Shooters for the last few years (previous to Titanfall) have for the most part been resting on their laurels. Something like the Call of Duty games hadn’t changed much since Modern Warfare. But since Titanfall we’ve been seeing a big change in the shooter scene.
Briefly: What did Titanfall do different (aside from the giant robots falling from the sky)?
Movement. The way a player moves in Titanfall is so radically different than anything that had come before it. Walls were no longer barriers but became surfaces to run on. Rocks could be clambered over (Parkour!). This change in movement, of being able to run on walls and clamber to ledges and locations, which in most shooters wouldn’t be used, changed the game. This made the gameplay more vertical and more interesting. When someone is playing Titanfall they have to be looking everywhere. Enemies hiding above you is commonplace and the bane of new players.
Call of Duty: Advance Warfare learned from this movement and applied verticality as well. But they implemented it in a different way. They used “boosts” to allow the player to do an extra jump or a dash. Because of this you will see a lot of skilled players jump dash into the air every chance they get when running into a firefight (Easier to get headshots and harder to get hit is a win in my book). Again creating more of a threat from above that players are not accustomed to. Where as in Titanfall players will be jumping between walls and wall hanging, Call of Duty the players can boost into the sky whenever they feel it to be appropriate. (A lot of credit of how good these games feel go to the Level Designers as well because they created environments which players can utilize these tools effectively).
My only issue with the way CoD applied it is they created what would seem like a bit of a dominant strategy. Where in Titanfall when the player wall runs or wall hangs it does give them a little bit of an advantage over hiding from titans, but it is necessary to even out combat against them. Without the verticality against the titans it would become much more difficult for a pilot to rodeo an enemy titan. Against other players it doesn’t dominate them because you have reduced accuracy when shooting while wall hanging or running. Because of the double jump boost in CoD giving the player an immediate advantage over other players and doesn’t seem to penalize the player doing it in any way, it pushes everyone to be jumping all over the place when they see an enemy. The change in movement in Titanfall seems to be more for getting the player from point A to point B quickly and to even the score against titans rather than against enemy pilots. Where as in CoD the jump boost may have had similar intentions but seem to have become a necessity against other players when playing at a higher level. Had CoDs intention been movement (The more I think about it the more I think they did it intentionally with a focus on combat rather than movement.) they could fix this issue by reducing accuracy of weapons while boosted in the air. I’m not sure if I agree with this design choice if the intention was to create this dominant strategy. Because it feels a little cheap (much like shot gun sliding in Destiny) and doesn’t feel as rewarding when it is pulled off because players doing the same thing over and over again wears down enthusiasm very quickly.
Soap Box time:
In multiplayer games players should be given tools to win. How they use these tools is up to the individual players. But each tool should feel like a viable option against the others. When you make one tool or one strategy more effective than the others, players will flock to that tool/strategy because they want to win. Thus it may be time to re-examine the tools and re-balancing them. This is why we have patches. But when a mechanic creates a problem how do you fix it? You can’t just patch the mechanic out because a huge chunk of the game is built on it. This is the question I ask to everyone. Do you just wait until the next iteration of you game and let this one have a dominate strategy? Do you pull the mechanic only for multiplayer? Because when you have something like the boost jump in CoD it is hurting other aspects of the game. I don’t have the stats but I would imagine shotgun usage would take a hit because this strategy relies on faster firing medium-long range weapons. Or does it really matter? I mean in regards to as long as the player base is having fun does it matter? If everyone playing CoD loves jumping all over the place and shooting enemies, does that dominant strategy matter? Because in the end people are playing our games for fun.
Other games learning from these two juggernauts consist of Halo 5. It has clambering and boosts (And a ground pound players can do from the air). Destiny has hovering, double and triple jumps. Each of these games giving their own twist and feel to movement that makes them feel unique.
While there is always room for more classic shooter styles like Unreal Tournament (Nothing in a million years will beat the nosebleed speed of that series) I’m excited to see where the rest of the genre does as well. And with this new focus on movement finally rearing its head in full force, I can’t wait to see the next iteration of Titanfall or Call of Duty and how they iterate on these new mechanics.