2014-03-22

Titanfall – Living Up to the Hype?

by Yo Snyder

The Xbox family of consoles has been pretty fortunate to
have some amazing, original titles to help establish the systems early in their
lifecycles. The Xbox had Halo, the
Xbox 360 had Gears of War, and now
the Xbox One continues the tradition of having a little help from a must-have,
original IP in the form of Titanfall.
In all the important ways, Titanfall completely
lives up to the lofty expectations placed upon it. It was the reason I was
waiting to get an Xbox One, and it was well worth the wait. Although it’s not
perfect (but what new franchise ever is?), Titanfall
continues the legacy of games like Halo
and Gears of War; giving gamers a great
and fun reason to jump on board with the new console.

If you get a feeling of the familiar while playing Titanfall, there’s a good reason for
that. The game comes from many of the guys who brought you Call of Duty, so as
you’d expect, there’s some similarity in the gameplay with that
world-dominating franchise. That said, this isn’t really a Call of Duty clone.
There’s enough that’s different here that I never really felt like I was just
playing “Call of Duty with giant robots”. Quite frankly, I don’t think I would
have enjoyed it as much if that’s all it was. Call of Duty is fine, but
honestly it’s not really my favorite shooter. Titanfall brings some of the best elements of Call of Duty and puts
a fresh spin on them. Things like load outs, unlocks, upgrades and the rest are
all here, but there’s something satisfying about balancing the perfect load out
for both a pilot and a mech, and making sure they complement each other. There
isn’t quite as much to customize here as in CoD, but it’s enough to feel like I
can find something to suit my style of play.

The big changes are in how you move. Pilots run around with
a lot more speed and agility than I’m generally used to in most shooters. The
fact that if I can see the top of a building means I can probably get there is
a freeing prospect, as is running along a wall, jumping across a street into a
building, jumping through a skylight on the roof and then leaping across to the
next building, all while firing at enemy pilots and titans alike. It’s
thrilling stuff, though I admit I don’t use the wall running as much as I
should. It takes some adjustment to stop moving around like one does in a
standard first person shooter and to start using the environment to your
advantage with of your freedom of movement. Of course, this is entirely
different from being in a titan. Once your giant mech buddy lands, things get
more tactical. You need to manage your shields, damage and ammo. You need to
time and plot attacks to do the most advantage while avoiding taking some
yourself. The ebb and flow between these two disparate styles are the core
elements that make Titanfall so
compelling; the speedy chaos of the pilot on the ground and the drawn-out, more
tactical battles of driving a huge mech.

A few familiar frustrations from Call of Duty also show up
in Titanfall. The fact that in early
levels you haven’t unlocked the gear and upgrades that other players have puts
you at a disadvantage, but fortunately Titanfall
is fairly generous in providing plenty of ways for you to score XP and get to a
place where things are on a bit more of even ground. Oh, and by the way, make
sure you use your Burn Cards (think of them as perks) early and often. I forget
way too much, and they’re basically power-ups just waiting to be used to help
you out and often provide a needed boost in scoring extra XP. Some other
frustrations that show up in Titanfall;
there are no private matches. Some may feel more strongly about this than
others, but my favorites moments in playing Call of Duty or even Halo was
setting up a private match with the rules and maps that me and my friends enjoyed
the most and then just having a blast. If you just want to goof around with
friends, you’ll have to do it against some other random team, assuming you can
get your entire party into a match. Then there’s the variety of game types;
there just aren’t that many. Capture the flag, hardpoint (a domination or
conquest like mode), attrition (where you get points for pilot kills only),
last titan standing (where everyone starts out with a titan); these are all
fine modes, but fairly limited in scope for those looking for more variety.
Finally, there are some little things like not being able to rename your
customized load outs, or to personalize your titan. I mean, come on, I can
personalize my armor in Halo, why not letting me put a sweet paint job on that
titan of mine?

There is a story to
Titanfall
, but it’s told during the multiplayer campaign, and quite
frankly, I was too busy trying to take out enemy forces to pay attention the
exposition being related over my com frequency or to watch the little
picture-in-picture window in the upper right of my screen that showed what was
going on. However, if you want to unlock the other types of titans for your
custom titan load outs, you’ll need to finish the campaign, which consist
mostly of hardpoint and attrition matches (disappointing as I was hoping for
some creative uses of the other match types).

All in all, Titanfall is
a very enjoyable shooter. It looks great, has extremely fluid gameplay, and is
an absolute master at balancing all of its elements. Yes, it’s lacking some key
elements, which considering it’s an online multiplayer game only, is kind of
disappointing. Surely some things taken for granted in other shooters for many
years now (private matches, more extensive customization) could have been
incorporated in this “next-gen” shooter. Yes, some of that is coming in free
updates, but they should have been included from the get-go.  Still, Titanfall has the unique quality of
feeling “fresh” in the world of shooters. It’s the blend of the pilots and
mechs, it’s the perferct balance of abilities that keeps either one from
feeling overpowering, it’s the maps that lend themselves perfectly to both
styles of play, it’s the fact that something epic and crazy happens almost
every match (That titan just fell on top of another titan and totally
obilterated them! Those two pilots got ejected into the air and had a gun
battle on the way down!) Titanfall is
thrilling, fun, and thoroughly enjoyable regardless of how proficient you may
or may not be at shooters. I think it’s safe to say that Xbox One has it’s
killer app.

Score: 6 of 7 – Titanfall is another in a long line of
shooters that’s rated M when it probably doesn’t need to be but is anyway so
gamers will take it “seriously”. There are some splashes of blood, and some
profanity, but nothing severe or constant. This game has more of a Halo 4 feel to it then the darker,
gritter, bleaker, more violent and gory Call
of Duty: Black Ops
.