Is ‘Titanfall’ Xbox One’s killer app?
(CNN) — Since the Xbox One’s release last fall, customers have been waiting (some more patiently than others) for that one great game that would single-handeedly justify the purchase of the next-generation video game console.
“Titanfall,” the first game from Respawn Entertainment, appears ready to assume the mantle.
First revealed at E3 2013 in Los Angeles, “Titanfall” had already garnered more than 60 awards before its release last week. Now, players are getting their first shot to play as the athletic pilots of monstrously large robotic titans, stomping across highly detailed terrain in a game even the makers of the Xbox say could be one for the ages.
“We think (Titanfall) can very much be a game-defining moment for Xbox One as a platform because of how much it has lit up the imagination of gamers everywhere and how it takes advantage of the unique features of Xbox One,” said Microsoft Xbox Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Yusuf Mehdi. “I think people really are excited about it. It is why people spent hundreds of dollars to have the best game experience possible.”
Some of the creators of “Titanfall” have a pretty good idea what it is like to have that kind of pressure on a game. Respawn founder and CEO Vince Zampella was also the CEO of Infinity Ward, which developed the hit, “Call of Duty” series.
Zampella told CNN he is amazed about the level of excitement for his new game, and welcomes the expectations.
“You put your heart into it. You want it to be the best thing everand you want it to be universally accepted as well,” he said. “It blows us away — the enthusiasm for the title.”
Asked if the expectations were too great for “Titanfall,” he said with a laugh, “If I say yes, it makes me look like I don’t have confidence in the game. If I say no, it feels like I’m being arrogant.”
Zampella said “Titanfall” couldn’t have existed without the increased gaming power and features of the Xbox One console. He said Microsoft’s cloud architecture allows designers to raise the visual and competitive level of the game without sacrificing other elements.
“Where we take advantage of it really is using Microsoft’s back end to do things we couldn’t normally do in multiplayer games like putting all that AI (artificial intelligence) and that extra flash in those cinematic moments,” he said. “We are able to do much more with the game. With Microsoft providing that to us, that’s money and resources that we really didn’t have.”
Microsoft’s Mehdi said game developers were able to store a lot of the computing that “Titanfall” uses directly onto Microsoft servers.
“That’s something unique that we’ve done with these dedicated servers,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of money to back every Xbox One console with hundreds of thousands of servers to have great gameplay.”
“Titanfall’s” appeal lies in its ability to allow many people to play together in a rich environment with exciting gameplay, much like “Call of Duty” did on the Xbox 360. Zampella said the real adventure and fun begins when players realize how much freedom they have during the game.
“It really is about that balance of gameplay where sometimes you are in a titan, sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you want to be, sometimes you don’t. Both sides (pilot and titan) are powerful and feel good and have a benefit in a different way,” he said. “It isn’t just about getting to Point B and crushing everybody. It is a whole, very balanced pilot ballet, I guess.”
Early launch reaction was generally good, with servers for the Xbox One holding up well under the stress of the initial rush. PC users have had some issues with connection problems, but Respawn is said to be working on those for a quick resolution.
And it looks like the game itself is helping sell an entire system. Sales of the Xbox One in Great Britain have nearly doubled since Friday, when “Titanfall” was released there.
“We have had a tradition of a big, multiplayer, epic game that defines each one of our console generations,” Mehdi said. “Whether it was the original Xbox with ‘Halo,’ there has always been a great game to define the generation. ‘Titanfall’ is certainly going to be one of those for Xbox One, no question.”
By Larry Frum, Special to CNN
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