In 2010, Vince Zampella and Jason West were forced to leave Infinity Ward. During their tenure with Activision, those men helped revolutionize the first person shooter with the Call of Duty franchise. COD has dominated both the sales and the Xbox Live charts nearly every year since 2008, and has changed shooters as we know them. Many would argue Call of Duty has caused a great amount of stagnation in shooters ever since, and I’m inclined to agree. When West and Zampella formed Respawn Entertainment, most hoped they could change the shooter game again with the release of their first game, Titanfall. After getting plenty of time in with the game, I can say that while Titanfall may not be a full revolution, it’s the most fun I’ve had with an FPS in a long time.
To say Titanfall is an enjoyable game is an understatement. Each time I boot up the game, I find myself having a lot of fun. Each match starts with you leaping from a dropship and sprinting into battle, upping your adrenaline almost immediately. From there players scatter in nearly every direction, sprinting down the street, leaping up buildings and running along the walls to get an early advantage on their opponents. Compare this opening with the opening of your standard match of Call of Duty: Players stand at a random location for some reason for nearly 20 seconds, then most players just run down the same road hoping to not get be the first one to see an enemy. In comparison, Call of Duty now feels boring.
As your game of Titanfall continues, you’ll see players leaping from building to building all while engaging both enemy players and minions to earn points. This highlights two major points of Titanfall’s gameplay: mobility and minions. The ability to run, jump and climb on basically all objects on the map is a game changer. At first, I had to remind myself to use the parkour instead of just being on the ground, but once you get used to it, you’ll wonder how games never successfully implemented this system before (I’m looking at you Brink). In the future, I see many games implementing systems just like this.
The minions were a point of contention among many gamers, even before the game was out. Titanfall allows up to 6v6 matches with many NPC soldiers running and fighting alongside you. The best way to describe these NPCs are like the minions from League of Legends. They are there, can do damage to you, but are really just cannon fodder. They add extra enemies for you to shoot at, gain points, and call in your Titan faster. Their existence is to add more life to the game, and just make it more fun for you to play overall. You may have lost two fights against Pilots in a row, but picking off a few minions lessens the sting considerably, and puts you ever closer to your Titan.
Popping a few minions and meleeing a few opponents will get you to your Titan quite quickly. Pressing down on your D-pad and hearing “Stand by for Titanfall” causes your adrenaline to spike in a Pavlovian manner. Your Titan crashes to the earth like an asteroid, and waits for you to leap into it’s cockpit. This Titan could be one of three models: The Ogre, a heavily armored and toughest of all the titans, Strider, a low armored but agile model, and the Atlas, a good middle ground between the two. You’ll find your preferred model quite quickly buy all play quite well. Personally, I find myself using the Atlas (who I have nicknamed Totoro) most often.
Players decide on what they want for their Titan in-between each match up with up to five loadouts. Like the normal player loadouts, you can change your weapon on your Titan, as well as extra perks and a secondary special weapon. The weapons range from a chaingun, to a Quad rocket launcher, and even an electrical cannon. Each one feels balanced and works in for different play styles. Players could have things like a vortex shield, which catches and shoots back bullets like the Return to Sender plasmid from Bioshock, which is rendered useless by the electrical cannon. It’s a nice system of checks and balances. On top of that each Titan will have perks that can make your Titan have better accuracy when you aren’t in it, or auto explode when you eject. None of the perks change the game tremendously, and keep things simple, which I have grown to love.
Titan’s are yet another game changer for Titanfall. Instead of having a traditional Call of Duty killstreak, Respawn created a countdown timer for players. It starts out at nearly four minutes, but it can be lowered by killing enemy players, minions or capturing objectives. Naturally, the player who is doing the best can get their Titan first. Once again though, Respawn showed its ability to balance their game perfectly, by giving players who may not be doing as well the ability to still get to that “killstreak” by doing things other than getting 10 kill in a row without dying. Letting lesser skilled players still have fun and get to do all the fun things proves to be one a theme of Titanfall, and the game excels because of it for it. It keeps the game what a game should be: fun.
Rumbling into battle in your titan is an awesome experience. The Titans are strong, but agile, and somehow not overpowered. Players on foot can fight the Titan, thanks to each player being given an anti-Titan weapons like a rocket or grenade launcher, or by jumping onto the Titan and shooting it’s inner circuits, though that obviously leaves you heavily exposed. But your best way to fight a Titan is in a Titan. Titan on Titan combat is a visceral experience. Seeing a fellow Titan ahead of you, hearing the warning sirens go off in your cockpit alerting you to his presence, pumps your adrenaline once again. You can chose to engage this opponent in a number of ways. Maybe you want to charge in firing off your mini-gun, or try to sneak your way down another alley and catch him from behind, or jump out of your titan, let your auto-titan engage, and fire at the opponent from a roof top. These different scenarios make each fight feel fresh and will keep you playing until the early hours of the morning.
As the match rages on, you may find yourself down by quite a bit, only for your opponent to hit the score cap, traditionally winning the match. Normally, the game ends right here; no more playing, no more fighting, and you are dropped back into the lobby. Not the case in Titanfall. Titanfall continues the game with the epilogue. The losing team must evacuate to a dropship, and the winning team must try to destroy the loser’s only hope of escape. Players can earn more XP by succeeding at their side’s new objective. It adds an element of victory, even in defeat, for the losing side. If the winning side is able to destroy the dropship though, it further showcases of just how good they are.
Titanfall ships with 15 maps, which is a surprisingly large amount for a multiplayer shooter now a days. Granted, the multiplayer is all that was focused on for this game (I’ll explain more on that later). Each map is expertly done, showcasing many of the unique aspects of Titanfall’s universe. My personal favorite maps were Angel City and Boneyard. Angel City is the quintessential Titanfall map, with long sight lines and plenty of buildings for players to parkour on. Boneyard shows just how unique the game can be, with dinosaurs (yes freaking dinosaurs) swarming over head, and players battling on the skeleton of a massive, long dead dino. It’s exactly as cool as it sounds.
Gametype wise, Titanfall is far less innovative. Naturally we have Attrition, Titanfall’s version of Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint Domination, like Domination from Call of Duty where players must hold hardpoints to earn points, Capture the flag, as well as two somewhat new gametypes, Last Titan Standing and Pilot Hunt. Last Titan Standing gives each team Titans to begin the game, and players must destroy opposing Titans to win the round. First to four rounds wins. Pilot Hunt is where points can only be earned by killing an opposing pilot. This mode is where I can see competitive gamers head, but overall the gametypes don’t innovate at all.
One X-factor in a match are Burn Cards. Burn Cards give players a unique ability or upgrade for one life during a game. These can be anything, from the ability to immediately call in a Titan, a more powerful version of the assault rifle, and even the ability to be permanently cloaked for that entire life. While some of these may appear overpowered, they really aren’t when nearly every play can use them. Where the unbalance comes in is that the cards are given completely randomly. What I mean is, you earn cards by doing different things in a match, but which card you get is random. It’s obviously unfair if one team starts off with an Ogre Titan just as the match begins. It’s an unneeded bit of randomness to an overall non-random game.
If you have not heard, there is no real singleplayer for Titanfall beyond the opening tutorial. The team at Respawn chose to focus solely on the game’s excellent multiplayer for their first game, and to their credit, what the game has is very well done and polished…… except for the campaign. The game’s campaign, if you can honestly call it that, is 10 multiplayer matches that show off the game’s different maps and gametypes with a story narrative driving it all. What little story is told is a fun romp, but incredibly underdeveloped.
Graphically, Titanfall is ok, but nothing that screams next-gen. It’s not going to destroy any PCs with it’s graphics, but it’s far from bad. I played the game on PC, and it runs at a smooth 60 frames per second with no real drops. I played a little bit on Xbox One, and it looks right about as good. No real drops in frame-rate, or graphical quality that I could notice. I don’t think these graphics will draw anyone to the game, but to me Titanfall was never about the graphics, it was about gameplay.
Titanfall has a great overall sound to the game, with each weapon and type of Titan sounding unique. What little voice acting there is in the game comes off sounding good, but some of the dialogue during the campaign can be very corny. The game’s score is unfortunately basic as well, but comes off strong when played during multiplayer matches.
Respawn has put out on of the best multiplayer games in many years. Plain and simple. Titanfall gives players such a fun, and awesome overall experience. The parkour, minions, and Titans add so much to the first person shooter formula, I can’t not see them being copied by hundreds of game into the future. The gameplay is crisp, fine-tuned, and almost every bit of Titanfall is balanced perfectly. This is one of those games you will find yourself playing for hours on end. Unfortunately, the game’s graphics are not astounding, the score could certainly be better, and the burn cards can add an unneeded level of randomness to the game. Thankfully, those are minor gripes. If you are looking for a new multiplayer love, then look no further than Titanfall.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
Editor’s Choice Award winner
By, Bobby Marquardt
Full Disclosure: I played Titanfall on a retail version of the game purchased at Target. I was able to get in roughly 15 hours of gameplay time, with no real server issues at all. I played on my decently upper-end PC, and about 2 hours on Xbox One. All images except the final photo were captured from my own gameplay. The final shot was taken from Titanfall’s official site.