The Titanfall 2 Tech Test Shows the Power of Demos
August 31, 2016

Remember demos? Releasing small sections of an unreleased game in an attempt to entice more people to buy the game was a common practice during the previous generation, the playable teaser has become more of a rarity. The advent of live streaming over the last few years has seemingly replaced the demo as part of the increasingly controlled pre-release hype cycle. And while I would never besmirch the act of watching other people play video games, it pales in comparison to actually playing the game youíre interested in. Games are an interactive medium, after all. The breadth of what games can do and be is such that it can be difficult to approximate if a game is really for you if youíre unfamiliar with the genre.

I thought about all of this while playing the Titanfall 2 tech test on my Playstation 4 over the last two weekends. Iím never had much interest in multiplayer shooters. The only shooter Iíve ever gotten sucked into was Splatoon, and the main appeal of that game was how different it was from all of the other multiplayer shooters. But Titanfall 2 looked intriguing during E3, and itís August, so I gave it a go. And I was highly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

The movement and speed of matches really stuck out to me. It is fun to just run around in Titanfall 2. The grappling hook is super fun to use and adds an extra dimension to the movement.

I mostly stuck to the Bounty Hunt mode during the test. Bounty Hunt is a team-based mode where your goal is to shoot as many ai-controlled grunts and titans as you can to rack up the money for your team. In between waves, you deposit the earnings from the round as both teams compete for the highest score. This mode is much more welcoming to a novice player like me, who is pretty terrible when going head-to-head against human players, but is competent enough to take out some simpler opponents. I can contribute to the virtual cause without being able to no-scope a pilot out of the air from across the map.

But you can only talk about Titanfall 2 for so long before getting to the actual titans. The giant mechs felt really well balanced. They are high powered without being unstoppable, all-powerful win machines. The weapons can be devastating (especially the laser core), but the opposing pilotís superior agility and ability to grapple onto titans to remove health-storing batteries makes those conflicts feel more suspenseful than they couldíve been. There is a real weight to each step you take in this giant piece of machinery, but the speed and evasive maneuvers that each titan comes equipped with keeps them from becoming overly lumbering. Also, punching other titans in the face feels really good.

Multiplayer demos exist for two reasons: to help a developer prepare for the gameís full launch, and to entice more people to buy the game. The Titanfall 2 tech test succeeded on both fronts. I understand why developers or publishers could be skittish about releasing demos. There is inherently more risk in letting a larger swathe of people play your game instead of just releasing edited trailers that show the game in its most ideal circumstances. But the rewards can be equally appealing. I wasnít planning on buying Titanfall 2 before playing it. I am now. Games are capable of surprising you once you play them. Watching just isnít the same as playing.

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pickhut pickhut - September 02, 2016 (12:59 AM)
Demos definitely had a huge influence on what I wanted to get back in the 90s. I can't even count how many times I've played the Sega Rally 1-course on my Sega Saturn demo disc, up until I finally got the full version. It got ridiculously influential during my PlayStation 1 years, when I had the opportunity to play several demos that came packed with the Official PlayStation Mag; I think I own more PlayStation demo discs than actual full games for the system.

It's true that watching isn't the same as playing, and I feel some people can't seem to make that distinction when watching Let Plays of games. Not knocking LPs, but using them as an example, like: occasionally I notice comments that praise a game for being amazing... while also saying in the very same sentence that they never touched the game. I just find that both odd and fascinating.

Getting back on topic of demos, weirdly I haven't gone out of my way to play them recently. For example, I downloaded the Resident Evil 7 demo the same night it was announced as being available on PS4, but I have yet to touch it. I might have to get back into the habit of trying demos of games I'm curious about.

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