March 14, 2014 by Paul Curtin
These days, first person shooters are a dime a dozen. Hell, even some FPSs are free to play online! With so many new games and sequels being pushed out year after year, it’s easy to see how the innovation from developers could start dwindling and hardcore gamers could start developing shooter fatigue.
Thankfully, after the fiasco at Activision that left them unemployed, the talented Infinity Ward developers who revolutionized the industry with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare are back. Regrouped under the new name “Respawn Entertainment,” founders Jason West and Vince Zampella along with other talent from Infinity Ward are focused on once again shaking things up a bit in the industry and trying to topple their previous titan. Standby for Titanfall.
At first glance, Titanfall may look like Call of Duty with mechs, which is a fair assessment considering that it’s made by the same people who once made Modern Warfare. But once you drop into your first game, you’ll discover that Titanfall is a whole ‘nother beast that mixes current trendy elements of Call of Duty with classic twitch arena shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament.
Whether you’ll love Titanfall really depends on which type of FPS you favor, because while the game does its best to be like Quake and Unreal with its jetpacks, wall-running, mechs, and crazy moments, the weapons and health systems are less futuristic and keep things closer to a modern combat theme. Still, even if you’re absolutely sick of modern warfare, the hybrid of old and new shooter mechanics is enough to reignite the sense of fun for anyone with fatigue.
Your love for Titanfall will also depend on if you like multiplayer games more than singleplayer. Similar to the groundbreaking PS3 exclusive Starhawk back in 2012, Titanfall is basically a multiplayer-only game but with no offline modes at all. There is a story, but after playing through it multiple times, I still have almost no idea what was going on. This is due to Titanfall’s unique way of storytelling… or rather lack thereof.
Story mode is essentially regular multiplayer with voice-overs while waiting before a match starts, the occasional quick scene at the start of a match, or a picture-in-picture scene at the top right corner of the screen. There are two stories told from each map as players take turns fighting on one side of the battle. Getting through both campaigns takes no time at all and can be completed in only a few hours.
The main problem with the short campaign is that most of time you’re too busy focused on your loadouts or killing other players to be able to pay attention to anything the characters are actually saying. The voice-acting also isn’t the best, which can be attributed to Respawn using their own community manager instead of hiring a professional actor and having an Idris Elba knockoff trying to do his best Pacific Rim impression.
Still, even with not having any idea what’s going on, the Michael Bay formula of dramatic music and random yelling makes gameplay feel even more intense and epic. Players who want to just jump right into competitive action have the option to play the Classic modes instead and not have to watch and hear the same dialog over and over again. But not completing the campaign prevents certain Titans from being unlocked, which isn’t a big deal considering how quickly both stories can be finished.
The primary modes in Titanfall are grouped under what Respawn calls “Classic” and include: Attrition (team deathmatch), Last Titan Standing, Hardpoint (capture and hold), Capture the Flag, and Pilot Hunter. All of the modes are fun, and it’s CTF that really takes advantage of everything the game has to offer while Last Titan Standing starts everyone off with only one Titan and completely changes the style at which the game is played.
Once actually getting into a game and taking your first baby steps, it’s clear that movement in Titanfall is unlike anything else before it and requires some learning. By taking bunny hopping to the next level, not only can players run on walls, but they can even hang from them like Spider-Man. This change in what’s possible forces players to break from bad old shooter habits and explore new wilder strategies in order to survive.
Aiming during these chaotic moments of everyone jumping around can be a bit frustrating at first, but after a few games it becomes apparent that Respawn has managed to perfectly blend fast-paced parkour with jetpacks in a way far more intuitive than Halo, Killzone, and dare I even say it… Tribes. To put it simply, if you’re not moving in Titanfall, you’re not staying alive.
But while the movement is what’s really revolutionary about the game, it’s the big ol’ Titans that make it so much damn fun to play. Hearing “Your Titan is ready.” and “Standby for Titanfall.” as you call one of three various giant mechs down from the sky is a wake-up call letting you know that things are about to get crazy. Aside from just being fun to run around and punch things in, proper use of a Titan can be the difference between winning and losing a game, and getting too careless can result in quickly losing your Titan in the heat of the moment as they’re not as hard as they look.
Custom loadouts let players select from a variety of weapons, abilities, and three different types of mechs: The skinny Stryker which is fast but weak, the Ogre which is slow but strong, and the Atlas which is right in the middle of the two. Each weapon is unique in its own way, and the auto-locking Smart Pistol is easily the best pistol since the original Halo allowing multiple targets to be taken down at once. There might not be as many options in terms of weapons as say Call of Duty, but there’s really no right or wrong choice, and it comes down to what the player is best at using, not which is the most powerful.
This is because like Unreal and Halo, the Titan vehicles and pilots’ weapons are balanced nicely. Being without a Titan doesn’t feel unfair or unbalanced, even when going toe-to-toe with one. Pilots can jump up, mount, and destroy enemy Titans within seconds — or just jump up on a friendly Titan to catch a ride. Titans can use electric smoke like a bug zapper to get hijacking Pilots off or even get out of the Titan to kill the mounting attacker themselves while their Titan runs around on guard in autopilot mode.
To make for even more madness, Titans even have the ability to rip other pilots out of their mechs or eject hundreds of feet into the air when “doomed” so that their Titans can explode, killing all those around them once at a safe distance, rather than going down with the ship. These are the moments when Titanfall is at its craziest, and quite frankly, at its best.
The amount of options on each one of the fifteen beautifully designed maps are endless. Not only are the maps strategically built to keep Titans to more narrow choke points while players on foot can freely roam anywhere from ground floor to rooftop, but they’re just simply stunning to look at. The amount of detail in each map is just beautiful, even with the game being on the dated Source engine. The only options missing are the abilities to create private groups/games and the ability to vote on which map, which are an odd decisions by Respawn to leave out considering these are features other popular multiplayer shooters have and Titanfall’s focus is multiplayer.
With each map being so alive with details such as alien dinosaurs and dragons in the background that even swoop down and pick up bots, it’s a shame that the story couldn’t have been better. This is a world that the designers have done an amazing job creating and that’s begging to be explored. It’s a shame that the game is only capable of 792p on the “next-gen” Xbox One and a no-brainer to pick it up on PC if you’re fortunate enough to have a powerful gaming rig capable of playing Titanfall in all of its full 1080p glory.
The actual player count is also something that prevents Titanfall from being bigger and better. Having a maximum of 6 vs. 6 players per map that are filled with bots seems like a missed opportunity for a couple extra big team battle modes that would have been far crazier. Hopefully, the game’s success will lead to even bigger battles in a sequel. At first the bots seem completely worthless because of how easy they are to kill and how little killing they actually do. But when thinking of it in terms of a game like Defense of the Ancients or League of Legends, the bots actually do serve a point in terms of distracting players and being used to kill and help reduce the time it takes to call in another Titan.
And last but certainly not least are the innovative player evac epilogues at the end of each battle that cannot be forgotten about. This is something that other developers have to be slapping their foreheads and thinking to themselves, “Why haven’t we ever done this before?!” Basically, after every deathmatch-style game is over, each player is given one more life and the losing team is given the chance to escape. A random point on the map is specified, and both teams are alerted to where a single dropship will be called down. The losing team must simply jump into the dropship while the winning team has the chance to kill the losers again and blow up their dropship before it evacs. It’s a brilliant added objective and way that allows even being on the losing team feel rewarding… that is if you manage to make it out alive.
Without question, the team at Respawn has done it again, and Titanfall has lived up to the hype. The hybrid man vs. mech battles that mix old school with new help create a level of chaos and fun that I haven’t had in years. As a reviewer who has to play a lot of games and has begun developing FPS fatigue myself, I can honestly say that Titanfall has cured my disease for now. Almost every minute of gameplay involves some type of wild event that you’ll be wanting to tell all your friends about, and quite honestly, I can’t wait to jump right back in myself and experience more of those thrilling moments right now. Titanfall gets 4.5 out of 5 stars (Amazing).
- Near-perfect hybrid of old and new school shooter mechanics
- Revolutionary wall-running and parkour elements
- Titans are well balanced and add a new dynamic to gameplay
- Pure chaos even with only 6 vs. 6 combat and bots
- Plenty of maps that are intelligently designed
- Innovative escape challenge system makes losing fun
- Looks stunning in 1080p on PC
- Online-only with a very weak story
- Odd choices like no map voting, no custom games, and no custom loadout names
- Matchmaking at times can be unbalanced
- 792p on the Xbox One