Preview: Zampella makes his grand return with Respawn Entertainment and Titanfall
The outing of Infinity Ward general managers Vince Zampella and Jason West was not only ugly -- it was public. Everyone who was everyone knew that Activision harshly kicked them out of the studio over some hubbub regarding an "internal EA email." What followed was even uglier, with lawsuit followed by countersuit, finger-pointing and a whole lot of ugly accusations. Eventually, though, the dust settled, West and Zampella got paid royalties from the project, and the team moved forward with its new company, Respawn Entertainment – which West left soon thereafter for personal reasons.
But Zampella soldiered on with his devoted development team in tow, and last week, the fruit of their labors, the much-anticipated Titanfall, was shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo at EA's booth. Some people were concerned with what was happening with the game, as it was deemed an online multiplayer-only project (right alongside the likes of Warhawk and SOCOM Confrontation). However, all those doubts were washed away the minute the team kicked off its multiplayer demo. This thing is nuts.
The game takes place in the near future, where it appears two warring factions are fighting over territory, using both on-foot soldiers and giant mechanized soldiers. (Think of it as Call of Duty: Future Warfare, but with several twists on the gameplay.) The excitement ranks up there with Zampella's prior work, with plenty of engaging firefights to keep you entertained and cool little after-effects you can pull off with your soldier for extra points, including yanking a soldier out of a mech unit and flinging him across the battlefield, or making him explode and shooting his head as it flies through the air.
Titanfall's futuristic approach is definitely to its credit, as the atmosphere is just as inspired as other games of this nature, including Bungie's own Destiny. But Zampella and Respawn have pulled off a great trick, as they keep the atmospheric touches intact while bumping up the frame rate to a huge level. The game runs fast and smooth, even as enemies reign down gunfire on you; the map is small but sufficient, and gives you plenty of room to go around (and the final game will feature several to choose from); and the detail on the mech units is outstanding, especially when you get up-close to one to do some damage.
Where Titanfall truly defines itself is in the gameplay. You'll actually feel like you can really get stuff accomplished here, whether you're bouncing alongside walls and double jumping to reach greater heights (who needs ladders?), jumping onto a rogue mech to shoot away at its core head piece in order to bring it down (the next best thing to having a mech yourself), or even jumping onto an ally vehicle to provide secondary support. The trick bonuses really come in handy when it comes to bumping up your score as well, including the soldier flinging and the mid-air shots, or teaming up together to dominate an area over enemies.
Though what we saw from Titanfall was very short and sweet (and on two screens, that's almost an invitation for an ADD-like event), it truly rocked us, and showed that Zampella hasn't lost a bit of his edge after he departed Infinity Ward. He and Respawn are truly creating something magical here, the next big thing for first-person shooting multiplayer zealots. The score system should be something special, and the upgrades could very well be countless when it comes to customization.
We'll see more of Titanfall in the months ahead. Something tells us that more coolness awaits. Of course, that should be expected…