to that of a pilot, just that Titans get dashes instead of jump (they cannot jump). Hold the key to the direction you want to dash and hit jump makes you zap towards that point, which is good for avoiding slow enemy missles or simply speeding up your movement.

Although the visuals ain't as polished as Crysis 3 or Battlefield 4, they are good enough for a modern game. One complain is that the gearing up the texture does little to improve the visuals yet seems to zap quite a lot of performance. Although the actual visuals are average, the presentation is marvellous. The landscape is well designed to give the futuristic war torn atmosphere, boosted by details like space ships flying around in the background and neutral wild life and manufacturing robots roaming around the map.

As a seasoned Battlefield player, it is a shame to know that there isn't any destructable structures in game, except for window panes and some insignificant ornaments. I can imagine not only will the battle requres more strategy, but also more visually immersive if buildings would collapse and covers would crumble.

Ambient occlusion seemed to be lacking in the game as objects does not cast shadows nearing each other. The lack of FXAA is also a bother for people looking for cheap AA solutions.

The soundbites of the game is one of its weakest link. Guns sound the same no matter if they are indoor or outdoor, with every bullet fired and every mounting of a Titan sounding almost the same. It reminds me almost of the older versions of Counter Strike, in comparison to the rich soundscape from Battlefield 3/4. Not only that, there seems to be quite a limited amount of background music and voice overs. The exact same voice says "this is a battle of attrition, elimintate all enemy forces" with the exact same tone every time I play Attrition coupled with the exact same background music. They do not even bother to change the dialogues description the game mode.

Despite saying that, the sound design of the game remains largely functional, but with lots of room for improvement.

Straight off, I would not say that this is best FPS ever made like some claimed. However, I do agree that the game is revolutionary. It is the probably the first fun modern FPS that does away with a campaign almost completely, uses NPCs in multiplayer matches, involves both mechs and pilots in fights and having a second chance to escape after defeat. The game does not seems to require a lot of skills and teamwork to play, however, the playing experience is exhilarating and addictive. Even after more than 50 hours of game play, I still have to urge to let off some steam via Titanfall regularly. The visuals and sounds are acceptable while the game balance is excellent for having so many over powered weapons. Overall, I would say the game is outstanding and definitely worth the money.

9/10 Outstanding

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