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For a few years now, gamers have been looking for a new revolution in the world of first-person shooters. The Call of Duty formula is getting tiresome with yearly sequels and no new breakthroughs in the genre since the first Modern Warfare. Shooter fans have been looking at Respawn’s Titanfall to be the new knight in shining armor ever since it was revealed last summer. Some of the folks behind the early Call of Duty games are in Respawn now and know what’s up when it comes to multiplayer shooters, which is why Titanfall is supposed to be the next big thing according to many, even to Microsoft. Microsoft has pulled all the stops for this game to be the Xbox One’s killer app and I do have to say they were successful to making it a big deal. Titanfall is not the revolution shooter fans are hoping for, but more an evolution of an existing formula that remains fun and addictive.
If you thought Call of Duty’s gameplay style was fast and frantic, Titanfall cranks that up to thirteen. The main difference with Respawn’s shooter is mobility alone. The pilots, the characters you play as, can double jump, wallrun, and cling into walls to transverse quicker or scale up high spots in the game’s fifteen maps. The maps are cleverly designed for opportunities to be more mobile so you can go from one side to the other in a matter of seconds than minutes.
The shooting itself feels fine if you played these type of games to death and while there is not a lot of weapons to mess around with compared to the other shooters, there is enough of them to fill the quota with your mix of assault rifles, sniper rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, and pistols. Like Call of Duty, there are attachments and mods to unlock when doing certain challenges, and that alone makes these games as addictive as they can for a few years now. The smart pistol is the only weapon of the bunch that has unique uses with it’s lock-on ability on multiple targets, but at the end of the day, this game works best at mid-range. Personally, Titanfall is not really a sniper-friendly game due to players being more mobile, but that style can still work when with the right hands.
Of course, the other shining stars in Titanfall are the titans themselves. These mechs do spice up the core gameplay and make the battles more epic and also chaotic when there is several of them around. Respawn has done a great job making these titans easy to attain during matches by letting players kill any enemy to decrease it’s drop time. That includes enemy pilots controlled by players and AI grunts/spectres that are just there to be shot and make battles feel more bigger in scale in terms of numbers. Once you’re in a titan, it is the more satisfying moments in the shooter genre in a while. Despite having only three types of titans to choose from, they are balanced with their advantages and weaknesses. The Atlas titan is your middle ground titan that has a special core ability of dealing more damage for a limited time. The Stryder is your light-type titan that can dash around more frequently, but can be destroyed quickly. Lastly, the Ogre titan is the heavy-type that can take more hits and also buff shields up with it’s special core ability.
At first glance, you would think these titans can change the game a lot and maybe even break it, but turns out they don’t. They can be taken out rather quickly if you’re not careful to the point you have to eject out to stay alive. Pilots also have anti-titan weapons such as homing rocket launchers and grenade launchers to deal damage against them to balance things out when those type of situations happen. Titans themselves are pretty armed with their own weapons and ways of defending against the opposition such as a vortex shield that can deflect enemy fire back at them. It is telling from the game’s first reveal that Respawn wanted players to have instant gratification of spending as much time in titans as moving around as a pilot and they have succeeded making everything work.
Since Titanfall is a multiplayer-only game, where is the campaign for those that like playing through a story? Turns out there is a separate campaign multiplayer mode than the traditional modes. I applaud Respawn for trying this approach of including some sort of storyline in this game, but the story itself is an afterthought when playing through the campaign matches. There are only nine levels in the campaign that is played by both the Militia and IMC factions as the only Attrition (the game’s version team deathmatch) and Hardpoint Domination are the only types of modes playable. While you’re too focused in trying to win a match, the story gets told on the side with the two factions clashing in a big war. There were moments that the story tried to show some emotion especially when a certain type of music gets played, but it is hard to care for the characters with whatever they’re doing. At least, the campaign does try to establish both factions as entities and the world itself.
The campaign matchmaking is also a little questionable from the design side. You have to play completely through one side of the campaign multiplayer that is chosen randomly at first. If there aren’t enough players to play the next level during this, the matchmaking has to revert back to a previous level to accommodate enough players. This can be frustrating if you just want to get the campaign levels over with and unlock the Stryder and Ogre titans for custom titan loadouts. Plus, you can’t manually go back to a previous campaign level till you completed both campaigns.
Besides Attrition and Hardpoint Domination, the other modes in Titanfall are fun to play for their own reasons. Last Titan Standing is a round-based deathmatch-like mode where you have only one titan and the team that has able to eliminate the opposition’s titans, they win the round. It also gives the titans their own moment to shine besides the other modes and the gameplay styles do change a bit since you have only one to keep alive. Capture the Flag is pretty self-explanatory, but the titans can be used to move the flag from one area to the other. Pilot Hunter is basically team deathmatch but killing pilots count towards the score compared to Attrition where killing anything counts. Even the end of matches have an epilogue where a dropship has to pick up the losing team that can be destroyed for bonus points, which is a nice little twist from players are used to. The checklist of modes is surely there, but it would be interesting if other non-standard modes made the cut.
For those tired of how stale Call of Duty matches go, Titanfall is meant for highlight reel moments, which is why is so fun and addictive compared to other shooters currently in the market. These highlights are due to the game’s faster and frantic pace, but also what you’re capable of doing when playing unconventional. For example, ever want to drop your titan on any enemy or titan, you can when it is perfectly timed and get points for it too. Rodeoing from one enemy titan to another and destroying their shields are another example. In short, want to try to kill an enemy pilot the fanciest way possible, you can. Even the titan animations of ejecting a pilot from their enemy titan never gets old. It has been a long time where I have that “one more match” type of mentality in a shooter and Titanfall lives up to that notion exceptionally well.
Graphically, Titanfall looks great for the most part, but those expecting it to look “next generation” on the Xbox One and PC, it does not. The environments in the maps are varied from bases, jungles, deserts with dragons flying around, and metropolitan cities. I also like the titan designs and you can tell them apart compared to the pilots and AI enemies. There will be moments where you can’t tell who’s who, but once you’re able to separate the three types of enemies due to their behavior, then it is not much of an issue. The game does run at 60 frames per second for the majority of the time, but there are times when it dips to single digits when too much is going on and rarely at other spots. The music is not much to write home about either, but it does it’s job well enough when the matches get tense.
The online performance has also been smooth as well since launch day. Lag is rarely an issue during matches thanks to the game running on Microsoft’s servers, but you will run into it at some point depending your internet connection to other players you’re matched up with. It will suck if Xbox Live randomly goes down for a period of time because it is an online multiplayer-only game. Even the menus, customizing your loadouts, playing training mode when you first boot the game, and looking at your stats requires you to be online.
Does Titanfall live up to being the new knight in shining armor for first-person shooters? It leaves no doubt that it does because it brings back the fun and addictive gameplay these shooters used to have. The feel of the gameplay mechanics coming together from the mobility of the pilots, the shooting, the accessibility of getting titans, and balancing between pilots and titans is indeed something special. That should be no surprise given Respawn’s pedigree despite being their first game. Titanfall is quite simply the “SportsCenter” of shooters due to being filled with highlight reel moments and instant gratification that can be easily executed when the situation comes. The game is not perfect due to performance issues involving framerate and screen tearing as well as the campaign multiplayer being an afterthought.
It is not the revolution gamers hoped for this genre, but Titanfall is indeed more of an evolution of an existing formula. Whether you’re getting it on Xbox One, PC, or even the Xbox 360 in two weeks, Titanfall is a must play for any shooter fan and those looking for something refreshing compared to the other shooters that are out now.