Titanfall: A Short Pause Review
The release of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare revolutionized first-person shooters in 2007, and ever since, there have been an abundance of first-person shooters trying to mimic its success and financial gains. It’s easy to argue that—other than a few graphical enhancements, the occasional overhaul of the load-out system and the recent focus on cooperative gameplay — there hasn’t been much done to refresh the Call of Duty series. The most recent game, Call of Duty: Ghosts, is the lowest rated game in the series, and in my opinion, it’s starting to feel pretty stale. The genre as a whole has become quite stagnant as both Call of Duty and Battlefield have left many gamers — myself included — wanting more out of the genre. Thankfully, Respawn Entertainment (mostly comprised of developers from Infinity Ward) has answered the, *ahem,* call of duty by delivering just what the doctor ordered in Titanfall. Despite its imperfections, this game has revitalized the first-person shooter genre in this reviewer’s eyes.
Respawn Entertainment announced Titanfall at the 2013 E3 conference, noting that it would be “exclusive” to the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC. Having been turned off by Halo a year or so prior, I definitely had no interest in Titanfall as I saw similarities between the two franchises. Sure, the longtime PlayStation fan in me wasn’t too pleased about Respawn Entertainment and EA neglecting to bring it to PlayStation consoles as well, but considering the install base of the Xbox 360 and the hype for next-gen consoles building, I could understand why EA made that decision. It wasn’t until I played the open beta that I began to see the potential of Titanfall, and despite the concerns I had, I was really anxious to get my hands on the final retail version.
If there is one factor about gaming that seems to have been lost amidst all the hoopla regarding the performance differences between the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One (30fps vs 60fps, Resolution-Gate, etc), it’s the “Fun Factor”. I blame this entirely on fanboyism which is a real problem that is making gaming more of a soap opera than a favorite pastime. It seems like everywhere you go, more people are comparing consoles specs and the price tag that it carries, instead of focusing on the one foundation of which gaming is built on: having fun. Titanfall is an extremely white-hot, action-packed, and adrenaline-pumping experience. Yes, I witnessed some dips in the framerate and screen tearing is present as well, but to be honest, I don’t see how anyone can stop moving long enough to really look for those faults. There is never a shortage of “Holy Sh*t!” moments, and that’s why this game has quickly risen to the top of the first-person shooter heap, in my humble opinion.
"There is never a shortage of “Holy Sh*t!” moments, and that’s why this game has quickly risen to the top of the first-person shooter heap, in my humble opinion "
The reason I feel so strongly about Titanfall is that, unlike most other first-person shooters out there, it’s not held back by the restrictions of a modern setting. The game never tries to be ultra-realistic. Playing as Pilots, you are equipped with jet-packs that allow you to double-jump, you can fall from ridiculous heights without worry of injury, and you can wall-run and wall-jump across the entire map without touching the ground.
Thinking back on my time playing the game, one special moment in a match of Capture the Flag stands out in my mind, perfectly encapsulating what makes Titanfall so amazing. I had just grabbed the enemy’s flag and turned to make my escape when I was suddenly spotted by a Titan that didn’t like thieves. Immediately, gunfire began to explode around me as I zigzagged around pillars and anything I could use as cover; this Titan wanted to end me. Palms sweaty, I managed to gain some distance on the Titan, and as soon as I was out of its view, I fled down a side street. I thought I was in the clear until I hit a dead end. There were three tall buildings surrounding me — one to my left, one to my right, and one dead ahead. Behind me was the sound of a Titan thundering toward my location. It opened fire and I jumped, rebounding from wall to wall, dodging heavy artillery, and catapulting myself all the way to the roof where I climbed down the other side unscathed.
I can honestly tell you that it was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had as a gamer. I’m not sure there is another first-person shooter out there that instills the same sense of urgency and requires the quick thinking that Titanfall does.
Playing as a Pilot, you have a short list of weapons (and it’s short compared to other games out there), both anti-personnel and anti-titan, that are unlocked as you rank up via experience points. While most weapons seem to be based on modern weaponry (SMG, Shotgun, AR, etc.), there are a few futuristic weapons that are fun to learn and master. Each weapon has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and I haven’t come across any sort of over-powering combinations. You also have tactical abilities, such as cloaking, that work for a short period of time before requiring a recharge, as well as explosive gadgets such as grenade frags, satchel charges, and mines.
"I’m not sure there is another first-person shooter out there that instills the same sense of urgency and requires the quick thinking that Titanfall does. "
Although gameplay as a Pilot is exhilarating thanks to its sense of speed and agility, the real fun begins when you’re able to call down your Titan from above. Having played for well over 12 hours now, it still never gets old hearing the sound of your Titan as it breaks through the atmosphere and comes crashing down to the ground. Simply run up to your Titan, hold down X, and your big iron giant will load you up instantly. While playing as a Pilot shows off the games frantic speed, it’s playing as a Titan that fills that void of being a total bad-ass! Titans may not have the wall-running or jumping ability of Pilots, but they more than make up for it as they’re equipped with a big, loud gun that’ll lay waste to any and everything with ease — as long as it’s not another Titan. When there are multiple Titans on the battlefield, it’s best for Pilots to stay out of the open, as they can easily be squashed by enemy Titans.
That’s not to say Pilots are all fodder and no play when battling a group of Titans — they’re actually quite capable — and this speaks to the game’s balance. Yes, the Titans are absolute death machines, but they are still vulnerable to Pilots. A few well-aimed arc grenades from a Pilot can lower a Titan’s shield quickly, making it much easier for other Titans to inflict damage. If you’re a real cowboy, leaping onto one of these Titans as a Pilot is an absolute blast, as this gives you the opportunity to damage the Titan’s health, regardless of its shield, with your side arm or primary weapon. The Titans have special abilities as well, including an electric smoke screen, perfect against those pesky Pilots on your Titan’s back, and a vortex shield, which collects all incoming enemy fire and launches it back at them.
Despite the fact that Titanfall is an absolute marvel to play, there are a few issues I have with the game that some may find detrimental. First and foremost, the lack of a proper single-player campaign takes away from the overall package. I say “proper” because there is a campaign of sorts featured in Titanfall, but you play it throughout multiplayer. The story is told through cutscenes before and after combat, as well as through radio chatter during the match. I can tell you right now, if you even try to pay attention to what these characters are talking about during a match, you’re going to die... a lot. Having seen the type of action present during multiplayer sessions, I can’t help but wonder how epic a deep, well-written story could’ve been. I really hope there is a rich narrative in the inevitable sequel because the potential is limitless.
The other issue I have with Titanfall is the inclusion of AI bots. A lot of gamers were critical of Titanfall when it was revealed that the game would only feature 6v6 matches. Having played the game, I can understand why they didn’t add more. When you have multiple Titans and Pilots battling it out in one area, there really is no way to describe how chaotic it gets. The concern with having more Titans and Pilots on the battlefield is that there wouldn’t be any way to coordinate with your team, or flank your enemy’s position. It would be an unorganized mess with little-to-no focus on the objectives at hand. Enter AI bots. The bots were added to the game to fill out the field of war , but to say these bots are incredibly inept would be the nicest way to put it. You can singlehandedly take out a team of four bots, using only melee kicks, without taking a scratch. My beef with the bots, though, is that when you are playing a game this fast-paced, the real threats (other than a Titan, of course) are the human controlled Pilots. Entering into an area with 4 or 5 bots shooting aimlessly can make it quite difficult to locate any Pilots that may be in the area as well. I understand the bots are there, more or less, to farm so that you can access your Titan faster, but when I play a multiplayer game, I want the challenge of playing against real players with real skill.
Technically speaking, the game excels where necessary in order to create an addicting gameplay experience. The graphics themselves aren’t overly impressive, but to be honest, they don’t need to be. The character models are nice, the Titan animations look great, and the maps (15 of them!) all look great and feature multiple paths for both Titans and Pilots alike. The game is supposedly running at 60 frames per second, and for the most part that holds true. With as much as there is going on at one time, there were only a few instances I encountered when the frame rate did dip some. With action so furious and relentless, it’s impressive to see gameplay so smooth most of the time. Voice acting for the most part fits the military badass profile, though some of the dialogue is ham-fisted and will leave you rolling your eyes.
If you already own an Xbox One and/or a PC that meets the games required specs, I wholeheartedly recommend Titanfall to those of you that are looking for an amazing online experience. If you don’t own any of those systems, it’s up to you to decide whether or not an online-only game (although incredibly fun) is worth that purchase. As awesome as Titanfall is, I wouldn’t recommend anyone shelling out $500 for an online-only game. If there were a well thought out single-player campaign that matched the intensity and unrivaled excitement found in the multiplayer, then it would be a no-brainer recommendation.
"If you already own an Xbox One and/or a PC that meets the games required specs, I wholeheartedly recommend Titanfall to those of you that are looking for an amazing online experience. If you don’t own any of those systems, it’s up to you to decide whether or not an online-only game (although incredibly fun) is worth that purchase. "
It’s been a long time coming, but the first-person genre has received its much-needed shot in the arm. Titanfall does away with the modern military settings and focuses more on over-the-top, sci-fi action. Every match had me on the edge of my seat and left me wanting more. The silky smooth gameplay combined with white-knuckle action creates an experience unlike anything else out there right now. It’s a shame that Respawn Entertainment wasn’t able to work in a proper single player campaign molded around the adrenaline pumping action of the multiplayer. The addition of AI bots are a necessary evil I suppose, but I hope there are future game modes added that allow you play with them turned off. If you have one of the three platforms it’s available for, and are looking for a fun, fresh, and frantic online experience, there isn’t another game out there right now that can match the online excitement that Titanfall has to offer. 4/5
- Heart-Pounding Action
- Great Map Variety
- Excellent Gameplay
- No Proper Campaign
- Artificially Inept Bots