The Titanfall beta is currently underway, a few weeks ahead of the game’s March 11th release on PC, 360 and Xbox One, and I managed to get hold of a code for the XBO version yesterday afternoon. I had to rely on a friendly forumite on one of the gaming sites I frequent (despite having registered minutes after the site went live…), and have managed to get a few games in so far. Now, the beta is fully open to all XBO owners, with a full, open beta on the way for PC.

So, some impressions are in order. The beta contains three game modes (Attrition, Hardpoint Domination and Last Titan Standing) across two maps (Angel City and Fracture), and so far I’ve had a few matches on each map of both Attrition (TDM) and Hardpoint (which is essentially a three-hill King of the Hill gametype).

First thing’s first: I suck at Attrition. I’m really bad at it. The only FPS I’ve ever played in competitive multiplayer are the Halo games, so this is quite a change of pace for me; encounters are far shorter, and I keep burst firing the AR as if it’s Halo‘s MA5 – old habits die hard, I guess. I’m far better at Hardpoint; I always did prefer objective gametypes in Halo, and this mode compliments my sneaky, defensive playstyle better than the all-out war of Attrition.

It also allows you to use your Titan in more tactical ways: hardpoints tend to be inside buildings, so you can double-jump through a window, capture your objective, and then set up shop inside, guarding all interior approaches with your shotgun and active camouflage, while your Titan, set to guard mode, defends the outer approaches. It’s a great deal of fun. Here’s five minutes of my last game (also showing the xp/level up screen and some in-game challenges), captured with the XBO’s GameDVR function. Unfortunately, it seems to compress the hell out of Titanfall clips for some reason, so the quality isn’t great, but enjoy.

I haven’t yet played Last Titan Standing, whose name speaks for itself – everyone begins the round with a Titan, and when one team has lost all of their mechs, it’s the end of the round. Of course, you can get out of your Titan and have it follow you or stand its ground (either way, it will engage nearby enemies), but once your Titan and your Pilot are defeated, there are no respawns. I’m planning on giving it a try later on tonight, so expect another video.

A couple of aspects of Titanfall have been drawing some criticism – the graphics and the AI grunts. Graphically, I think it’s a good-looking game. It’s not going to wow anyone on a technical level, but art design is generally pretty strong and animations are smooth. By no means does it look bad, and looking up to the sky to see a Titan drop in is unlikely to ever get old – it’s a pretty thrilling sight, especially if you manage to drop it on a bunch of enemies for added carnage.

Secondly, the AI grunts in the game aren’t really bots. They’re fodder to help you get your Titan faster (each AI kill knocks a few seconds off of your Titan clock, which is always counting down anyway), and they also add a bit of flavour to the world; stumble upon a group of friendly AI and they’ll be happy to see you and sometimes even call out targets. And despite their weak nature (they react slower and go down far quicker than a player-controller enemy), they can still surprise you, as I found out during a game of Hardpoint. They don’t seem to show up on the minimap, and so can get the jump on you if you aren’t paying attention or are fixated on another target. You can see me fall foul of this at the 1:30 mark in my above video. Yes, I got killed by an AI grunt. The shame.

Some have speculated that the grunts are in the game to make up the numbers, considering that Titanfall is ‘only’ a 6v6 game, but it never feels like there are only twelve players in play – even disregarding the grunts, at any one time each player could have a Titan in the map, following them around or guarding a specific point. It feels like a hectic futuristic warzone, especially in Attrition, which I found a little overwhelming at first – the pace, combined with the amount of carnage going on, was a lot to process when you’re first thrust into the game. Hardpoint Domination definitely feels a bit more considered, and there’s a definite ebb and flow to the game, but it still retains some of that frantic pace that defines Attrition.

So far, I’m quite liking Titanfall. It definitely has that ‘one more go’ factor that is so important in games of this type. I’ll need a good few more games before I really get into the swing of things, but I’m certainly looking forward to the full release next month and, as someone who prefers single player over multi, I’m interested to see how Respawn’s ‘campaign multiplayer’ works out. I’d have much preferred a standard single player mode, but I understand the reasons behind the developer’s choice here. Given how fun the beta is, I’m willing to give Vince Zampella and his team the benefit of the doubt.