There exists a paradox in the world of gaming. See, in the Fallout series they always say “War, war never changes.” Okay, sounds good, but then you go to play Metal Gear Solid 4 and literally in the opening, snake narrates, “War, has changed.” So which one is it then? Has war changed, or hasn’t it? Like anything in this universe, some things change and others stay the same. In the world of video games, this is entirely true.
First person shooters have been around since the original Wolfenstein 3D. There’s something so primal, so real, about looking down the barrel of the gun as you pull the trigger. Immersion is key in video games, and first person is a great way to get inside someone’s head (pun intended). That being said, the genre has fallen into a rut, I feel with this last generation of consoles. Now that the next gen is out, and Xbox One one is the new apple of Microsoft’s eye, it’s time to see what this new console can bring us.
In the beginning, there was Call of Duty, and Battlefield. These two titans (pun intended) have been duking it out for what seems like forever (too soon), and frankly I think everyone was ready for a change. We have Activision to thank for that, seeing as how they completely sent the key members of Infinity Ward off the deep end and as a result, these key members of the Modern Warfare series for Call of Duty, just up and left.
Some time later it was revealed that they joined EA and came back to life as a studio named Respawn Entertainment (that pun was all them). Then came the giant middle finger to their previous employer when they announced a Microsoft exclusive called Titanfall. It was a super powered first person shooter with giant robotic Mechs, agile players, and a unique setting. Oh, and it’s always online. Now that it’s here, has Microsoft found their killer app for the Xbox One? Well I sure killed a lot of people since it came out, so let’s see how that turned out.
There is none, moving on.
Okay fine. You see, when I first heard about Titanfall, I was wary. I’m all for playing online and getting some sweet kills, streaks, and keeping that kill to death ratio in the positives, but ultimately I prefer a game with a great story, and rich characters. Titanfall, uh, doesn’t have that. You see, the entire game is played online, which means you’re always going up against your fellow peers. Respawn talked about a multiplayer campaign where you could experience story, and still have the stiff challenge of fellow players on the battlefield, but it didn’t quite come to fruition.
There is a premise here, and while it starts strong with a stylistic intro, the actual campaign “missions” are nothing more than briefings followed by a short opening, and then it’s straight into battle. While you’re fighting, you’ll hear chatter from your teammates, but it’s kind of hard to focus on that when you’re busy fighting for your life. Cutscenes would have been nice, and as archaic as they may be, they are still a tried and true method of delivering story to the players. The game sets up a futuristic war between two factions, fighting on the frontier of human conquered space.
And that’s about it. Each of the campaign levels are multiplayer match types with these sparse story elements thrown in. What I find frustrating here is that the game could have easily taken this idea much further and really created something unique. Instead, they put some fancy decorations on multiplayer matches and called it a day. Perhaps it was time constraints, but an always online multiplayer game, while appealing to some, is not perfect for all. I understand that they didn’t want to divide the man power between a single player campaign that few people would play and a multiplayer play that most would gravitate to, but even so, a little more effort into this dialogue they call a “story” would have been nice.
And here we have the saving grace of this Xbox One exclusive. Titanfall may have fallen on it’s titan face with the story, but the gameplay is positively superb. Call of duty suffered from matches where new players couldn’t get kills, and nothing more than foot traffic on the ground or buildings of the levels. Battlefield remedied this with destructible environments and vehicles, but still left these massive maps thinly populated until the latest release. Titanfall was a keen observer, an understanding witness, and ultimate their greatest threat.
Titanfall features moderately sized maps with two teams of six players. Before you groan about player numbers, I should also mention that the maps are populated with A.I grunts and specters. I’m not going to sugar coat it, these A.I enemies can be pretty dumb, but they still provide additional kills, albeit for less points, and keep the pacing intact. Speaking of pacing, I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as I was when I first called down my Titan. These hulking robots come in three types, Atlas, Ogre, and Stryder. The first is a balanced type, the second is slow but powerful, and third is weak but fast. You can customize their weapons and abilities, along with the pilot you have as well. More options are unlocked as you level up and complete challenges.
While these tropes may sound familiar, they work well and the maps are well designed. You see, your character has a jetpack that can provide you with a double jump, and allow you to run on walls. This makes the movement in the game smooth and fast. Maps become playgrounds where nothing is out of reach. Titans rain down from the sky and begin unleashing their fury upon those around them. It’s all incredibly fast and most importantly, really fun. The guns and abilities won’t blow your mind, but they all work well in tandem. The modes are standard affair, but again the spotlight here is the exquisite gameplay. Controls feel tight, movement is smooth, and shooting is spot on.
One addition I did enjoy was the inclusion of something called “Burn Cards”. These are one time bonuses you can trigger before a spawn that allow you to have an edge for that one life. These are unique in that they encourage players to use them wisely and not die immediately because they burn up after one use. It’s no secret though, the gameplay here is the star, and it shines very, very bright. Even if it is a light we’ve seen before, this one comes together in just the right way.
Titanfall doesn’t scream next gen to me. The graphics are solid, and the effects are nice, but it looks like a more polished and smoother version of Call of Duty. Graphics of course aren’t everything, and while I never experienced very much lag or connectivity issues, I know there were some at launch. The frame rate can drop and stutter if you get one too many Titans in one place punching and shooting each other. It doesn’t happen consistently though and I barely recall any situations where it bothered me.
The wealth of options here is what makes the game so awe inspiring. From leaping onto the back of a friendly Titan, to ejecting out of your own, the adrenaline highs here are constant and intense. Respawn has managed to create a shooter here where the action never, ever lets up. That alone is a huge accomplishment.
The Final Verdict
Titanfall is a very good reason to own an Xbox One, or to buy the newly released Titanfall bundle. It’s online only set up may seem like a bummer, and to those who hate multiplayer, it may seem like a deal breaker. As a hardcore single player gamer, I must insist you give it a try. Yes, the story is non existent, but the gameplay is addicting and captivating. I wouldn’t want every game to be online only like Titanfall, but if the ones that do come out are as good as this, I’ll take a few here and there any day.
Overall though, the experience in the moment to moment is positively captivating and extremely fun. Call of Duty and Battlefield players who are looking for something new will find a lot to love here. Respawn has single handedly managed to breathe new life into the first person shooter genre, and that alone makes Titanfall worth playing.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 03/20/2014