Giant robot porn.
More than once I have considered myself done with online shooters. I play Call of Duty each year long enough to see what has changed, and occasionally I love to dive into Battlefield (when it works), but most of the time I lose interest in being shot seconds after spawning because I cannot keep up with the flood of players online. Shooters are not for casual fans like me who cannot dedicate double-digit hours to them each week; yet I can’t stop playing Titanfall. A game that seemingly does little to differentiate itself from the herd has somehow managed to rope me back into the mix; even when I am performing terribly.
This is one of Titanfall’s biggest strengths. No matter how bad I lose, or how many times I die, I want to go back for more. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the game nails that snippet of fun that delivers moments only “Xbox, record that” can capture. If ever there was a game that demanded that feature be abused, it is Titanfall. It has so many “did you see that?!?” moments almost every match that dying only drives me to play harder.
It must be noted though that Titanfall is also a trendsetter in what is likely the future of the genre. This game is built to work online, and only online. I couldn’t even access the training mode without first connecting to the server. For most, this won’t be an issue, but those scared of an ‘always online’ future may cringe at the idea. I mean, we all saw how much use our M.A.G. discs are getting these days.
Being online only doesn’t mean it comes without a sort-of campaign though. There is a mode here that intertwines narrative into standard deathmatch and control game types. Sure, it isn’t compensation for that popcorn ride I was used to in CoD or BF, but it is an interesting take on an online only game. After playing through both sides of the nine matches, all of which take place on the same nine maps, I couldn’t tell you what happened, or even who “won”, but I did unlock two Titan types, which seems to be the sole purpose of the mode.
That’s a lot of maps!
Titanfall ships with 15 maps and five modes. Standard deathmatch comes in the form of Attrition, while control points are, well, controlled in Hardpoint. Pilot Hunter is essentially the same as Attrition, but destroying Titans earns no points. Last Titan Standing is self-explanatory, as is Capture the Flag. I found myself quickly gravitating solely towards Hardpoint after a while, as it was easily the most enjoyable with this style of game.
While this is strictly an online-only shooter, it lacks a lot of what makes those games last. For starters, private matches are not available. This means I cannot team up with 11 of my friends (or less) for a quiet match among friends. Thankfully, the party system works in keeping us together in matchmaking, but I would love the option to just play with friends.
Matches are also pre-determined by the game itself. There is no map voting, and if players leave between matches, the countdown to the next match is criminally long, especially considering the extreme loading times between matches. Sometimes it would be minutes between matches, which really slows down the pace of the experience.
As a shooter, a lot of what makes Titanfall special is how it executes everything. Nothing is overly original, but it all works so well together. Players have the ability to move around the environment with exceptional dexterity. Wall-running, double-jumping and being able to traverse vertical environments really opens up the maps. The addition of grunts into the mix means that even those less skilled are still racking up kills, while, of course, the introduction of giant robots really brings those fantasies of fighting behemoths to life. It all just meshes together so well.
Grind, grind, grind.
As players level up, they unlock new custom classes and weapons. I was shocked to see how fast the leveling actually works. After six hours I was already halfway to maxing out everything. There is a form of Prestige in the game as well, called Generations. I have seen people on their third and fourth generation less than a week out of the gate, which seems a little nuts to me, but the dedication is definitely respectable. New weapons and perks also unlock for both pilots and Titans. It seems to open up at a nice rate, giving players that carrot to constantly work towards.
Burn Cards are also tossed in after a certain level. These are one-time-use perks that really stand out, such as dropping down the time it takes to call a Titan, or infinite ammo for specific weapons. They can only be used for one life, but I never ran out of them, so it was a fun dynamic to consider each time I spawned.
Visually Titanfall has been the center of plenty of controversy since it was announced. The game runs at a lower resolution than almost any other game on the new consoles, and amazingly doesn’t look all that impressive in any respect. It does keep a solid frame rate most of the time, hitting that slick 60 frames per second often, but it can also crawl in some spots, especially when more than three or four Titans grace the area. Thankfully the art design makes up for most of it. The maps are diverse enough to keep things interesting, and some of the animations stand out. I love all the different ways I can enter my Titan. Overall the game looks good, just not eye-popping.
Titanfall was heralded as “the game” for Xbox One, which is a little unfair. It is a very niche audience that will dedicate themselves to the title. Also considering it is (eventually) coming to 360 and already out on PC, it is hardly exclusive. Still it takes a lot to bring me back into the online shooter fold, and Titanfall has definitely dragged me back in. I can see myself enjoying this for months to come; I just hope they deliver enough support to keep it interesting beyond that.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.