When Infinity Ward showed up at E3 2007 and showed off Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare I knew it was a game changer. Playing the multiplayer beta cemented this notion and to this day, Call of Duty is the standard by which all console shooters are measured and chased. Say what you want about the franchise, the fact remains that it is the most popular console shooter available, especially on Xbox Live. It cast a long shadow that many games are still under and long to be out from. Battlefield 3 has come close, selling gangbusters but the reality is that Battlefield scratches a different itch. For fast paced, run and gun, twitch shooting Call of Duty has remained unrivaled.
That is, until now.
At E3 2013 there were a lot of shooters all vying in some way or other for some of that spotlight that has long been dominated by Call of Duty, but now there is a new game casting a shadow. A titan-sized shadow. That game is Titanfall by Respawn Entertainment, and after seeing the live behind closed doors demo I can safely say that Call of Duty is in trouble on Xbox platforms.
I feel that I need to stress that I am a hardcore Call of Duty fan. I’ve been into the series ever since Call of Duty 2 and have bought and sunk hours into every single title since. It’s my favorite shooter currently on consoles and Call of Duty: Ghosts was at the top of my list of things to see at E3 2013. I watched the live online reveal the Sunday prior to E3 and, if I’m being honest, I was impressed and underwhelmed at the same time.
Anyone but the staunchest naysayers can easily see that it looks remarkably better than any game in the series up to this point. The inclusion of Riley as not only a playable character in the game, but also a tool at the player’s disposal (Dog Breach and Clear!) is interesting and looks fun. However, the overall presentation was lacking excitement. The underwater level “Into the Deep” looked like an underwater remake of “All Ghillied Up” from Call of Duty 4 with the player following an NPC into enemy territory, being prompted to stay out of sight or to move up. Only it lacked anything as remotely interesting or suspenseful as crawling on the ground right next to enemy troops on maneuvers. Not to mention that we saw Infinity Ward show off an underwater level at E3 in 2009 with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
I decided to go check out the actual Call of Duty: Ghosts theatre presentation at the Activision booth to get a better look on a proper screen. We were shown a tech video that shows off quite an impressive amount of detail that will be on display for next gen consoles. While it did kind of seem like the devs felt the need to stress that game will look better, I was impressed with the visuals overall. Unfortunately, they didn’t show anything else new and again, it wasn’t very exciting. I left the theatre knowing I was still going to purchase Call of Duty: Ghosts, but I honestly wasn’t blown away.
I’m sure by now that anyone reading this has heard the buzz surrounding Titanfall and every single bit of it is earned. While it wasn’t the best looking shooter of the show, it was by far the coolest. With it’s incredibly fast pacing, amazing verticality, expansive maps, stunning player agility and best of all, mechs aka Titans, Titanfall is the next evolution of multiplayer shooters. That’s not hyperbole. Titanfall is truly next gen.
The multiplayer only game will feature single player moments, such as cinematics that bookend the rounds and AI controlled opponents called “popcorn” by Respawn that will be thrown into games on both sides. The game is clearly the next evolution of run and gun FPS and more specifically, Call of Duty. Players will no longer have to run around alone on larger maps without anything to shoot. The AI “popcorn” will give the player points for every kill to keep the progression ramping up.
It would be easy to dismiss Titanfall as Call of Duty with jet packs and mechs, though Call of Duty with jet packs and mechs would be awesome. It’s the little things that can be seen in the game that add a whole new dimension to the gameplay. For example, instead of the round ending with stats on the screen, one team must reach the extraction point in a specific amount of time. Once that countdown starts players have one life – no more respawning. The enemy, on the other hand, can respawn until the other team has either been wiped out or the survivors have been extracted. It’s going to add a whole new level of gameplay to the tried and true formula.
And let’s talk about jet packs and mechs. Getting around the map while wall running and double jumping adds a parkour-like element to matches and not only provides new ways to approach attacking enemies. It means that enemies can come from all sides and makes multiplayer annoyances like camping potentially a thing of the past. It provides a variety of ways to approach each confrontation and keeps the pace moving quickly.
Casting Shadows on Giants
Admittedly, Infinity Ward wasn’t showing off any of Call of Duty: Ghosts’ multiplayer at E3 and there is still a lot to learn. History has shown that Call of Duty has delivered a similar experience with each installment with relatively minor changes to how the game is played. As much as I love the Call of Duty series, you can’t help but feel like Call of Duty: Ghosts just became the underdog going into this fight for shooter supremacy on the Xbox platform as Titanfall now casts a massive shadow over the reigning king.
In case there is any doubt, check out this gameplay footage: