It’s not often that an FPS comes along that is capable of switching things up. Titanfall undoubtedly looked like a diamond in the rough. A rare beast steam-rollering in on the horizon, intent on flipping one of the most popular genres on its head. After what’s been close to a decade of annualised Call of Duty rehashes and countless has-beens, the time felt right for a new franchise to sweep a generation of gamers off their feet.
But, Titanfall is not everything you want it to be. And it’s certainly not the second coming of the First Person Shooter…
When there is a big budget, particularly from publishing giants like EA, we gamers have learned to expect a certain level of quality from a title. Titanfall oozes this quality. But that doesn’t always guarantee a good game. Many indie titles might not look the part, but beneath their rough exteriors they often deliver the gaming depth we crave.
Scratch beneath Titanfall’s immensely slick, shiny surface and underneath you’ll find a decent-enough FPS that, bar a couple of innovations, is just another in a long line of above-par shooters. Make no mistake about it, cut Titanfall and it bleeds Call of Duty. That same slick gameplay and presentation rears its head here once more, aided by some gloriously over-the-top mechs and well conceived parkour mechanics.
Titanfall’s a blistering pyrotechnic display, a change of scenery from Call of Duty, that successfully pinpoints many aspects where Activision’s franchise has gone wrong over the years.
In the early hours, it’s a surgical strike on your fun cortex, capable of getting even the most stony-faced CoD hater a whooping and a hollering as they rodeo a Titan, unleashing a clip into its mechanoid skull. While the world might breathe a collective sigh every time a modern war shooter is announced, the huge-ass robots and free-running leaps are, for a while at least, a breath of fresh air. Every bit of action plays out like a highlights reel, a series of ‘Woah, shit, did you just see that?’ and ‘I can’t believe I just ripped the arms off his Titan!’
Titanfall’s Campaign Mode
Titanfall’s mysterious campaign mode was mentioned routinely since the game was unveiled at E3 last year, but literally nothing was seen of it up until release.
Respawn whispered of its game-changing integration with multiplayer, providing context as to why two warring factions were spending billions of dollars building fifty foot mechs that often detonate like mini-nukes within seconds of being dropped.
What we’ve ended up with is a short playlist-type scenario where you work through both sides of the campaign along with other players. It takes about 90 minutes all told to complete a single side of the story campaign, taking you through nine different maps. The story’s limited to brief cutscenes, voiceovers and radio chatter, and you’ll be too busy blowing seven shades of crap out of anything that moves to notice.
Titanfall’s Campaign mode is something to be endured rather than enjoyed, made all the more frustrating by the fact that you’re forced to work through both sides of the campaign to unlock all of the Titan variants.
Titanfall Has No Single player
If you’re expecting or looking for a single-player game then put your money back in your wallet and just think again for a second. Everything about Titanfall is engineered to be online. You can’t play through Titanfall’s limited training mode without connecting to the Origin servers, which is the only single-player segment. When you see games like Call of Duty: Ghosts absolutely bursting with content, both online and off, it can be a little galling to stump up £45/$60 for an exclusively online experience.
And the real question here is, could you be just 4 hours into your multiplayer only experience when you start to feel a little short changed by your new FPS? The staying power of this title will largely come from the price tag, as you force yourself to play match after match to recoup some of that cost per hour of entertainment that you paid.
So What Is Titanfall Offering?
Titanfall is a fast paced sci-fi shooter that gives each player a mech to call their very own. Titanfall’s two hooks are your Mech and the parkour, double-jumping run and gunning you can do while out of your mech.
Your Titan turns up after a handful of minutes of game time. That time lessens the more effectively you assist your team as a Titan-less foot soldier (with parkour enhanced boosters).
When given the go ahead to call down your Titan, it blasts through the stratosphere to a location you have pre-determined. You simply look at a spot on the ground, press ‘V’ and your Titan will land, a second or so later, bang on target. It remains shielded for a period of time, until you decide to engage your Titan in one of a few ways.
1. You can get your Titan to follow you, where it will blast anything that moves, using its Titan powers automatically.
2. You can get it to stand its ground and guard its current location. Again using its great big guns and rockets and shields automatically, against enemy that comes into its threat range. Remember, your AI Titan will automatically know when something is behind it, cause it’s AI and can outwit our tiny human brains.
3. You can get into your Titan to control it yourself, which momentarily disables the Titan, leaving it vulnerable to attack as you are put in it. This action makes you blind for a second and unable to do anything as your Titan boots up its display screens.
Now, consider the other hook to the game, the one which has you parkour-jet-boost-double jumping from building to building. While on foot you also have a Titan damaging 3rd weapon you can switch to that you cannot access while in a mech, of course. Also, when on foot, you can leap onto enemy Titans to disable them, and you can venture into buildings where some of the mission critical control points are.
Considering all of the above, answer me this little brainteaser. Which of the three options will you choose EVERY time in an insanely fast paced shooter, where there are only six players per side and fire power is everything?
Breaking it down to very simple maths would have you quickly conclude the following. If I get in my mech then I can offer my side a single gun (The Titans). If I get out of my mech, I can offer my side a pair of guns (The Titans and mine on foot). I can hide in buildings and reach capture points inside and disable mechs by jumping on them.
And so each game quickly becomes a free running chaotic shooter. You will die. A lot. There is little to no strategy and you often become entirely separated from your mech, as you leave it to its own devices. So one of the hooks, having a mech you can get in to, feels a bit pointless and made me start to think about the extra tactics that this Titan hardware should be offering. In games like Battlefield, if you had a skilled pilot in a tank or helicopter then the other side really knew about it, capable of pinning them down and changing the tides of battle. That doesn’t happen in Titanfall, and Titanfall only has the Titan to worry about.
Titanfall Matchmaking - You Can’t Choose Anything
There are limited options from the main menu screen; Play Campaign or Play Classic. Either way, Titanfall slots you into a waiting match lobby. Gone are the days where you’re allowed to manually explore the lobby of pending matches to find the one that is playing the map you fancy playing, with the right number of players (6 players versus 6 is the max number per side in Titanfall), that are of the correct skill level to you. It's a bizarre and obtuse setup. After years of being able to choose a server with the map you want this feels like quite a backwards step, designed to pander to console sensibilities. There's not even any apparent voting on maps, you're just whipped into a random server with a seemingly eternal loop of fifteen maps.
Many times I was wrongly matched, putting me as a 4th level noob into a lobby with 30+ level experts, who had unlocked nearly everything. Needless to say they enjoyed shredding me over and over again as I desperately tried to work out if they had aim-bots or I was just incapable of climbing into my Mech fast enough and hiding in a corner of the map. You can use EA’s Origin to join a game with friends, but it might put you on different sides, so, tough.
Respawn dev Drew McCoy has promised that private lobbies for Titanfall and improved matchmaking will come in future updates, but it seems quite a simple and bizarre oversight for a multiplayer-only game at launch.
With a game that has only 6 vs 6 if you have one person drop out or “is a bit shit” then the other side starts to get a significant game changing advantage.
Between matches, you have to sit and wait for 90 seconds until the next battle will begin again. Dull. Then you have to wait for it to load up the next map. Dull again.
Titanfall Multiplayer Modes
Multiplayer in Titanfall is limited to just five modes. After being spoiled rotten by the glut of modes in some of the other AAA shooters, this does come as a bit of a surprise.
Attrition - This is your basic team deathmatch, scoring points for killing anybody on the enemy team.
Last Titan Standing - Essentially Last Man Standing, in Last Titan Standing everybody starts in a Titan and must eliminate the enemy Titans to win. There’s no respawns on this one, so get ready for a fair bit of thumb-twiddling.
Hardpoint - There’s three capture points in the map on this one, the more you hold the quicker your team gains points. This one definitely feels the most focused of the bunch, homing players in particular locales for some intense firefights.
Capture the Flag - Does exactly what it says on the flag. Beyond being able to carry a flag as a Titan that is, trundling about some giant moon-invading conquerer.
Pilot Hunter - Bit of a cop-out this one. Essentially identical to Attrition but you don’t gain any points for killing enemy AI, just the pilots.
That’s your lot for multiplayer modes. Not the most inspiring bunch but in truth most people seem to gravitate towards these modes in other games anyway. Still, it would have been nice if Respawn had thrown in a few party game types like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’s chaotic Gun Game or Sticks and Stones. Co-op versus AI is definitely a missed trick here. It feels like Respawn wasn’t entirely confident of Titanfall’s success when creating the game, narrowing down the game types to ensure the playerbase wasn’t spread too thin. Still, if all you want to do is shoot things then I guess there’s not much else you really need is there?
Titanfall On Foot
The mobility as a player is an absolute blessing, and it’s every bit as effortless to pull off as it looks in the trailers. Sure, for the first few minutes I was scrambling up buildings disoriented, but within a few games I was clambering atop buildings without breaking my stride. What’s amazing in this respect is in how much it increases the verticality of the shooter. Practically nowhere is off-limits, and it’s a dramatic shift from Call of Duty: Ghosts static Doom-like mechanics. Normally there’s a limited number of hard-to-reach sniper perches and camping locations, here the levels are your oyster and refuge can be easily found from the mechs. No more are you unable to get to that irritating bloody sniper at the top of a ladder with a claymore and a turret for defense. Just leap on up, hit the double jump and frag his irritating sniping brains out (sorry, sniper fans).
Strutting across rooftops and taking out enemy pilots, it’s only a matter of time before you can unleash your pet Titan, allowing you to leap from your rooftop into its gaping cockpit, ready to unleash your chosen brand of hot lead. It’s fast-paced and it’s seamless.
Summing Up Titanfall
Is Titanfall fun? Yes, it’s a blast. Is it a new experience? Yes, it offers some new FPS experiences. But couple Titanfall’s limitations and the fact that it does not break as much new ground as it might try to have you believe and you are left with an over-priced title.
Titanfall is almost the opposite to the indie sci-fi multiplayer title, Natural Selection 2. In NS2, if you put the time in, you realise you are enjoying a mature, multiplayer tactical experience that keeps on giving. Compared to Titanfall, NS2 has more players, greater depths of strategy, originality in FPS game styles (you get to play as a variety of aliens or you can march around in a mech, if your side is good enough) and it even bravely provides a complete RTS control mode for the commander of each side. Natural Selection 2 is nearly half the price and still evolving, as the dedicated indie devs roll out carefully balanced tweaks, based on community desire and feedback.
In contrast, if you played a few hours of the Titanfall Beta last month, then you’ve seen the best the game has to offer and are probably going to start to tire of its glam shortly thereafter. Do yourself a favour and take a look at Natural Selection 2.
If you’re not a fan of the distinct Call of Duty flavour then chances are you won’t be a fan of Titanfall. Giving Titanfall a top-end price and a fat 50GB installation file is almost its way of self promoting. And the message its shouting is - Take Titanfall seriously as a AAA title. If Titanfall had come out at half the price (which is closer to its real value), people would possibly rethink their attitude.
Titanfall doesn’t offer enough game to replace your COD or Battlefield of choice, and you can immediately tell it was made by the same bunch of dudes that created Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Titanfall is comfort food for FPS gamers. Titanfall is ultimately an evolution rather than the promised revolution and at that price… well, wait for a price drop and you’ll get a fun game and not feel had.