The Art of Titanfall Review
As one of 2014's most anticipated games, there's been no shortage of Titanfall coverage across our site and dozens upon dozens of others. However, what we're seeing is the end result of years of development time. While the end product looks rather promising right now, it took a long time and a lot of people to get Titanfall to where it is today.
With the emergence of 'round the clock gaming coverage on the internet has come an expectation to see and learn more about the process than ever before. At points, the deluge of screenshots and trailers and previews can become overwhelming, but if you take a step back, the process of creation can be an amazing thing to witness. Titanfall's evolution might not be so easy to track with carefully manufactured press releases, but with Titan Books' The Art of Titanfall, we're given a deeper look into where Respawn's first game came from. More importantly, we see for the first time Titanfall as it was imagined by the people who envisioned this daring new futuristic world where man and machine work together.
"Creating something from scratch is never easy," Titanfall's director Steve Fukuda said in his introduction. "Without some established context and norms, it's difficult to say, 'this belongs but that doesn't.'" What follows is a massive collection of nearly everything Respawn thought belonged in what would become Titanfall. The Art of Titanfall begins, as one would expect, with the emphasis put directly on the Titans themselves. The hulking mechs are brought to life with impressive clarity, and though it may have been hard to notice all the differences in the beta or trailers, seeing the Titans detailed here shows just how varied their construction really is. Obviously the Stryder, with its insect-like appearance, is more noticeably different than the Atlus and Ogre. Even those two Titans though are far more dissimilar than they first appeared in footage and the beta.
If you happened to partake in the beta in February, you know how important the actual humans are in Titanfall. The pilot designs are especially interesting, as the gear and suits do a great job of being stylish and practical, while also showing some personality. It's also a huge deal still to see female playable characters in a shooter, and though the trend has been shifting since the advent of the new generation of consoles, it's not a common practice. Respawn's concept art focuses just as much on the female models as it does the males, and gives a good sense of just how important it was to the developer that everyone has a stake in the ongoing conflict between the Militia and the IMC. The non-playable soldiers also look cool, though in the heat of battle in the beta, it was tough to really appreciate the design. The Art of Titanfall gives better insight into just how scrappy the Militia forces are with their gear.
Of course, the most publicized aspect of the art book has been the inclusion of wildlife. Nothing Respawn has shown to this point had given players much to think about besides the opposition. Even the beta lacked the indigenous animals and such populating these strange new planets. However, the concept art shows a variety of different fauna will exist in the same space as the Titans, and can and will attack in the right situations. The animals show no sympathies for either side of the conflict, and will apparently be content to wreak havoc whenever the mood suits. We only get a small taste of the flying or four-legged lifeforms populating the various maps, but what we do see is impressive. There are clearly some 'Avatar' influences in Titanfall's animal life, but that's not a bad thing. Of course, those influences extend beyond non-playable creatures, too. Two warring factions, mech suits driven by people, wild and varied landscapes... there are more than a few similarities between Titanfall and James Cameron's most recent sci-fi feature.
While character, weapon and vehicle design makes up a large portion of the first half of The Art of Titanfall, the real star of the show is the 100+ pages of environmental design work. For many, the environment of a shooter is the place where you learn choke points and learn elevations. The concept art tells a much different story about Titanfall's world, and it's quite interesting to say the least. Without any real narrative details available to us at the moment, you get a larger understanding of the universe because of the way Respawn's artists have carefully cultivated the cities and landscapes of the game. Running around on Fracture while chasing enemy pilots was one thing, but taking in all the sights and architecture of this once palatial locale offers better insight into just how the battle has impacted all manners of society. Even the rich aren't safe from the reach of war. Angel City is another area we scaled and shot through, but the quiet city streets are eerily quiet in still images. Details like mounted security cameras and cherry blossom trees went largely unnoticed when we were focused on Titans firing at us from a block away.
"The team here is giving their soul," Vince Zampella, Respawn's co-founder, said in his afterword. "All of the beauty and the ugly of the past years has poured into hope. We have Respawned." There's a lot of beauty and soul on the pages contained in The Art of Titanfall. It's an impressive collection, and the only complaint we really have is that we wanted more of it. The creative process behind our favorite games is incredibly appealing, and the look behind the curtain on how Titanfall's world came to be does not disappoint.
A copy of The Art of Titanfall was provided to us by the publisher. The Art of Titanfall is available now for ~$35.