Ever since its reveal at E3 in 2013, sci-fi first-person shooter Titanfall has received its fair share of hype, along with a decent amount of scepticism. With former Activision co-founder Vince Zampella heading up Respawn Entertainment, many wondered if he could recreate the magic that made Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare successful. Now that Titanfall officially launched, the time has come for players to get the answers they seek.
Although Titanfall is strictly a multiplayer experience, it still has a campaign. Rather than dedicate a team to develop one separately, Respawn Entertainment simply combined the two into a story driven experience that plays out through its online game modes. From the online lobby, players can choose to jump into a classic online experience, or one that includes a campaign. The two options are similar, the difference being that when you choose campaign, matches begin with a cut scene that gives players a background into the on-going battle between the IMC and Militia. Once the cut scene ends and the round begins, you essentially play a regular online match.
Despite the refreshing approach, we found it difficult to follow. When we jumped into the campaign on our own, everything played out in chronological order. When we jumped into a party with a friend, we played the final portion of the campaign, skipping over the missions between the first and the last. It felt like watching the first 10 minutes of a film, then the last 10 minutes, skipping everything in between. For players who wish to avoid the campaign altogether, think again. Two of the game's three Titans, the Ogre and Stryder, unlock through its completion.
The Art Of War
With matches featuring Titans that stand three stories tall, mixed with Pilots that wall-run and double-jump, level design takes on a whole new meaning. This is one of the areas where Titanfall excels. Its developers masterfully crafted each map, allowing players to take advantage of everything from the ground level to the highest perch. In some cases, it's possible to run from one side of a map to another without ever touching the ground.
Level design is all about balance. Given the complications that come with pitting Titans against Pilots, balance was one of the areas that people seemed unsure about. While each map features plenty of places that Titans can stomp around and assert their dominance, they offer Pilots ample opportunities to escape and seek cover. The rooftops play a pivotal role in this aspect of the game, allowing Pilots to find security or even mount an offense from the high ground.
If there's one criticism to be made about the level design in Titanfall, aesthetically things can get a little repetitive. Although there are several maps that stand out (such as Boneyard), much of the terrain is the same from one to the next. Each environment looks beautiful, but many locations share a similar type of beauty.
Runners And Riders
Titanfall shines where it should, the gameplay. Players begin each round as Pilots, allowing them to decrease their Titan's build time by earning points. While piloting a Titan is the crown jewel of the game, Pilots received equal thought and attention. Spend a little time wall-running, double-jumping and wall-hanging, and you often find yourself forgetting to even call your Titan.
When you get inside one, the fun factor continues to rise. Weapons feel powerful yet not overpowered. The movement and game mechanics feel natural, making for an almost non-existent learning curve that will appeal to new players. While Titans are dominant in the hands of a skilled player, experienced Pilots will take them down. This adds up to a smooth experience where no matter what role you play, there's always a feeling you will contribute.
The Repetition of Attrition
At first glance, we were on the fence about the game modes in Titanfall. Attrition is a modified Team Deathmatch that you'll find in Call of Duty, while Hardpoint Domination is just as the name suggests. That said, we enjoyed Last Titan Standing and Capture the Flag. While Capture the Flag follows similar rules, the agility of the Pilots, combined with the ability to carry the flag in your Titan makes this mode fresh. Last Titan Standing, on the other hand, is an early favourite. Featuring all-out Titan warfare, players must work and communicate as a team if they hope to emerge victorious.
Pilot Hunter, meanwhile, is another spin off of Team Deathmatch. While Attrition allows players to kill Grunts, Specters and Pilots to count towards their team's overall score, Pilot Hunter only counts kills against other Pilots. The problem is that computer-controlled Grunts and Specters still bumble around the maps, forcing you to kill them without benefiting your team.
Titanfall features a modified perk system called Burn Cards. Rather than unlocking a perk that you will carry with you throughout an entire round, players earn Burn Cards by completing challenges and only last for one life. Although players can own up to 26 Burn Cards at a time, they can only bring three into each game. This not only prevents them from becoming overpowered, it also forces players to consider strategy on both an individual and team level. While this is a unique concept, the low cap on how many you can own frequently forces you to discard cards to make room for more desirable ones.
Just as with Call of Duty, Titanfall also features a prestige mode called Generations. By the time Pilots reach a maximum rank of 50, they're worn down and can choose to regenerate. While doing this causes players to lose all of their unlocks, each generation allows experience to be earned faster. Building your rank is not the only catch to regenerating, though. Players must also complete several challenges before advancing to the next Generation. Although nobody enjoys losing all the unlocks they worked hard for, this concept provides players with a constant challenges to keep the game fresh.
Just as he did with Activision and Infinity Ward, Vince Zampella kicked off another generation of consoles with a genre changing FPS experience. While titles such as Call of Duty and Battlefield will likely remain relevant for years to come, Titanfall has a rock solid foundation and a development team.
Although that is a leg up on some of the competition, Titanfall stands out from the crowd for its creative game mechanics, balanced multiplayer experience and fresh interpretation of what a campaign should be. Even with a few minor flaws, the game's tremendous upside outweighs the negatives. Whether you're a fan of the first-person shooter genre or just happen to own a platform that Titanfall was released on, picking it up should be a top priority. You do not want to miss this game.
GAME's Verdict: 9/10
- Innovative and rewarding gameplay
- Balanced level design across all 15 maps
- Squashing a Pilot with your Titan's fist
- Confusing and disjointed multiplayer campaign
- Repetitive terrain can make maps blend together
- Pilot Hunter game mode is drawn out and redundant