Titanfall – Xbox One
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date (NA): March 11, 2014
Genre: First-person shooter
Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10
The world gasps upon seeing my rating. A line of angry gamers proceeds to hurl insults my way and discredit my critical eye. Microsoft fanboys boycott Nerd Bacon. “How could you?” they cry, “Titanfall is without a doubt one of the most advanced FPS games the world has ever seen!” A surprisingly large crowd will probably even throw the emphatic “it’s better than sex!” cliche around. But no, I will not be swayed in my opinion, at least not without some significant updates and/or changes to Titanfall as it currently stands.
There are a few marked issues I have with various aspects surrounding Titanfall, but the biggest contributing factor in settling on a rating is its sheer status as only half of a game. You won’t be able to experience anything about Titanfall without having your Xbox One connected to the internet, and I feel this is huge mistake. I certainly understand the need to use connectivity to enhance and supplement existing gameplay, but forcing it upon players while charging the same $60 feels, quite bluntly, like a rip-off. But why does your Xbox One require a constant connection? Because every single aspect of Titanfall is multiplayer only. I may not be the biggest fan or biggest consumer of online multiplayer gaming, but I do understand that the mutliplayer aspect of franchises such as Halo and Call of Duty is what has made these popular. Still, it seemed as if Respawn was too lazy to slap on a 3 or 4 hour single-player mode, greatly limiting the appeal of Titanfall to all but veteran FPS-ers. One’s enjoyment of the game is now no longer based on the skill or artistry of the developer; a large part of it is determined solely by the abilities of other players.
In case you didn’t know, Titanfall is a fairly typical FPS with the addition of robots, or mecha to be more precise. Players assume the role of a pilot and can utilize the usual weapons one would expect: pistols, shotguns, machine guns, sniper rifles, etc. After a set period of time, pilots may call for their Titan: a mechanical exoskeleton armed to the teeth, about the height of 2 or 3 building stories. Let’s not forget the oft-cited parkour elements (running along walls and shit like that). To be honest, I’ve found very little use for these crazy mechanics aside from clumsily scaling a wall to reach a high vantage point. Is there much else when it comes to gameplay? Not really. Players can choose the weapons their pilots and titans begin with, including options like ordinance and special kits for certain abilities, but by and large the game consists of you and a gun, running around trying to kill other people with a gun.
There are a handful of game modes to choose from, such as “Attrition” which is comparable to Halo’s “Slayer” where the object is to rack up as many kills as possible in a set period of time, straight up death matches where the last man standing wins, and capture the flag. In a feeble effort to appear as more than a cutthroat online kill-fest, Respawn has included a campaign mode. It is laughable at best. Yes, it’s still multiplayer. The objectives are confusing, and inevitably you’re thrown in both teamed up with and against a slew of players who know what they’re doing, and your team either wins so quickly or is eliminated in the blink of an eye that there’s never any downtime to acclimate to one’s surroundings or properly figure out what’s going on. Worse yet, everyone else is playing “Attrition,” so after the first couple of missions you may not be able to find anyone to continue the campaign with.
All of this pales in comparison to my biggest grievance: Respawn’s idea of match-making. Admittedly the last time I played (about 24 hours prior to writing this) there was a new option to try out an improved match-making system, and it was a little better, so depending on how old this article is when you read it, it may not be as much of a concern. I’ve found that the leveling system is a poor gauge of player ability. While higher numbers do generally denote stronger players, I’ve seen a level 4 player take the lead in 3 straight matches. The current problem with Titanfall is that it’s trial-by-fire at its worst (or best?). There’s a quick training session that tells you what the buttons do, but it in no way prepares you for the real thing.
Remember when I mentioned never having a moment of downtime? The sting is felt even worse in the true multiplayer battles. One of the great things about having single-player campaigns in games like these is that it gives the player time within the game to figure out what’s going on and nail down gameplay fundamentals: moving, jumping, aiming, weapon practice, and in Titanfall’s case the much-touted parkour. It is the complete lack of any opportunity whatsoever to practice and hone one’s skills that make the first few hours extremely frustrating. Every second of game-time in Titanfall is the real thing, making it extremely hostile to new players or those not hardwired for a life of combat simulation.
After completing the tutorial, you’ll be anxious to hop in you Titan for the first time. In a disappointing turn, Titans are more of a “bonus” gameplay element and don’t feature nearly as heavily as the players who pilot them. Once a Titan is destroyed, it takes 2 minutes before another is available. Once inside the Titan, it’s far too easy to be taken out by experienced pilots. While I appreciate the balance of power between pilots and Titans that Respawn has achieved, it doesn’t make for a very fun-filled experience when stomping around in this giant artifice.
Titanfall isn’t all bad, but I am more than a little miffed at how it’s been presented and how difficult it is to enjoy. The graphics are top-notch and as realistic as anything else on the shelves today. From the war-torn used-universe feel of the stages to the explosions and other spectacular displays of light, Titanfall may be the industry’s finest visual achievement yet. Make sure you find a high spot near the corner of an arena now and then to appreciate how much work has gone into every graphical detail from the Titans themselves to the sights on certain weapons. The music is nothing to sneeze at either, with rich arrangements reminiscent of a film score.
When you finally do start to get the hang of navigating through and interacting with the environment, Titanfall can be fun. Blowing up stuff is always fun, and it’s hard not to feel good once you quit coming in at last place. The needed investment of time, at least for me, became a point of frustration. I got up to around level 25 or so – from playing poorly – before I was able to really start mastering the game’s basics. However, even after improving one’s skills, there’s still nothing to do here but essentially compete in online death matches which can get a little boring.
The issue here is that Respawn wanted to develop a game for hardcore FPS players. There’s nothing wrong with the concept, but certain standards should’ve been addressed accordingly. Titanfall began building up hype more than 5 months before its actual release, even before the Xbox One itself hit shelves. With such promise and anticipation, it’s more than a little disappointing to see such a limited release in terms of gameplay. The smart approach here would’ve been an XBL download-only release targeting FPS-ers. It’s too damn hard to simply pop Titanfall into your console and start having a blast.
Though Titanfall is sure to be a benchmark for the genre, it currently remains a little too inaccessible for newcomers and casual gamers. There’s a lot of currently unrecognized potential in this title, and I sincerely hope that future updates will address some of these issues, namely the limited gamplay modes and continuing match-making improvements. If you’re a thoroughly seasoned online multiplayer FPS veteran, you’ll want to get your hands on Titanfall as soon as possible. If you’re anything else, you may want to hold off on the purchase and find a friend with a copy.
Reviewed by The Cubist
Share This Post