At every video games exhibition or conference there is always a game that is like Breaking Bad, in that those who have seen it won't shut up about it. At Gamescom 2013 in Cologne, Germany, that game is Titanfall.
While it was officially announced at E3 in June, the closest we could get to it was watching a pre-rendered trailer of some of the most frenetic gameplay we've seen. It was first shown at the end of Microsoft's E3 media event, trumping even the next-gen version of Halo to the headline slot, and then was available to view on the show floor.
Now though it is playable - well, one level - and it looked incredibly similar to the one shown in the previously released trailer. However, playing Titanfall in comparison to watching it being played is a rough equivalent to being Lionel Messi rather than watch him play. There's genius in the details and you only find out what they are if you're slap bang in the middle of the action.
The level we played is part of what will eventually be a massive multiplayer campaign mode. There will be no single-player mode in Titanfall, it will also find other players to join in the fun and each frantic battle will be part of a wider and bigger storyline.
We also played the PC version of the game, but with an Xbox 360 controller to get a feel of how the Xbox One version might pan out. The keyboard was there and the PC game will be available from day one, but we wanted to get a next-gen vibe going.
There are currently three load-outs to choose from in this pre-beta build - don't forget that Titanfall will not be out until Spring next year - and three Titans. We chose the traditional style weaponry, handgun, assault rifle kind-of affair, but there were other options to have a go with. We could have changed up the load-out whenever we respawned - something that certainly happened often enough - but everything seemed to go past in a blur and we just couldn't wait to get back into the fray.
The pilots have some incredible jumping abilities and remind us a bit of the player characters in Rise of the Triads - itself having been refreshed and re-released recently. We found ourselves literally leaping into action and, for the most part, trying to stay out of trouble by hopping around rooftops.
The parkour mechanic is so natural that you don't feel you're trying to scramble up walls or leap from rooftop to rooftop, but you do so anyway. It is instinctive. And there is nothing more satisfying than peppering bullets down on foes as you do.
As storyline goes, it was kind-of lost as soon as we started the action. There were six people on each team, blues and reds, and we either had to help somebody escape or stop the others from doing so. The action is so fast and fluid we genuinely forgot the purpose and just got down to leaping about trying not to be killed.
Throughout the level there were audio cues from in-game voices telling us what was going on and barking orders, and had we played a second time we would have taken more notice. As it was we were too excited by the first play. Especially when our titans arrived.
The titans in the name are giant exo-skeletons with heavy-duty weaponry. They fall from the sky, hence the title, and once you jump inside one for the first time it is absolute bliss.
Again, we didn't last long in each specific titan (they become available again over time) but while we were inside we wreaked mighty havoc, first with our assault weapon and then with our repulser field. Basically, when enemies are firing at you, if you hit L1 you can create a field with your left hand that catches the bullets. Release the button and they fire back at your foes. If you release it too late, however, they all pass through and severely damage you.
We get the feeling that there will be plenty of other power-ups to vary gameplay, one of developers told us that there will be a healthy selection of different titans on launch.
Sadly, it didn't help us or our team as we lost the main battle. And it was here that another cool element of Titanfall came into play. There was an epilogue to the level, so you carry on playing even after the result has been determined. More experience and rewards can come from completing an extra task. For us it was extraction, a ship arrived to take us from the battlefield and we had a set time to get to it before the enemy shot us down. There were no respawns in this section and we have to say we panicked somewhat and were picked off by a red team sniper.
Never mind, we will certainly be back for more come release. This could well turn out to be the game of 2014.
Titanfall will be out on Xbox One, PC and Xbox 360 in spring 2014.