Review: Titanfall Is The Exhilirating Next-Generation Of Online Shooters
Titanfall offers the most exhilarating, balanced and innovative online shooter experience in years. It's just too bad it's a bit expensive.
- Worth The Time?Titanfall is the game of every shooter fan's dreams. I'll be playing for months and months to come.
- Things LovedPilots and Titans blend seamlessly in an extremely balanced formula. Titanfall makes you feel like you're in control all of the time. Getting around as a Pilot is easy yet exhilarating. Titans change the flow of the game entirely, and introduce a new layer to the tried shooting formula. Pilots and Titans share an odd power dynamic, never letting one feel much more powerful than the other. Games are fast, chaotic and usually well balanced. Introduction and Epilogue segments are fun additions. Literally the most fun I've had with a shooter in years.
- Things HatedLimited game modes and weapons. A little light on content for a full-priced game. Campaign is a missed opportunity. Occasional framerate drops.
- RecommendationIt's easy to say that Titanfall should be a no-brainer for anyone interested in online gaming. It truly is the best shooter I've played in years, combining seemingly incompatible mechanics and making them work flawlessly together. Just a lack of content and a full game asking price might scare sceptics off.
- Name: Titanfall
- Genre: Online Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online Multiplayer
- Platforms: Xbox One, PC (Xbox 360 at a later stage)
- Developer: Respawn Entertainment
- Publisher: EA
- Price: R389.00 (PC)
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
The battlefield is alive, shots ringing out in every corner and bullets whizzing past your head. You systematically duck for cover, turn around and fire off a few fatal bullets. You get up, turn around, and prepare to do it again. Except, this time is different. This time you call down a hulking machine with enough firepower to take on a country’s entire military force. You approach it, it holds out a hand. You know that things are never going to be the same. In a nutshell, this is what Titanfall feels like to the first-person shooter genre. An incredibly balanced, utterly engrossing and unbelievably innovative shooter that really does feel like the next-generation of online multiplayer, Titanfall deserves a space on your shelf if you are even only remotely interested in multiplayer shooters, although the price of admission might force you to take a second look.
If you frequent, well, the internet, then you should be no stranger to what Titanfall is. Developed by some of the greatest minds behind Call of Duty before it became an annual slog, Titanfall is an online-only multiplayer shooter that combines traditional twitch shooting mechanics with fluid, parkour movement, hulking mech combat that changes the complexity of the battlefield and the addition of AI to help keep the game engrossing for all players. But behind all of that Titanfall actually features some rather interesting lore. The game is set within the premise of a war. The IMC is locked in a fight against the Militia, with the latter looking to regain control of The Frontier and strip power away from the seemingly totalitarian IMC regime.
The story itself attempts to flesh itself out in the form of some disguised Campaign missions, which are little more than regular online matches, with other online players, battling it out in a specific game mode albeit with more than usual comm chatter. You’re made to feel as though these missions have some significant importance to the encompassing war, but most of the time I felt as though I was just playing another match, with more annoying conversions breaking my concentration. It’s a pity because there seems to be a lot of attention to this game’s backstory and universe, it’s just never explored. This is hopefully something that can be done in a future sequel, because not having a single-player campaign in a universe this interesting is almost a crime. Especially when games like Call of Duty still manage to pull it off with the same, dead premise.
Thankfully, there’s little else to pull Titanfall down after you’ve completed the campaign to unlock the rest of the Titans available to you. Titanfall, first and foremost, is best experienced as a fast-=paced, highly competitive online shooter. Where it’s just you and the enemy, pilots against pilots and Titans against Titans. And, most of the time, a mixture of the two. Each team starts off with six players a side, being introduced to the match with a short prologue that gives the entire thing a sense of importance and scale. The first few moments of each match are usually the slowest paced, even with Titanfall’s easy, and exhilarating, movement system. A single hit of “A” will propel you into the air, while a second hit will activate your jump pack and give you a little, light boost even more upwards. You’ll automatically grab onto ledges and perform wall runs, with the direction based on the trajectory at which you approach it. It’s easily the easiest way parkour has ever been implemented in a game, and it’s also the best showcase of such a system yet.
When you combine that with Titanfall’s tight shooting mechanics, you have a match made in heaven. Never before has an online shooter felt this fluid, which just serves to show how much time was spent making sure that the pilots moved exactly the way they did. Running towards a wall, scaling it up until the third storey, whipping out an anti-Titan launcher and taking out an enemy just before it whips a friendly out sounds like an intricate process. But because of Titanfall’s near effortless control scheme you’re left to let your imagination do all the work, formulating new and interesting approaches to room entrances and more open warfare, with the game essentially knowing exactly what you want to do. All of the time. It must be said that a game that lets you eject from a Titan, kill an enemy while flying upwards and then letting you land on the Titan that killed you could probably boast a bit about the power it gives its players, and making you feel like you’re in total control the entire time is no easy task. Respawn, however, have almost turned this into an art.
In a way, the manner in which Titanfall distances itself from other online shooters is probably its biggest draw. We have games that penalise you for fall damage, or that force you to focus on larger, more intricate map control. These games have a place in the industry, and there certainly is a market for them, but more often than not it seems the converse is completely forgotten about. This is what makes Titanfall feel so different while extremely familiar at the same time. There’s no need to worry about falls from hundreds of metres in the sky. There’s no reason to stress that two massive mechs are busy tossing rockets between one another in front of you. Titanfall empowers you, as a pilot, and makes you feel as though you can conquer the world. Mobility is your ultimate weapon, and in the right hands a smart pilot could almost single-handedly take down a Titan with relative ease. The real challenge comes in when there’s more than one laying waste to you and your team.
That’s when Titanfall’s matches take a bit of a turn. Every player has a countdown that ticks away towards their next Titanfall. You decrease this counter by completing objectives, killing other pilots or hunting groups of grunts, Titanfall’s equivalent of creeps. All of these, and more, shave off time from your build counter, and once that hits zero you’ll be introduced to the weirdest, yet most balanced, addition to an online shooter yet. A giant Titan falls from the sky, and you’re able to hop up, let him grab you mid-air and launch you into another level of Titanfal’s gameplay. Controlling a Titan is just as easy as controlling a pilot, with the ability to sprint, shoot and swap weapons. Titans aren’t able to jump, but instead they’re granted a Dash ability that propels them in any direction. Titans come with their own loadouts too, with different types of weapons and off-hand ordinance to tackle close quarters, long distance and all round battles. These are aided by special abilities that are also made available, such as a Vortex Shield to catch and return enemy fire or an Electric Cloud that makes quick work of an enemy pilot that has decided to board, or rodeo, you. Again, this doesn’t sound all that interesting when split up, but the way Titanfall forces these systems to interact is phenomenal.
You could choose to have a long distance, DMR styled rifle to pick off Titans in the distance, using an Electric Cloud to deal with any invading pilots without the need for you to disembark your Titan and take care of things yourself. You could, instead, opt to use your Titan as a distraction, ordering him to follow you while you take out other Titans on foot. Additionally, you could equip a Nuclear Warhead as a little ejection present, getting right up close to other Titans that have rained down on your parade. Eject, watch the fireworks from the best seat in the house and maybe even land on another Titan to keep your effectiveness at its maximum. Titanfall wants you to become creative with its system, and the amount of freedom you have is mind blowing. Even now, I’m seeing new things happen every day. Someone calling in their Titan and squashing two others as it falls. Pilots catching rides on friendly Titans and rodeo-ing others just as they’re about to go down. Pilots having intense firefights above the battlefield after they’ve both ejected at the same time. The possibilities are endless, and Ttanfall is constantly full of surprises.
The maps themselves contribute to this type of variation too. From one map to the next, courtyards could shrink or grow, the maze of close quarters combat could suddenly become far more intricate and confusing and important weapons around the maps could sway the tide of an encounter. Around several maps are Titan Turrets that Pilots can hack and recruit to their cause. These turrets make quick work on enemy Titans currently engaged in battle, and serve as an invaluable resource in some instances. While they’re mostly present on the larger maps Titanfall has to offer, and there are a lot of them, the more tightly packed and dense ones offer a bit of a different experience altogether. Here mobility is the key, and jumping from rooftop to rooftop gives Pilots more of an edge in battle. Angel City is a perfect example of this, and still stands as my favourite map of all, just because it allows me to so easily hop out of a window, on top a Titan and then wall run up onto a roof. All of Titanfall’s maps offer new routes and avenues to explore, and each have their own signature gameplay flow. Learn those, and you’ll just open gameplay up more and more.
Kitting out your Pilot with the correct gear also goes a long way to determining just how well you fare, and here Titanfall has a few tricks up its sleeve as well. With the addition of grunts that can be essentially farmed to get your Titan down faster, there are more than a few interesting combinations that I was able to come up with. Using the Smart Pistol, a weapon that automatically locks onto enemies nearby, is great for taking on large groups of grunts and clearing them out fast. It’s not as effective against humans considering it takes much longer to lock on, but your standard assault rifles more than make up for that. Each Pilot having an Anti-Titan weapon also serves to balance things further, as you don’t have to dedicate an entire class just for that purpose. Customisation options are unlocked after completing challenges with individual weapons, of if you’re impatient you could always just call in a Burn Card. Burn Cards are essentially usable killstreaks that carry between matches. The better your streak, the better the card you earn, allowing you to use it at any time. Once it’s used, it’s burnt up and gone for good, so wise use is recommended.
Sadly though, the possibilities are mostly left within the match and not so much outside of it. Titanfall only features five distinct game modes. Attrition is team deathmatch that includes all grunt, pilot and titan kills towards a total. Hardpoint Domination is essentially a variant of traditional King of the Hill, where players attempt to control a combination of three points to raise the score meter. Last Titan Standing puts you in control of Titans from the get go, with the team losing all of theirs first taking a round loss. Capture the Flag, is, well, capturing the enemy flag, while Pilot Hunter is more traditional team Deathmatch where only kills on other players count. That’s it, no more and no less. For a game that only boasts online multiplayer, it’s a fairly weak offering in comparison to games of the same price. Call of Duty, for example, offers this, single-player and co-operative multiplayer for the same price. There is definitely more quality here, but at the end of the day quantity has to factor in somewhere, especially when Titanfall at say $40 would be essentially perfect.
On top of this, Titanfall occasionally suffers from crippling framerate drops, although I only experienced this twice during my first 15 or so hours with the game. Latency is also compensated for by some mystical Respawn powers, as there was only the occasional rubber band here and there. Titanfall is extremely playable locally, and that should not factor into your purchase decision.
Unfortunately, the rest of the above does. Titanfall is easily the best thing to happen to online shooters in a long, long time. Extremely well balanced, exhilarating and a mix of two very different mechanics that somehow blend together seamlessly. You will easily experience some of your best gaming moments to date while fighting in a Titan, or riding on the back of one, and this is definitely a strong message to those wondering what can happen when a studio focuses on its strength and nothing else. Sadly though, the asking price is a bit steep for what content it has to offer, even though that content is near perfect. It’s something Respawn could possibly rectify in the future with a sequel or possibly free DLC, but it’s not the biggest deal breaker in the world. Expensive or not, Titanfall is a truly excellent title that no shooter fan should miss out on if they can.