When Titanfall was announced everyone knew it came from some of the minds behind the Call of Duty franchise and whilst it does take from Call of Duty it is a completely different beast. Respawn entertainment have tried hard to create a game which takes a lot from other games in the genre whilst feeling unique. What they have made is a bit like Marmite, it shakes things up in a genre that most see as dominated by stale and uninspiring cast of CODs and COD clones. However, it’s decision to almost completely ditch a campaign and focus entirely on multiplayer is a bit of a change of pace that puts many off.
Titanfall’s campaign mode is barely even that, you play through a dozen multiplayer maps (the same maps you’ll be playing in future) against other players with a slight bit of narrative from the “characters” and a few explosions or changes on the maps itself. Campaign is however required as it unlocks two of the three titans on offer. There are no cutscenes and the only narrative that happens outside of gameplay is a minute or so of briefing before the match begins. In this aspect Titanfall really doesn’t feel at it’s best, not only is the campaign little more than a multiplayer game it also matches you against a broad range of players with differing ranks and experience. Many brand new players can find themselves trying to muddle through the campaign getting hammered by players with hundreds of hours under their belt. This seems due to the fact that there are not as many players trying to complete the campaign for the first time as there are seasoned players.
Once you have the campaign behind you and you have to play it twice, once for each side, you will be greeted with the only other feature on offer: the multiplayer. Because of this limited campaign and spartan set of modes on offer the game has a bit of an empty feel to it, the same kind of feel you can get from a lot of free to play games out there at the moment. Titanfall also uses Valve’s Source engine, which is a little bit of surprise, there are few non Valve games out there that use it and it’s not known for creating particularly stunning graphics, especially in 2014. And this is where Titanfall gets my goat a bit, we have a feature set and graphics that do not stack up to the triple A games of today. With COD and Halo games having offered many in game and out of game features such as replays, stats, extra game modes and games like Crysis 3 and Battlefield 4 pushing the envelope for graphics and physics why is Titanfall’s limited feature set and graphics commanding a triple A price and being pushed to the forefront of Microsoft’s XBOX One campaign?
So that’s the bad and the ugly, what about the good? Where Titanfall fails to provide features you may have come to expect from big shooters of the past few years it does deliver on what is promised of all the ad campaigns and trailers: Fast paced, frenetic shooting action with a new titanic twist. Titanfall drops you into the action at one side of the map or the other with the normal gamut of multiplayer game modes including deathmatch, capture the flag and domination. It’s hard to say which game mode is my favourite but capture the flag definitely gets a shot in the arm from the ability to parkour like some kind of superman freerunner. The first thing you will notice is that there are plenty of non player controlled entities on the map. You can earn points by killing grunts and hack turrets to help you take down enemy titans. This can sometimes be a confusing and annoying mechanic, you can often find yourself shooting up npcs only to get shot down by an enemy player whilst doing so.
Titanfall’s weapons feel good in the hand, though there are a limited number of them and really most people still stick with the starting carbine weapon. There are a few here and there using weapons like the controversial smart pistol and the other handful of weapons but in large people stick to the trusted carbine. There is not a lot of customisation to them either, a few sights and upgrades is all you get. Bullets generally go where you fire and there is not a lot of recoil present so keeping your finger pressed down on the trigger can be just as effective as bust fire. The main way to gain the upper hand in Titanfall is not necessarily having the better gun or aim, but by dodging your enemy by wall running and jetpacking around as you do so. Titanfall also offers the usual satchel charge and grenades with the addition of anti titan weapons for taking on those ever so big robots you’ve been hearing about. Anti-Titan weapons come in a satisfying range of flavours from swarms of missiles to Titanfall’s Spartan Laser.
I haven’t really talked about Titans yet, but that’s because I’ve been saving the best for last, this is Titanfall’s signature feature and one that really distinguishes it from other games of the genre. It’s not quite the clusterfuck of vehicles from Battlefield and not the perk battle of COD. It sits somewhere in between, for some dropping a titan will be that moment they become king, whilst for others it’s a means of jetting off with a flag. Titans start with a certain timer and the more damage or kills you get through the game the faster the titan will drop. getting kills early in a game can be the turning point of a match. The first few times your titan thunders from the sky with a meteoric boom you will feel like you just unleashed the kraken. You’ll probably lose those first few titans pretty quickly though. From then on you’ll learn to drop your titan onto enemy titans taking them out and you’ll jump into it ready to dash or nuke your way out of any situation.
There are three titans on offer, a lightly armored nimble tin can, a tank with extra shields and a middle of the road with more attack power. I prefer the Stryder, this is the fastest of the titans and allows you do dash into and out of engagements as you please. I found that I was fair to good on foot but once I popped my Stryder I was almost unstoppable. My weapon of choice is the 40mm cannon as it has great range and damage. But there are a number of titan weapons to choose from each with their own unique features. There are also a lot of features such as shields and secondary rockets, the most famous of these being the vortex shield which allows you to capture your opponents projectiles and fire them back. Titans are not the be all and end all of the game though, there are so many ways to take out titans the most effective usually to jump on it’s head and pummel it’s wiry brain that there feels like a great synergy with man and machine working well against and with each other.
This is where Titanfall really excels, the feeling that you can always pull off some great kills and tactical maneuvers be it through jumping between walls to dodge fire and drop down to bust a titan’s head open or sniping another titan from behind a particle wall to avoid any damage. Titanfall is not a game of rock paper scissors or a game where you will bash your head against the desk because someone had a better weapon than you. It is very well balanced and competitive, you really get the feeling that the reason you’re dying is because you’ve been outclassed or out-thought. I feel great playing COD or Battlefield when I’m on a killstreak or doing well but there’s a bit more of a feeling of accomplishment about doing well in Titanfall. It’s a cold and calculated with a lot of colour and individuality which will have you coming back for more. More than anything Titanfall feels to me like the result of a wishlist from people of people who grew up with games like Counter Strike 1.5, desert combat and urban chaos. A purer experience with lots of cool.
All in all, whilst Titanfall lacks a lot of features and presentation it brings a lot of new ideas to the table and a slightly different way of playing, what Respawn have made is a great shooter that feels different to anything else out there. Something that everyone should give a shot, especially if you’re soured by years of Battlefields and CODs. Here’s hoping that Titanfall 2 hits home on all fronts!
If none of that gets you in the mood, maybe this will: