Currently available for the Xbox One and PC and later this month for the Xbox 360, this Titanfall review is based on play from the closed Alpha, open Beta, and the retail release Xbox One versions of the game.
Nothing Really New, Just Nicer to Look at
When the Xbox One was officially announced, there was a lot of armchair critiquing within the various gaming circles that I associate with on which game would be THE game that would be this generation’s Halo or Gears of War. Forza brought us the drivatar system that, when it works, is a great way to play bump cars against 15 or so other AI competitors that mimic your douchebag friends’ abilities to T-bone you at the start of a race. Dead Rising 3 brought us so many details in graphics and the missions were totally…. ZOMBIES!!! KATANA!!!! Must kill them!!!! What was I saying about Dead Rising 3? Oh yeah, there are just way too many fun-filled zombie-related activities in that game to keep you focused on doing any of the missions that it is a paradise for someone like that has ADH-SQUIRREL!!!
Aside from these two Xbox exclusives, there were smaller exclusives as well as the cross-platformers from the Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Assassin’s Creed franchises that you could play to help you justify purchasing a next-gen console. With quite possibly the exemption of Forza 5, these were all the same games as their predecessors and there really was nothing new, they were just nicer to look at. If you don’t believe me, come to San Diego and I’ll give you my Wii. You can play a system that’s at least two generations back. I hear they have Hannah Montana Extreme Wrecking Ball releasing for it the moment Hannah Montana gets out of rehab.
Enter the Titan
At the same time that the Xbox One was announced at E3, another game was announced to much fanfare -Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment. While other games were bragging about how they were exclusive to this or that console or how they would be getting DLC first over the other consoles, Titanfall quickly made a hole in this virtual room of games by garnering enough gaming awards to err, uhm, fill a Titan and then some. Electric Playground Best of E3, Electric Playground Best of E3 (Shooter), CNET 12 Most Exciting Games of E3 2013, IGN Best Shooter to name a few and this was while we were all still wondering what the game truly was about.
Was it going to be good? Was it going to be fun? What exactly was it about? The details were sketchy but the one thing that kept people coming back for more was the fact that this game had giant mechs in it called Titans. GIANT MECHS CALLED TITANS. Nuff said and if you can’t get behind playing a game with Titans, you should come to San Diego and I’ll give you my Wii so that you can play Hannah Montana: Dora the Explorer Deathmatch - it’s a fighting game on rails - and we will forget that you ever called yourself a gamer.
What Does the Vince Say?
The game was quickly met with skepticism upon the announcement that the game would have a campaign mode called multiplayer campaign and that it would be played over the multiplayer space instead of the traditional “Johnny likes to play with himself” space that all other game campaigns occupy. Additional skepticism grew when Respawn CEO and Chief Titan Pilot Vince Zampella announced that the game would be 6v6 instead of the typical team numbers found in other FPS games. A lot of my people went from armchair critic to armchair game developer with this news, bashing the 6v6 mechanic as being lame and saying that it would never work. Boy were they wrong…
Although there is a story/plot, Titanfall is like a great porn movie. You don’t watch it for the story until AFTER you’ve watched all of the “action” scenes. Wait, did I just type that out for everyone to read? Crap, my delete button doesn’t work so the site editor may have to censor that or let it stay…
What I mean is that although there is a story and although the story does have some depth to it, it’s not deep enough (what is it with this porn analogy - doh, analogy!) it takes a back seat to the action that happens in the game. As soon a chapter starts, you’re on a jumpship itching to plunge to certain death but now without first start kicking virtual butt. Depending on which chapter you are playing, the game mode is either Attrition (Team Deathmatch) or Hardpoint (Domination) - see there we go again with the porn analogy and if hardpoint domination doesn’t remind you of a porn movie, come to San Diego and I’ll give you my Wii. It doesn’t remind me of porn either.
The story elements are simple enough to follow along. You are part of either the IMC or the Militia and you fight the other side to try and prove who has the bigger Titan. That’s where Titanfall kind of misses its mark - If you are getting it to play single player, don’t. Single player doesn’t exist. You will be disappointed.
Thankfully, Titanfall’s campaign includes an element that it utterly excels in - multiplayer. You have to play the campaign if you want to unlock the Stryder and Ogre along with a few other perks along the way but you really aren’t simply playing campaign. You’re playing multiplayer as well in a very meta kind of way. That’s what makes up for a somewhat weak story in the campaign and by the time you finish campaign, you will be ready to take on the quagmire that is multiplayer and unlike other FPS games where you are either good or not, you will find something to be good at in Titanfall.
Whether you like to hunt and take out other players or Pilots or whether you prefer to molest game AI in the form of Grunts or Spectres, Titanfall’s got you covered and then some because just when you think that you are dominating on the battlefield, you get notification over your Comms that, “Your Titan is ready.” Then you hit that down button on your D-pad and it’s a whole new world of hurt! You go from a sack of blood and bones to a nuclear-powered, bipedal tank with guns that make Doom’s BFG look very tiny. You become an unstoppable force of nature that wreaks havoc on - “ENEMY PILOT ONBOARD YOUR TITAN!” Excuse me while I take care of this minor inconvenience. Okay. I’m back and that’s better. As I was saying before I was interrupted, you become a badass inside of a mech the size of a building and life is good!
The magic is in the 6v6 (human vs. human) vs AI vs Titan mechanic found throughout all modes of this game. If you’re like me after a few drinks and can’t aim without spraying the whole area of your TV screen hoping that you will randomly land a shot on something, don’t worry, you can always hunt down the AI Grunts or Spectres. If you prefer perform on a higher level and have the reaction time of a tweaker strung out on speed, there are 6 human enemy pilots on the opposite team that you can hunt but you have to be quick. Unlike other games that give you limited sprint abilities, the pilots in Titanfall go through rigorous physical training and can sprint indefinitely while jumping great heights with the help of jump packs. When you’ve racked up enough points from Grunts, Spectres, and or Pilots, you get rewarded with a Titan that you can call in earlier than the requisite 2 minutes. If you are a pacifist and decide to just wait it out, your Titan will be ready in 2 minutes with little to no effort.
So there’s a little something for everyone and when you call in that Titan for the first time, remember to look up in the sky because it will be like your first kiss - an experience you will never forget. Respawn spared no expense either. Turn your sound up too… The rendering of your Titan piercing the atmosphere, producing a sonic boom, and landing on the ground is an experience in itself that you need to completely consume.
Respawn Entertainment did a spectacular job with this game but they haven’t stopped working. Issues like trying to find matches, getting disconnected from your party, party chat dying at random times, etc. pop up from time to time but unlike the other EA game that I will not mention by the name of Battlefield 4, Respawn is proactively doing all that it can (and as fast as it can) to put the player experience first. They have not only set the bar in a game where we expect to be wowed, but they are also setting the bar in the kind of support that all other game developers should be providing. Bravo Respawn, bravo!
I mentioned a few other games at the beginning of this article but none of them truly capture the essence of next-gen gaming as much as Titanfall does. Titanfall really feels like you are playing a next-gen game and as I mentioned above, it has something for everyone to enjoy… even non-FPS gamers like all of you that are coming to San Diego to take my Wii. You will find something to enjoy in this game so if you have an Xbox One but haven’t already picked this game up, pick it up because you are missing out.