Those who openly become early adopters, by buying new video game consoles when they’re released, know that patience is often a virtue. Launch titles are a given, and always hit stores and downloadable services alongside their respective devices, but it takes time for a steady stream of games to develop. As such, we tend to spend a lot of time wondering, hoping, debating and worrying about what those coming down the pipeline will look like, not to mention how they’ll play. Will they take the next step, improving upon launch titles that generally bridge the gap between one generation and the next? Or, will we still have to wait for the first truly next-gen behemoth to drop?
Titanfall, from the ex-Call of Duty developers at Respawn Entertainment, is one such game that fits into the above-mentioned, “Much-Talked About” category. Developed with the Xbox One and PC platforms in mind, its promise of large-scale and intense 6-on-6 multiplayer piqued the industry’s collective interest in a major way. Of course, a lot of the related discussions and debates stemmed from the fact that the game was crafted as an Xbox exclusive, at least where consoles are concerned. As such, the world’s respective PS4 and Xbox One fanatics continue to wage war over the title and its hot topics, ranging from its resolution and specs to its core gameplay.
Now that Respawn’s mechanized behemoth has dropped, it’s time to see if all the hype was warranted.
To start, I must make note of a couple of things. First is the fact that the last two Battlefield games didn’t do it for me, while Call of Duty: Ghosts was an enjoyable but middling experience in its own right. Then, there’s the fact that while I enjoy multiplayer and honestly always have, I’ve become a bit bored by it over the last three years or so. Only certain titles tend to really hook my interest anymore, but, thankfully, Titanfall has managed to do so.
Going in, I was worried about the game’s lack of a real single-player campaign and, now that I’ve put hours into it, I still feel that it’s a major downside. For those of us who love to run, duck and shoot our way through shooters’ solo story modes, Titanfall is a bit lacking. Sure, there’s a story mode that is referred to as a campaign, but it’s just not the same as it’s multiplayer only. That means that there’s little difference between the “Classic” multiplayer option and its related “Campaign.” All you get are 9 different engagements, which half-assedly tell a story about a battle between the IMF and the Militia, two relatively bland factions. They’re fighting over fuel, it seems, but I’m hard-pressed as far as details go. The random chatter and pop-up video messages were tough to pay attention to during intense gameplay, so I missed quite a bit of the storyline; not that there was much to it anyways.
Thankfully, the game makes good on what it promised, with that being an addictive, well-balanced and incredibly competitive set of online modes. As I previously hinted at, it’s the most enjoyable multiplayer game I’ve played on the Xbox One, though it doesn’t have much competition as of yet. Still, the quality craftsmanship is there, and there’s no denying that Respawn has delivered something memorable, which will provide long-lasting entertainment for many. It may not be the most unique experience on the market — being that it still has that Call of Duty feel when you’re on foot and doesn’t deliver anything overly creative — but it’s a lot of fun to play and is very accessible. On top of that, it also offers strategical elements that invested players will get quite a bit out of.
Upon selecting the Classic option from the main menu, gamers will find themselves with a list of several thoroughly enjoyable gameplay variants to pick from. There’s Attrition, which is essentially Team Deathmatch, as well as Capture-the-Flag and objective point domination options, all of which play out as their titles suggest, with familiar goals and rules. Then — in addition to a variety pack that randomly selects which mode and map will be played next — there’s Last Titan Standing and Pilot Hunter. The first one is pretty self-explanatory, being that it’s a survival challenge where the last mech standing is victorious, but the latter one needs a bit of explaining. It’s quite simple in its own right, though, as it’s merely a mode in which two teams of 6 players (known as Pilots in-game) attempt to kill a certain amount of their opposing team’s members.
Within the above-mentioned modes, which are lacking in the uniqueness department, the way things work is generally constant. In traditional fashion, each team is given one side of the map as its starting point, and that’s where its soldier-like Pilots are dropped at the beginning of each match. Their goals will depend on the mode that has been selected, of course, but the core gameplay is almost always a mix of on-foot shooting and Titan warfare. The gigantic mechs are (for the most part) only available at certain points, however, and choices must be made as to when and where to call them in.
The idea is simple: In most modes, players’ Pilots must wait several minutes before they can summon their first Titan. Then, once said giant robot has been destroyed — either by an enemy’s Titan, a Pilot’s selected anti-Titan weapon or a short-circuited dismantling at the hands of a foe who has jumped onto its back — the wait period begins anew. It’s a very simple yet elegant system, which works without issue and allows for a great deal of balance. There aren’t any races to vehicles at the beginning of each match, and those who do get their Titans early only get that benefit because they’ve used a Burn Card.
What are Burn Cards, you ask? Well, they’re essentially perks. Although you’ll earn the ability to create and customize your own Pilot and Titan classes as you rank up, their special abilities (or class-based perks) are somewhat limited. Sure, there’s enough customization there to keep most people happy, but you won’t find the sheer amount of perks that Call of Duty fans are used to. Instead, you’ll earn Burn Cards, which are unlocked through performance-related tasks and offer specific bonuses, such as improved weapons, decreased Titan build times, added experience points for killing A.I. grunts that dot each map, and improved Pilot agility.
Each match only allows for three different Burn Cards to be queued, so the game forces you to think strategically before enlisting into battle. They’re not all active once the timer finishes counting down and things begin, but remain in the queue instead. In order to actually use one, you must manually select it before spawning, essentially burning it like you would in a card game. This adds strategy into the mix, because you lose the benefit upon your next death and really need to be smart about how you manage your cards. Don’t get too worried about losing them, though, because it won’t be long before you’ll have earned more.
Now, I may be in the minority, but I actually get more enjoyment out of running around as an agile, parkour-utilizing Pilot, than I do as a Titan. It’s fun being inside of a mech for thirty seconds to a minute or two, but there’s less freedom on offer during those times. My forte is running around and using my assault rifle, jump kicks and melee assassinations to take out the enemy, and the Titans don’t really fit into that. However, you may be different, and may find yourself anxiously counting down the seconds until your next behemoth can be called down from the sky.
Honestly, though, no matter what mode I’m playing or which unit I’m controlling, I continually find myself enjoying the experience that Titanfall provides. It can be repetitive at times, lacks a game mode that is truly unique and isn’t the most original game on the planet, but it’s fun, and that’s what matters. The gameplay controls really well and is both fluid and tight, offering quite a bit of strategy for more involved players. Additionally, there’s almost never a lack of action. It would’ve been nice if there were more creative maps, though, because the archetypes that are included aren’t entirely memorable. On top of that, they’re occasionally too big for the 12-player combat that the game supports, even with the inclusion of A.I. controlled soldiers and themed wildlife (including majestic dragons).
On the Xbox One, the game looks quite sharp and features some nice-looking environments that use colour effectively. For a multiplayer-only shooter, the visuals are impressive, although their quality isn’t mind-blowing. What’s most important, though, is performance, and Titanfall does well there. Sure, there are times where the framerate will momentarily dip, but they’re infrequent and don’t impact the player experience much at all. Plus, they will hopefully be patched in the near future.
The servers continue this trend of quality, and were issue-free during my review sessions. Not once did I get kicked from a game, endure any sort of host migration, or deal with any other major adverse effects. That impressed me.
In conclusion, Titanfall is a very good game that deserves the attention it’s received. While it’s not a flawless game, due to a lack of out-of-the-box originality, some repetition and a disappointing campaign, its pros greatly outweigh its cons. As such, those who enjoy multiplayer shooters will find a lot to like about this particular release and, who knows, it may even win over those who normally abstain from online gaming. It’s certainly fun and addicting enough to do so, provided that those folks give it a chance.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
Titanfall isn't a flawless game, but it's a heck of a lot of fun and quickly turns into an interactive addiction.