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Titanfall's Narrative Multiplayer Matters


The team that was originally behind Call of Duty? Check. Next-gen graphics and fluid multiplayer? Sold. Giant robots that rain down from the sky? No brainer. "Narrative multiplayer?" I wasn't sold, until I played Titanfall for myself.

Today at Gamescom 2013, I played two Titanfall matches that evolved very differently. The maps were the same, the staging was identical, but the feel of each was unique. In the first game, my team barely lost. In the second, we won by a landslide. Titanfall doesn't have multiplayer maps; it has story arcs that can be replayed over and over with different conclusions.

At the outset, we're shown a captured pilot from the opposite side of the war. It's our job to cover the extraction and hold off the opposing forces. My five human allies, along with a number of AI-controlled grunts (giving the battle a more frenetic, weighty atmosphere) begin our press forward to establish a foothold on the map.

Throughout the first match, the voiceovers offer pep talks, letting us know that we're holding them off, but still losing. We get updates on the prisoner transport's movements. Along the way, new moments in the pitched fight are introduced, as we're warned of an incoming ship and heavier forces. This coincides with more Titans joining the battle as the countdown "build timer" expires. When we lost, our superiors voiced their unhappiness about losing the city, but because it was so close, we managed to get the prisoner out of the city.

The second time through, my commanding officers were much more upbeat. We were trouncing the invading forces, giving the off-map AI team ample opportunity to move the prisoner without incident. The dialog had no impact on our chances in the battle, but it gives the combat a different flavor. Nothing was different about the map, but the narration and banter among multiple characters make it feel fresh.

Respawn confirms that there are different degrees of radio chatter depending on how close the score is and who is winning. Additionally, the mission "epilogue" that allows the losing team to earn an experience boost by safely arriving at the evacuation ship gives the proceedings a different capstone depending on whether you've won or lost.

As the loser, it's a mad dash to the rendezvous point. Death during the epilogue is permanent, and getting ambushed on a rooftop by aggressive victors is a likely scenario. On the winning team, it's easy to want to pick off the few remaining foes, stomp them in your Titan, or simply cloak, and sneak up for melee kill while they are anxiously awaiting a ride home.

"Narrative multiplayer" might seem like a buzz phrase, but it has a meaningful impact on how I perceive the action. Respawn's biggest challenge now is making sure the banter stays fresh, because gamers are going to be replaying these scenarios hundreds of times.

Titanfall is out in Spring 2014 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.

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