With some luck, I managed to nab a Titanfall beta key for PC. I wasn't sure what to expect; I mean, I'd read up on it some and watched footage of some gameplay, but I didn't understand all the hype. I was concerned Titanfall was going to be a Mech flavored Call of Duty candy, and I'd long lost my sweet tooth.
I realized this was a completely different kind of game the moment the tutorial started. My character lodged himself into a super cool, futuristic training simulator pod, and before you know it I'm wall running and boost jumping like a bad ass. The first time you have to fight a Titan is intense, and even more so when you get to pilot one yourself. This isn't Call of Duty; suddenly I'm hungry again.
I get a lot of vibes from this game, fortunately none of them bad. Moving around the environments is fluid and the parkour elements enhance the experience. It's not just an option, but a necessity to learn how to maneuver from low to high and back again. It reminds me a lot of Brink, if the parkour in that game had any sort of essential quality to it. Overall, it more closely resembles Mirror's Edge, which is one of the best possible things in the world to resemble.
During a match people are flying around all over the place. High ground is important, especially by the time the Titans come out to play. Running around on the ground is a bad idea when you can get squished or blasted in a split second. Not only that, but the movement allows access to buildings in a multitude of ways. For games of Hardpoint, their version of Domination, this is helpful for not only variety, but for balance as well. When you cap a point, there's seven different ways the enemy can come at you, so don't think covering one entrance means you're safe.
The other nice thing the free running brings is balance against Titans. Being able to jump around and climb gives you the chance to jump on to an enemy Titan, or 'rodeo' it, and help take it out. It's incredibly effective, and their only option is to hop out or hope they have the perk that will zap you off, Electric Cloud.
The shooting is solid all around. My biggest concern with shooters is always weapon balance, and for being in beta the weapons are pretty dang balanced already. You've got your pistols, shotgun, sniper rifle, assault rifle, and submachine gun. Not a huge selection (at least in the beta).
Sniping feels solid and balanced. Your bullets hit hard, but you're never safe anywhere. The shotgun is powerful, but you have to get really close. The rifles are effective and do moderate damage. The real star of the show here, for me anyway, is the Smart Pistol. This thing is awesome. Aim it calmly in the direction of your enemy and it will automatically lock on to their vitals and fire enough rounds to put them down. Sounds unfair, but it takes a while for the lock on to happen and you have to be really close. Combine that with some cloaking action, though, and you've got a deadly set up.
Just like with CoD, you get to create custom loadouts once you hit level 4. Playing around with the different combinations is a lot of fun. I really don't feel any perks or combinations are unbalanced, as each option has its give and take. The cool part here is you get to make custom loadouts for your soldier AND your titan.
These set ups really do become tailored to your play style. After a few hours of play I had finally locked down my favorite outfit. I'm not that great at piloting the titans, I know, so lame, but I'm really good at just being a soldier free running all over kingdom come. So, I set up mine to make me really fast and jump high. Over time this led me to use cloaking with a Smart Pistol, and I became an anti-titan (for those concerned, the cloaking doesn't last very long, and again, is quite balanced).
I would sneak around and pick off unsuspecting enemies, maybe surprise a sniper or two, and when the enemy titans rolled out I was a Mechsuit Cowboy. I made it my goal to just focus on taking out enemy titans as a little, annoying flea on their back and, man, was it some of the best fun I've had. You're personal play style really does get to shine here.
The overall aesthetic of the game is well thought out and gorgeous. If you like realistic looking sci-fi then you'll like this a lot. There's soldier robots and nifty hacking knives that you stab into electronics and somehow break down the security. Everything just all around looks great and the graphics are solid. Not a lot to complain about visually.
Getting into a game lobby was really fast, but I'm not sure how many people are actually playing on PC right now. The maps are all laid out really well; at least the two are playable at the moment. The inclusion of AI grunts on both sides makes matches feel like they're really taking place on a battlefield. My favorite thing might be the fact that at the end of the match, whoever the losing team is has to try and get to an escape dropship. It doesn't do anything whether they make it or not, but it's absolutely exhilarating making that run to the extraction point.
All in all, the Titanfall beta is a lot more fun than I expected it to be. It's obvious the Call of Duty shine of quality is here, but the game is a very different experience. Little things throughout, like your titan grabbing you to put you inside of it, make the game truly stand out. The hype, for the most part, is warranted.