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5 things I've learned about Titanfall (so far)

Xbox One owners are preparing for Titanfall on March 11. Here's what I learned compulsively playing the beta of the console's supposed "killer app" for nearly a week.

Respawn Entertainment

I've being playing the Titanfall beta for six days straight. My wife hates me! So what else have I learned? A lot. You've probably seen it trending on Twitter and lighting up message boards. So before I start, let me bring you up to speed on just what the heck Titanfall is exactly.

Titanfall is a game made by Respawn Entertainment and published by EA. Respawn is a developer founded by two guys who started Infinity Ward, the studio responsible for seven mostly great Call of Duty games. Titanfall is a console exclusive for Microsoft, meaning it'll only be available for Xbox One (March 11) and Xbox 360 (March 25). It'll also be released for PC on March 11 as well through EA's Origin distribution platform.

Titanfall is an online multiplayer-only game. Gasp! There's no single player campaign -- at least nothing that resembles a conventional offline experience. There are a number of different modes to play and the game maxes out at six-on-six player matches. It's a first-person shooter where you'll play as a pilot with an arsenal of impressive parkour-inspired maneuvers and also have the chance to control these larger-than-life battle mechs, called Titans. Respawn started a closed beta period last week and recently opened a public beta which ends February 19.

Here's what I've learned so far:

Respawn Entertainment

1. It's not Modern Warfare

A lot of comparisons have been made between Modern Warfare and Titanfall because of the history of the members of the Respawn Entertainment team. Long story short: there's some aesthetical overlap, but that's mostly where it ends.

Anyone who's played a Modern Warfare game will immediately notice some similarities: You get points for kills, hit markers flank your reticle, and most of the same controls remain the same. There's the same frantic pace of a Modern Warfare deathmatch lingering too. Twitch gamers who have the CoD hair trigger gene running through their DNA will likely make the transition to Titanfall more quickly.

All that said, there's plenty that's different. Titanfall does a great job at mixing things up when it comes to first-person-shooter action, layering an impressive amount depth on top of a game that's really only played in 5 to 10 minute bursts. The mode I played the most, Attrition, has some really smart elements baked into each round. Every match has a trilogy of unofficial "acts" that change the objective. This tends to lead to more strategy development, as opposed to simply running and gunning down everything that moves. There's also a heap of non-playable characters scattered across the battlefield which adds another dimension to the whole experience.

Then there are the hijacking and hacking mechanics that throw the entire concert on its head. Players can hijack Titans (it's called rodeoing) or hack non-playable characters called Spectres to sabotage or turn them against their owners. The coolest bit: You have a data knife that can do an interesting sort of hacky-stab maneuver on machines and computers.

Titanfall also introduces a handful of parkour movement abilities like wall-running and double-jumping. They're a blast to perform but tough to master. They also make you really hard to shoot.

And what about the titans? In Attrition, the idea is to get enough points killing other Pilots, Spectres, and Grunts until you earn points for a titan delivery drop (ta-da: Titanfall!).

So there you have it. Titanfall definitely has some Call of Duty in its bloodline, but this is a totally different animal.

For complete coverage of all things Titanfall, head on over to GameSpot.
Respawn Entertainment

2. I'm going to miss a single-player campaign

Most noticeably absent from Titanfall is a single-player campaign. Plain and simple there isn't one. It's a bummer for me personally, because I like to plow through a game's campaign before I jump into its online counterpart.

Titanfall exists nearly exclusively in multiplayer mode, save for a few narrative items that get tossed in as you play and progress.

There are plenty of signs that the road to Titanfall completion will be nearly infinite, but it's probably alienating for someone who might not enjoy online play, or for a gamer with little-to-no online experience.

Will that cut into the average gamer's value perception of Titanfall? We'll see. And yes, it's a full-priced $60 game.

3. The playing field is inching closer to even

It took me years to get good enough at playing Call of Duty online where I could actually be competitive -- to a place where I wouldn't get annihilated every single time I started a match. Most normal people don't have that kind of time to commit to a video game, so it's refreshing to see Titanfall makes it a bit easier for just about anyone to drop right in.

Because Titanfall offers a healthy amount of diversity within a match, players can tailor the fight to their own strengths. Maybe you'll just want to try and rodeo titans, or perhaps you'll only want to hack Spectres. The beauty is that it's entirely up to you. Of course some of you will still just want to try and snipe, but alas, nobody's perfect.

Taking warning, the majority of players will first need to traverse a learning curve, though the tutorial does a good job at covering the basics. In my experience I found myself comfortable after around seven matches.

Respawn Entertainment

4. It's not just about the Titans

There's plenty of action in Titanfall not surrounding titans. In fact, the first few minutes of play in a round of Attrition is completely void of the mech giants. It's only until you've earned the right can you call one in.

With that logic I've already seen a fair amount of strategy blossom, sometimes playing in a round where only one or two titans ever show up. Teamwork can really help in a game like this, especially if all the players on one team decide to call in titans at once.

It's interesting -- matches that are filled with titans (there's a mode that can be played just with them) can get overwhelming and silly. It's the matches that contain the most diversity of action which I find compelling, and I'm sure most gamers would and will agree.

My favorite part so far comes at the end of a round of Attrition, where the losing team has a chance to evacuate the map through a dropship. For the last minute or so, the losing team attempts to reach an evacuation point while the winning team tries to ambush their last ditch effort to escape. It's loads of fun.

Respawn Entertainment

5. It'll be the Xbox One's killer app (for now)

Make no mistake, Titanfall will become the Xbox One's killer app, and it will probably move a few systems as well. However, the lack of a single-player campaign looms over the whole package and the fact that it'll probably sell better on Xbox 360 than it will on Xbox One in its first year isn't spectacular news for a company that's trying to sell brand new $500 consoles.

Titanfall looks spectacular -- even if the beta sacrifices frames occasionally -- and makes for some intense heart-pounding action that will likely afford many moments of mouth-agape wonder. It'll be the first game that teases PlayStation 4 owners, but not with the same ferocity Halo did when it debuted on the original Xbox.

For complete coverage of all things Titanfall, head on over to GameSpot.

To the average gamer, Titanfall will likely be the closest feeling of "next-gen" they'll have on an Xbox One for the foreseeable future. With that, though, comes a real epiphany about what exactly next-generation gaming is. To me, it's better defined by an overall refinement and intelligence in design, than it necessarily is by flashier graphics and a bunch of cliched eye candy that developers love declaring, "We just couldn't do with last generation's hardware."