Now playing: Titanfall

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In 'Now Playing' articles PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time.

Titanfall is the first multiplayer shooter I’ve played in a long time that enables me to thrive as a coward. While I’ve dabbled with CTF and Last Titan Standing, it’s the basic pointscoring Attrition mode that permits me to contribute so dubiously to the war effort.

Successful cowardice in Titanfall is about hiding a giant robot. Titans are tricky things to figure out how to work—most players I’ve encountered, even veterans, like to use them as a saving grace in a frantic firefight where multiple mechs, some in flames, are already battering the shit out of each other. But it’s hard to kill anything when you use them like this. The length of the embarking animation gives enemy pilots a few seconds to get away and enemy robots enough time to plan for your arrival. It may look swish, but a cinematic certain death is still worthless. So I deploy my titan outside the main area of conflict, and arrive at opportune moments.

After a rocky few months I’m now doing better than I have any right to. Most of the levels are big enough to tuck a titan away behind some scenery. They’re just about quiet enough to get away with it.

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This is how I play Titanfall: I am a giant robot, staying out of the way, tracing the shifting battlefield, popping out from around corners when your titan is at half health to belt you with a robot punch.

Some of the 15 maps accommodate this better than others, but employing this strategy in the recent past has led to my biggest successes. And yes, I’m aware that playing it like this is utterly dickish.

I jump in every 30 seconds bellowing “ROBOT PUNCH!”

In an Attrition match in Outpost 207, a creaky industrial map with a strong sense of verticality and a neat balance of open exteriors and cramped interiors, I bag five titan kills, five pilot kills and many grunt kills while only dying once. I spend about a third of the match in open combat, and two thirds just hanging back in my titan, hoping no one notices that I jump in every 30 seconds bellowing “ROBOT PUNCH!” Few people pay attention to this sort of strategy. That’s because it’s against the logic of Titanfall to assume that someone would call down a beautiful military monkey robot from space only to avoid the actual fighting. But if it’s working, why should I stop?

Usually I’m scraping around mid-table on a losing team, but since I’ve adopted cowardly tactics, my KD ratio isn’t quite as tragic, and in a feedback sense, being on the periphery of battle for most of the time means any moments of actual heroism feel that bit more impressive.

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My most outstanding instance of cowardice comes during an Attrition game in the atrociously-named but otherwise brilliant Corporate map. It’s a fancy futuristic industrial park with lots of glass corridors running overhead. It’s the epilogue. My team has lost, but not by much. My comrades are evacuating to a fairly tight exit on the top floor of the building. I can see they’re all getting mowed down along the way from my vantage point on the top floor, since I’ve arrived at the evac point early. Instead of trying to hold my ground against an obviously superior team, I find an office screen near some computers then crouch and cloak while the enemy searches for me and my allies. I wait until the very last second before the evac jet takes off then run out and rocket jump into the departing aircraft, escaping frantic gunfire. An experience boost indicates on-screen that I was the only one of my team to make it.

It’s literally the coward’s way out—but the fact that I’m the sole survivor means my approach to Titanfall might actually be a sensible one.

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.