When you pick up Titanfall, Respawn Entertainment asks that you unlearn what you know about movement in first person shooters.
When describing what the three main focuses of Titanfall were, Respawn’s first response was mobility. And in every interview and video since, I have become increasingly interested in how Respawn are looking to change the nature of movement and mobility in first person shooters.
In an interview with Polygon, Titanfall producer Drew McCoy said that “it takes players about 45 minutes to become accustomed to the unique movements of Titanfall.”
Not to say the player will be failing double jumps or wall runs until that time, but rather, that 45 minutes is the amount of time it takes to get into Titanfall’s mobility groove.
When Respawn community manage Abbie Heppe talks about players adjusting to the extra degrees of movement offered by Titanfall, I am reminded of my many attempts to introduce the players I have met in Battlefield to my FPS first love that is Halo.
The first thing these veterans of Battlefield or Call of Duty usually ask is that I stop jumping or that I stay still.
They are then alarmed at the speed at which myself and other long time Halo players navigate the map before complaining about their low K/D ratios.
For all its entry level bombast, Halo can be a difficult learning experience for those with cover shooter muscle memory they can’t easily shake.
The original Halo launched back in 2001, and in being a natural evolution of frenzied console shooters such as Goldeneye, it helped popularize many of the components present in most modern shooters. A recharging shield/health bar. A two weapon inventory. A move away from the corridor shooter. A multiplayer focus which, by Halo 2, resulted in the now ubiquitous in-game party system.
Interestingly, in spite of playing a large part in shaping the modern FPS, Halo has retained a unique flavour of its own. The success of the cover focused military FPS has led to a genre that has considerably diverged with the Halos of this world at one end and Call of Duty and Battlefield at the other.
Now don’t get me wrong, Battlefield has its own complex dance and intricacies that make it an engaging and fulfilling shooter – the precise reason I love Battlefield is because it is different to Halo. That said, as with Halo, Titanfall looks to differentiate itself from the crowd with an emphasis on movement and mobility – for that reason, Titanfall is infinitely more exciting than the next iterations of COD or Battlefield respectively.
In Halo, movement is the the key proponent of successful play. The back and forth dance of a cross map rifle fight or the intensity of a close range mass melee are not unique to Halo but the mobility afforded by Halo’s Spartans tinges its multiplayer with adrenaline and unpredictability.
The sum of Halo’s focuses on jumping, speed and mobility is that players are more difficult to hit – as simple as this sounds, Halo’s multiplayer is changed inexorably by that one fact.
If I were to try to highlight the differences between Halo and other FPS’s with a single moment of gameplay that moment would be this – Halo Reach. Team Slayer on Zealot. I finish one enemy with a Carbine headshot from above before descending to the lower level to loot his corpse when another guy elevator jumps into the fray and melees me hard. Shield down, I veer right and jump down into Zealot’s lower levels. He follows, predictably, and I unload on him with the Needler. He jumps right over me, shield crackling yellow and what follows is an intense back and forth across the map that ends in zero gravity over the station when an ill-attempted sword lunge by my opponent exposes his cranium to a Carbine reflex shot. His body tumbling lifelessly into space, I find myself breathless – this is why I love Halo.
In Halo, encounters like this are afforded by both the speed and freedom of movement that it has in place of the traditional cover and shoot mechanics employed by shooters like Call of Duty. If a player in Battlefield or COD got the drop on me like that player in Halo Reach did, the exchange would likely have been over in seconds. In Halo, there is almost always the opportunity to reverse the fortunes of an encounter with sly maneuvering and keen knowledge of any given map layout.
Titanfall looks set to continue this trend. Furthermore, all the talk of wall running, double jumping and mobility present in Titanfall looks to be evidence that the game will allow for organic, highly charged set pieces that go beyond any existing shooter.
“There’s some crazy stuff that happens,” Respawn artist Joel Emslie said of Titanfall, “One of our designers has a recording of jumping off a building, swinging off a titan, almost half-rodeo, the titan taking a swipe at him, missing him, and him leaping into a room and smart-pistoling a bunch of AI.”
With Titanfall, Respawn are building a game that attempts to blur the lines between single and multiplayer. With emergent set pieces that are afforded by Titanfall’s asymmetric combat and a focus on creating “action movie chase sequences”, Respawn looks set to add a whole new skill-set in need of mastery to the modern FPS.
More on Titanfall in the run up to its release on Xbox 360 and Xbox One sometime early next year.
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