Titanfall Review

Developer: Respawn Entertainment | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Played On: Xbox One | Price: $59.99 | ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence]

A few rules about videogame reviews: 1) you always review what’s there, and not what’s missing or what you wanted; 2) you never, ever change the score; 3) you judge it ultimately on one fundamental question: is the game fun? All these elements are relevant with Titanfall, simply the most important game that will be released this year (and yes, I realize it’s only March).

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Titanfall is monumentally important for Microsoft and Xbox One. It’s the great hope; the crucial exclusive; the system seller. It’s been on every ‘most anticipated’ list since it was first announced, and fairly so. The game is also vital to consumer confidence in EA being able to release an online-only game that actually works as planned on day one.

As you no doubt know, Titanfall is a multiplayer-only shooter made by the lead and staffers who created and built the Call of Duty franchise. And as you may know from the beta, it’s fast-paced and introduces few fresh ideas in both its movement style and mechanics and, of course, the titular Titans.

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It’s a shame that network stability should be an opening consideration, but the game requires you to be online so you need other people to make it work. In our closed review session there were problems with connecting teams in the Campaign, explained as a bug that was fixed overnight. There were occasional lag issues during gameplay, and odd connection drops. All of which could be explained by pre-release code, yet in the wake of SimCity and Battlefield 4, EA has not earned the benefit of the doubt. No doubt some will have issues on day one, others will be fine, and eventually everyone will get in.

But the game: what about the game? Of course you can jump into multiplayer Classic mode immediately (though it’s worth running through the training session just to understand the potential moves with double jumps and wall-running that will factor so vitally into how the online battles evolve), but the Campaign mode offers a more visceral training program. You join the Militia with five friends (or randoms) and a host of AI grunts and hackable Specters and fight the IWC in very traditional multiplayer battles.

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Through nine missions you explore a couple of the limited supply of game modes and level up, unlocking more weapons, add-ons, perks, and kits. Then, if you wish, you do it again as the IWC “because there are two sides to every story.” Now I just spent two solid days playing Titanfall, ran through the Campaign on both sides and couldn’t tell you a damn thing about the story. That’s partly due to the space opera-style plot of intergalactic battling that’s instantly forgettable; but it’s also hindered by the story-telling mechanic that insists on popping random characters on the screen without introduction, and have them yell while you’re dodging bullets from other players, titans, and even the AI cannon fodder.

The campaign really fell down the gap between insisting you dive into the action instantly with the supposition that we demand a narrative to drive our investment in this new world. It’s actually a little sad to dismiss a storyline that evidently has background, reason, and drama but since you don’t really get a chance to stop and smell the roses, those wordly roses wilt in the heat of bullets, rockets, and those Titans.

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But what really matters for Titanfall is the mechanics by which you move and engage in combat and here Respawn proves it absolutely know what it’s doing. Gameplay is fast, fluid, inventive, and manages to navigate expertly that difficult line between simple pick-up accessibility and what the advanced player will demand. You may suck, but the Smart Pistol—an auto-targeting weapon—provides the opportunity to head-shot basic Grunts with ease. It’s a powerful feeling, and while auto-killing other Pilots requires a much longer lock-on to earn that insta-kill, it provides a novice with a way in to the action.

Where Titanfall takes a sharp left-turn from the kind of death lanes that Call of Duty players know and love to hate/hate to love is in verticality. It’s a popular buzzword for level design, but it’s in the maps and the movement mechanics that Titanfall shows it really is part of something new and fresh in the shooter genre. Ledges and rooftops, industrial crates and machinery, rocks, walkways, even ziplines all create paths and exploration alleyways that couldn’t be fully realized in the two days we spent playing.

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What’s even more limited is the number of game modes. Where other shooters in the category have evolved over time, Titanfall today is clearly a first-release in what’s planned to be a long-running franchise. There are only five modes and all follow familiar tropes—team deathmatch (called Attrition), Hardpoint (which is Domination), CTF, Last Titan Standing (which actually isn’t that fun), and Pilot Hunter. The last mode, Variety Pack, just mixes up the modes as you keep playing.

This is nothing new, but made fresh by your ability to drop your Titan in to the fight when you’ve earned it. Everyone can get a Titan, you may just have to wait two minutes for it to be available, but if you’re mowing down opponents, that time drops so you get the beast a little sooner.

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And to be clear, jumping in a Titan and engaging in these battles is exhilarating. It also illustrates the challenge and competence to which the level design affords opportunities for Pilots on foot to be effective, and these mammoth Titans to still feel like they are powerful brutes. The balance between the size and power of each combatant is a nuance that has been expertly managed, and as a result makes each map and game mode challenging.

What matters is what Titanfall is. And that is an expertly formed shooter. It lacks many built-in charms gamers might expect, like obvious eSports functions and game modes that really promote how this experience is truly different. But it’s also clear that this is stage one of an ongoing process.

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And what you get is a super-fast paced shooter experience, some epic moments in wall-running and shooting guys, and a truly original feeling of competitive multiplayer. As a result, I’d recommend it to anyone, but with the understanding that this is the first salvo in a barrage that will endure, and you will enjoy this shot, but also be aware that the true potential of the franchise is still to be revealed.

+ Incredible mechanics

+ Fundamentally fun

— Light on options

 

9 / 10

 

  1. what about the creatures?? how come your review doesnt include a single word about them?

  2. “Always review what’s there, and not what’s missing or what you wanted.”

    What? That’s ridiculous. If you’re reviewing a game, of course you’re going to compare how it stacks up to other games in the same genre. You mean to tell me if you’re reviewing 10 $60 multiplayer, similar fps games, and 9 of those games have 25 maps and one game has 2 maps, as long as the 2 map game was fun you wouldn’t feel any obligation to mention to your readers that it was a little light on maps compared to the norm?

    • they obviously wouldn’t get the same scores duh. i like the way they review. if you review whats not there that people wanted the first two uncharted games would have had 7’s for no multiplayer and not enough story.

  3. More like the most overhyped game of the year.

  4. @Lokutastic, creatures? Robots and Pilots :)
    Everyone like me who played the beta knew this would be an amazing game. The Beta was rock solid, and I cried when the beta was over.
    Way slicker than COD, and just more fun to play with more variation.
    The graphics on Xbox One are unbelievable!

  5. I’m glad Titanfall seems to know how to hit the ground running in the FPS genre. You’d think the concept would be simple enough, but many new FPS IP’s struggle to reach the target audience CoD has.
    My beef is with the limited maps and modes. I’m sure this was on purpose so that they could sell them as Add-Ons later, but still. Make the game a digital only, cheaper deal, and I’ll bite.
    Also, I may be an ancient relic for saying this, but since when does the plot of a game come second? When I buy every Halo, I expect to run through an amazing campaign, and then brawl it out in Multi after. I know this is Respawn’s first game, so they had to keep resources locked on the Multi, but still. Give me a story that flushes out the world. That’s how many major games became such big players! Plot! Titanfall 2 needs one or this is one franchise I’m opting out from.

    • To be fair, competitively multiplayer FPS games never had stories before the likes of Halo, only a marginal implied plot, and personally, I rather they made a decent bot system so I could play the multiplayer alone than making a ‘meh’ story like Battlefield 3 that I will only play it once in a lifetime.

      • Multiplayer FPS’s didn’t exist until AFTER Halo! Which had an amazing story from the get-go. Even CoD, which primarily serves as a multiplayer powerhouse, gives us a kickasss story every time. The plot in the very least serves to set up the multiplayer, like a tutorial. That’s what sucks so much about this. It seems like Titanfall has a great story to tell, but can’t. Had it been given more time and funding, I’m sure respawn could have delivered.

      • I’m going to assume you are on your trolling mood today, otherwise that was a massively ignorant comment on the history of fps games.

      • Oh, the fact that I said CoD has a great story didn’t give it away…..?

  6. One thing I disagree with the review is complaining about the lack of game modes, honestly, less is more in this case, the game has the core modes done to perfection, not since Team Fortress 2 I felt that, also, Last Titan Standing is a lot of fun, IF you don’t end up in teams of derps that manage to get themselves blown up 5 minutes into the match, and if they do, they have the decency to eject and help out on foot.

  7. “A few rules about video game reviews…” (0:05) Are they ridiculing other video game reviewers that do change their scores? Do they feel that it is an absolute that a flawed game slowly worked on is indicative to the value of a released final product? Is a game’s most important factor the ability to convey the feeling of fun? Frankly, I don’t care their stances to these questions. I care on how irrefutable they see their judgement. I’m not questioning their process of deliberating a score. I’m seriously doubting the game preferential bias to how they see the score of a game using this process. It’s good to just enjoy a game as it is the entire purpose of the transformative media. However, clinging to self-instated axiomatic aphorisms that they call “rules” are not absolute. They do not hold any official position to claim such “rules” for the entire video game industry and community. I’m sure that, when asked, they will not claim to be. Sure, they can say they have these rules for their specific group/organization but they are implicitly mocking those who don’t conform to this regulation of theirs. I wouldn’t have written this if they said it was their particular guideline or anything along this lines. I love Machinima (IGD) and I hope they get what I’m saying.

  8. Good game indeed :D

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