After Infinity Ward was gutted by Activision, the developers that left created their own company, Respawn Entertainment. Respawn found asylum with EA, who is currently backing them. Four years later, Respawn’s game Titanfall, the most (and only) anticipated game for the Xbox One, finally launched. Titanfall is a sci-fi shooter that blends giant mechs, parkour, and jetpacks into competitive multiplayer. Of course, there was a game released on the previous generation of consoles that mashed science fiction and parkour into a futuristic multiplayer shooter…before we all start having flashbacks to Brink, let’s see how Titanfall stands on its own.
The gameplay of Titanfall feels like a combination of Battlefield 2142, Call of Duty, and Mirror’s Edge. Much like Call of Duty, you can customize several loadouts for your Pilot, choosing from all of your standard weapons (assault rifles, SMGs, sniper rifles, etc.) and some perks that give your special abilities (faster health regeneration, invisibility, x-ray vision). Once you’re on the ground, you’ll see that Titanfall plays a little differently from a lot of multiplayer shooters. Out on the battlefield, there are full squads of AI controlled “Grunts” and a variety of other types of AI controlled soldiers. These grunts are almost always just fodder for the human players (Pilots), but killing these AI characters can give you points and hasten the drop of your Titan. The AI players on the field may not contribute to much, but they do allow players who may not be as skilled as the others to gain points and have fun. Sure, they may not have killed many Pilots, but they can rack up some decent score wiping out squads of grunts.
Now, we get to the namesake of the game: Titans. When you deploy into a match, you’ve got about two minutes before your Titan is ready to drop. Inflicting damage or killing enemies decreases the amount of time you have to wait, so it encourages players to be aggressive with the enemy team. Once the Titan is ready, you call in where you want it to drop and it falls straight from the sky. The Titan can either be controlled by the player or the AI, taking orders such as following the Pilot or attacking certain areas. Sadly, AI controlled Titans are no match for their player controlled counterparts. The more popular choice is definitely hopping into your Titan and doing some damage manually. I can think of a few words that describe how it feels to take control of your Titan for the first time, but I think the one that describes it best is this: underwhelming. What should be an insanely cool experience is downplayed by the control and balancing of the Titans. Titans handle exactly the same as when you’re a Pilot on the ground. Sure, the weapons and abilities are different, but you rarely feel like an enormous killing machine. You just feel like a taller version of the Pilots. The other problem is how Titans are kept from being completely overpowered: everything can kill you very quickly in a Titan. Player controlled Titans can kill each other in about 30-45 seconds, every player on the ground has an Anti-Titan weapon with near infinite amounts of ammunition, and even the AI players will lock on and hit you with rockets. Nothing kills your fun faster than finally deploying your Titan, crawling in, and being destroyed in less than a minute. Using some quick maneuvering and learning how to Pilot efficiently can extend your life within the Titans, but they’re more like a bullseye than a trump card.
The multiplayer game types are mostly tried and true variants, such as team deathmatch and capture the flag. The two game types that were made for Titanfall are still pretty basic: Last Titan Standing is team deathmatch where all players spawn in their Titans and Pilot Hunter is team deathmatch where the only points are scored by killing human players. To tell you the truth, five game types seems pretty low for a game focused entirely on the multiplayer. I’m sure that EA will be ramming Titanfall DLC down players’ throats for the next couple years, so you’ll probably see some new ways to play being added in. Unfortunately, Titanfall seems a little light on content. You can experience every way to play in a few hours, but the replay value comes from a ranking system that allows you to “advance to the next generation”. Most gamers will know this as the Prestige system from Call of Duty.
The plot of Titanfall is very loosely based around a galactic civil war between the ragtag Militia and the evil, corporate IMC. The IMC is the controlling party in the galaxy, but the Militia decides to stand against them in order to have more freedom. That’s about the extent of the plot for Titanfall. In an interesting (and hopefully not soon-to-be common) move, Respawn Entertainment decided not to focus any of their effort on an actual campaign, but put all of their effort into the multiplayer. Judging from Respawn’s history in the Call of Duty franchise, you could understand why they may feel that a campaign would be a waste of resources when building a multiplayer game. Still, the game does contain a limited campaign mode. The campaign missions are still played with two human teams, but have extended intro scenes before playing. You get tidbits of plot through chatter on your radio throughout the match, but other than that, these missions are still essentially multiplayer matches. Are these missions a welcome break from the normal playlist of multiplayer games? Yes, it’s another way to fill the time on Titanfall. But, when you’re burned out on multiplayer, the campaign isn’t going to give you much respite.
Visually speaking, Titanfall falls flat. I understand that the developers wanted to focus on a high rate of frames-per-second and smooth gameplay, not flashy visuals. That’s completely respectable, but playing on the Xbox One didn’t look any different from most games that are currently on the 360. Luckily, Titanfall sounds better than it looks. Titans sound genuine, with pistons steaming and big, mechanical joints rotating. The guns all sound satisfying and realistic (or as real as guns from the future can sound).
For once, a game that almost exclusively has multiplayer focused achievements isn’t an impossible list. Achievement Hounds will be happy to see that you can easily unlock most of Titanfall‘s achievements by playing regular matchmaking, no huge amount of skill required. There is the usual mix of winning certain numbers of matches (overall and in particular game types), getting kills, and completing the multiplayer campaign. There are also some achievements that require some luck and skill, like blasting an ejecting pilot with a charged railgun or killing every pilot single-handedly during the epilogue of a match. While you may never unlock some of these, they’re still a fun way to keep you playing the game.
Titanfall may be light on content, but it stands on its addictively fun multiplayer. If the game had an actual, fleshed out campaign, I think that Titanfall would easily be the killer app for the Xbox One. Still, the multiplayer nearly makes up for the lack of variety because it’s tight, refined, and exciting. With Titanfall 2 already underway, there’s no doubt players will be grinding away in this game until the sequel comes out. If you’re a regular of Call of Duty, tired of the identical yearly releases, you may want to start looking toward Titanfall for your competitive gaming needs. Hopefully, Respawn and EA can keep Titanfall from going down the same path that Call of Duty is on.
I give Titanfall 4 “Rodeos” out of 5
By Blake Edwards