Respawn touted Titanfall as a first person shooter that redefines the FPS genre with multiplayer focused gaming that opens up the genre to a wider variety of gamers. As a result of reimagining a genre that solidified set rules for its gameplay during the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 console generation, Respawn developed an FPS game that adds disability accessibility for bringing a new audience.
Titanfall’s beta included three multiplayer modes that featured team based objectives as well as a tutorial before jumping into matches. Attrition had the singular objective to kill the other team. Hard Point required capturing and holding three hardpoints on the map. Last Titan Standing started every player with a Titan but Titans didn’t respawn and the objective was to eliminate all of the other team’s Titans.
Additional gameplay modes will be available at Titanfall’s launch but the exact nature of other modes is unknown. However, Titanfall’s audio settings name a mode called, “Campaign Multiplayer.”
Respawn’s revamped FPS gameplay broadens the gameplay options for disabled gamers to remain competitive during matches. Titanfall’s matches are six versus six of human players. Each player can call down an accompanying Titan and AI grunts fill out both teams.
Any gamer who has played a FPS multiplayer match understands the frustration that builds with no kills. Kills are typically linked to rewards (in Titanfall kills results in experience for leveling up and Titans made available faster). No kills loops gamers into constant death due to the other players’ killstreak rewards preventing “no kills” players with the ability to turn the match around.
Titanfall’s AI grunts are cannon fodder but are capable of killing a player and provide funny scenes. I saw grunts engaged in a fistfight (my teammate grunt won) and another grunt dragging a wounded teammate to safety (I killed both grunts).
However, the presence of the AI grunts gives disabled gamers enemies who follow scripted AI programs which allows for more straightforward kills. In the Titanfall world of wall running and double jumping, the grunts hide behind waist high cover on the ground level. Grunt kills are similar to the sensation of a player feeling proficient at a FPS’ single player campaign but overwhelmed by the unpredictability of human opponents in multiplayer. Disabled players net the kill rewards with grunt kills while killing Pilots, who are the other human players, becomes a more satisfying accomplishment.
Titanfall’s weaponry satisfies various play styles that are related to disability based needs. The smart pistol is a standard that automatically locks onto nearby enemy heads. Gameplay becomes more about expertly getting close to multiple enemies long enough for the smart pistol’s auto-lock to kick in. Similarly taking down enemy Titans with special weapons allows for aiming and shooting or weapons with auto-lock capabilities.
Additionally, after players acquire a Titan, rather than piloting the heavy handed Titan players can choose to have the Titan guard or follow for individual support. Players are eventually awarded a Titan whether or not the player netted any kills.
Titanfall’s settings provide a few surprises as well as a couple disappointments for disabled gamers.
The Control Settings provide the following options for gameplay with a controller or a mouse/keyboard.
Mouse/Keyboard Settings provide fully remappable keys under Key Bindings and up to two profiles can saved. Mouse Acceleration (the amount the view turns is based on the speed of moving the mouse) and Mouse Invert (invert looking up and down) can be turned on or off. Additionally, Mouse Sensitivity is adjustable.
Controller Settings provides multiple controller layouts but the controller is not remappable by the player. Details about the controller layouts is listed below. Also included is Look Sensitivity (rotate the view quicker), Look Invert (invert looking up and down), Look Drift Guard (prevents the view from drifting when not touching the control stick), and choosing whether to enable Vibration.
Under controls, Automatic Sprint, allows for sprinting without pressing an additional sprint button. The option allows for Never (The default and the player must press sprint), Delayed (Automatically start sprinting when moving after a short delay. Pressing sprint will start sprinting immediately), Always (Always sprint when moving). Sprinting is required in Titanfall because Pilots’ mobility against opposing Pilots and lumbering Titans is the key to matches. Automatic sprint removes a barrier for disabled gamers who are traditionally required to simultaneously move a character forward while pressing a sprint button.
The available controller layouts are as follows:
Default (as pictured above),
Fruit Loop (Ordinance moved to LT – from RB, Melee moved to RB – from right stick, Aim/Modifier moved to Right Stick from LT),
Button Kicker (Crouch moved to Right Stick, Melee moved to B),
Evolved (Jump (Pilot) moved to LB, Tactical Ability (Pilot) moved to A, Crouch moved to Right Stick, Melee moved to B),
Bumper Jumper Pilot (Jump (Pilot) moved to LB, Tactical Ability (Pilot) moved to A),
Bumper Jumper (Jump (pilot) and Dash (titan) moved to LB, Tactical Ability moved to A).
Lefty is an on/off option which swaps the left and right triggers, bumpers, and stick buttons.
The available stick layouts are as follows:
Legacy Southpaw (movement and turning split between sticks. Left and right sticks are swapped, as pictured above),
Legacy (movement and turning split between sticks),
Southpaw (Left and right sticks are swapped).
Under Audio Settings the Master Volume, Voice Chat Volume, and Music Volume [classic MP] are adjustable. The Music Volume adjustments do not apply to Classic Multiplayer. Subtitles are available as an on or off option.
Titanfall is a multiplayer based game. In the beta, subtitles appeared in the tutorial and for the in-game characters who provide information during matches. Subtitles in multiplayer matches is such a rare inclusion that the ability to know the spoken instructions is a revelation for deaf and hard of hearing gamers. The spoken communications regarding when the player’s Titan is available, who is winning the match, and whether the player must head for an evacuation is also displayed on the user interface as an icon or arrow. However, knowing and being a part of the verbal interactions in real time is a remarkable inclusion for deaf and hard of hearing gamers. The subtitles are also immediately readable with a white text on transparent black background which is paramount for subtitles displayed simultaneously with gameplay. The ability to adjust the background’s opacity would be welcome to ensure that the text is always readable against the lighter environments.
Noticeably absent is a colorblind mode which has become an FPS standard. In Titanfall, instances of color changes include weapon reticles becoming red when accurately positioned over enemies. Accessibility increases by adding on rather than including new accessible features while removing accessibility standards.
Overall, Titanfall expands FPS gameplay outside of the twitch reflexes that we have become accustomed with which in turn provides more accessibility for disability related play styles. Titanfall advertises itself as a new way to play and for disabled gamers the new approach is so far opening up a genre.