After what seems like an eternity of waiting, Titanfall has finally dropped into the hands of gamers the world over – unless you only have a 360, of course. Many people, myself included, have heralded Titanfall as the second coming of the first-person shooter in a genre that has been so devoid of imagination and originality in the last few years. Call of Duty and Battlefield have been the big hitters for FPS’s for quite a while now – ever since Halo fell off the pace – and while these games are perfectly fine in their own right, we are bombarded with new iterations year after year with very little evolution. So the questions on everyone’s lips are; can Titanfall be everything it has been hyped up to be? Can it revitalise a stagnant genre so lacking in creativity?
The short answer is yes, yes it can.
• Developer: Respawn Entertainment
• Publisher: EA
• Reviewed on: Xbox One
• Also Available On: PC, Xbox 360
• Release Date: Available Now (Xbox One, PC), March 25th (Xbox 360)
At its core, Titanfall is a first person shooter very much in the vein of Call of Duty. Not surprising considering a large chunk of the team at Respawn are former employees of Infinity Ward. There are two massive game-changers however, when it comes to playing Titanfall; mobility and Titans. Players or ‘pilots’ have the ability to double jump, run on walls and clamber over obstacles with consummate ease and speed. The first lesson you learn, be it the easy way or the hard way, is to get vertical. Each pilot has in their loadout a primary weapon, a sidearm, an anti-Titan weapon (which can be pulled out at any time by pressing left on the d-pad), grenades, a tactical ability and two pieces of kit. Guns and grenades are present, as you’d expect in an FPS.
The tactical ability can be activated by pressing left bumper and gives you a short ability usage. For example, cloak grants temporary, not quite invisibility, and ‘stim’ gives you a short speed boost and increased regenerative health for a few seconds. Kit essentially works like perks but are less game-changing like in COD and more game-tailoring. You can only equip two and they range from increased wall-running distance to the minion detector which shows all the grunts on the map.
Titans, on the other hand, are much less nimble than their pilot counterparts. That’s not to say they’re big lumbering behemoths either, they can be surprisingly fleet of foot and can easily trample an unfortunate pilot if they’re not paying attention. A sprinting Titan can outrun a sprinting player and they also have a dash ability that allows them to cover ground very quickly before it needs a recharge.
Titans pack quite a punch too, literally. Melee a pilot and they’ll explode into little bloody bits. They’re powerhouses as you would expect but they’re more fragile than I anticipated. Go up against two enemy Titans by yourself and you won’t last long. Heck, go up against a single skilled pilot and you still might lose. Being in a Titan means power, not invincibility. Titan loadouts are essentially the same as a pilot’s except that they have no secondary weapon or anti-Titan weapon. The kit and tactical abilities are more tailored to Titans, such as auto-eject (which, as the name suggests, automatically ejects you from your Titan if it’s going to explode).
Titanfall is capped at 6v6 in multiplayer but supplements the human-controlled players with AI soldiers, or ‘grunts’. Despite this relatively low player cap, the game plays at an absolutely blistering pace. If you go five seconds without shooting someone then you’re probably doing something wrong. Despite never having more than twelve active players at a time it always feels like more. With loads of AI in every level and the fact that a Titan can be put into ‘auto’ mode to either watch an area or follow you like your own personal guard dog, it can lead to a total – with pilots, grunts and auto-Titans – of upwards of forty or fifty active characters at any one time. That should be more than enough for anybody to shake an assault rifle at as you run, jump and wall-run your way around the map.
Gun-play is rock solid as you would expect from what is essentially the team that brought you Modern Warfare 1 and 2. Assault rifles and SMG’s have a bit less recoil than you’ll be used to if you play a lot of COD, and quick-scoping with snipers is pretty much non existent. To balance this, players require slightly longer to kill. The amount of weapons available to choose from has been dialled back considerably compared to other games. Instead of a situation where you have ten of every type of gun and people only use two or three, now you have twenty three guns total, with ten being primary weapons. This stripped back approach does wonders for the gameplay as each gun, be it a sniper rifle or a shotgun fits it’s niche perfectly and makes you adapt to it.
Snipers are just dead weight up close and you might as well be throwing pebbles if you’re trying to use a shotgun from any range bigger than ten feet. The SMG beats the Carbine up close but gets destroyed at long range. Everything has its place. There are also Burn Cards which are essentially single use boosts that expire as soon as you die. These vary from double XP, to knocking eighty seconds off your Titan’s build time, to making your tactical ability last longer. These offer a strange new element in choosing the right time to use a card. Use double XP and die instantly and it’s gone, too bad but using the instant Titan drop card at the start of a match can really help in the early stages.
Titanfall offers two types of multiplayer; campaign and classic. Classic is just your standard multiplayer, while campaign takes a new route of attempting to add a narrative to your matches. It doesn’t really come off very well. The story itself was uninspired and I often found myself checking my stats or fiddling with loadouts during the pre-match lobby narrative. During matches was even worse as I was so focused on the match I could barely spare a thought for what people were saying. It was an interesting experiment but not one that really worked.
On the other hand we have classic multiplayer which offers a somewhat limited five gametypes including Attrition (Team Deathmatch), CTF, and Last Titan Standing. We are however offered fifteen maps which is a lot more than the eight or nine we normally get with a game. Each map is very distinctive both in play-style and art-style. Certain maps are big and favour Titans with wide open spaces while others are very enclosed with lots of buildings and obstacle for Pilots. No two maps feel similar which is a great thing in what is essentially a military shooter.
You’d imagine with all of this it would be difficult to balance everything, especially with the contrast between the pilot’s nimbleness and the Titan’s power but it all just fits together so well. Everything has a counter, and that’s how it should be, nothing is all powerful in every situation. The difference between the pilots and Titans is also managed superbly. A Titan can trample or melee a pilot instantly if they’re not careful and the Titan’s weapons make short work of exposed players. Pilots on the other hand have anti-Titan weapons which cause reasonable damage to what are essentially giant robots. Pilots also have the ability to “rodeo” Titans. This is when a pilot jumps onto a Titan’s back, rips open a panel and let’s rip into the Titan’s wiring making relatively quick work of it. An unaware Titan can be easily caught out by a pilot leaping off a nearby rooftop, or a cloaked player sprinting through the dust and debris of battle.
The only complaints I can think of are minuscule compared to everything the game does so well. The AI grunts are maybe a little too stupid; they should really pose some threat in numbers but at the minute, they just don’t. I can easily run into a room with five grunts and melee all of them while barely taking any damage, and that’s not a testament to my skills by any means. My other complaint which is just as small is the lack of leader boards for friends stats. It’s nice to be able to compare with friends and people I know, to see how I stack up against them.
Titanfall is all about evolution rather than revolution. The increased mobility, Titans and AI grunts in each match, along with the burn cards and everything else, create what is a pulse-pounding, eye-bleedingly mental game that I hope we all enjoy for a long time to come. What Respawn has done here, on top of creating an absolutely fantastic game that I can’t praise enough, is hopefully show other developers what can happen if you’re not afraid to take a chance and change things. And lets face it, that’s a win for everybody.