In gaming, just like Science, there are certain breakthroughs that change our lives forever. Titanfall is without doubt a game changer, and a much needed shot of adrenaline the FPS genre has been crying out for.
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Errr… what story?
Okay, maybe that is a bit harsh but straight off the bat this is the main weakness to Titanfall. When I first played the “campaign” I had absolutely no idea what was going on by the time I was half way through. To get halfway took about 2 hours so if your maths is any good, that means a 4 hour play through from start to finish.
The campaign is hard to follow because the story is mostly told in-between matches. This is done with voice acting in the background while you are preparing your load outs for the next round. Being a guy, I openly admit that on occasion multi tasking is not my forte… Especially when I am giddier than a One Direction fan, waiting to catch a slight glimpse of the multi millionaire cretins, because of a new unlock that I can kit my Pilot or Titan out with! Other main plot points will show themselves in the middle of a battle. Unless you stop defending yourself against a titan long enough to pay attention, you will probably miss them.
What I can tell you is that the story could easily be told in 30 – 45 minutes without all of the game modes and battle prep that goes in-between each round. What would be amazing is if the guys at Respawn released something like “Forward Unto Dawn” which was done by Halo. A short film to give us some epic moments to enjoy due to a lack of gameplay cut scenes… Perfect!
Anyway I digress. In short, just like the story, the IMC and the Militia don’t like each other. You play the game from each side so you can decide who you agree with. The campaign is built from 9 rounds as each faction and is a mix of Attrition (Team Death Match) and Hard Point (Domination) game modes. This in itself is a bit of a shame. There are only 5 modes to chose from in total (the other 3 being, Last Titan Standing, Pilot Hunter and Capture the Flag) so why not do a mixture of all of them for the campaign?
Under the bonnet Titanfall has a very well known and reliable engine. If you have played any other FPS you will feel right at home with Titanfall. You may have heard this banded around already, so at the risk of being completely unoriginal, Titanfall is Call of Duty (CoD) with giant robots. No surprise really as the co creator of CoD is part of the genius behind Titanfall.
Respawn have done incredibly well to combine the agile manoeuvrability of a Pilot on foot with the completely different feel of stomping around in a Titan. This new found style has shaken up the way to play. Where once before you may have felt safe, because you were up high taking pot shots at your enemy, you are now just as vulnerable as if you were running around in the open. Every pilot has the ability to fulfil their dreams of wall running like the best parkour heroes to cross gaps that would once have been chasms to you or me. Equally the use of a double jump can see you hopping inside a 2nd story window to surprise any inside.
In each match there are AI units that pop up around the battlefield who are clearly inferior to you. A Grunt is human cannon fodder and a Spectre is a robot that falls somewhere in-between Grunt and Pilot. Killing Grunts and Spectres will earn you points and shave seconds off of the remaining build time of a Titan before you can call down your trusty steed. Hunting them down is a great way to alleviate some of the potential depression that builds when for some unknown reason you just can’t seem to take down an opposing pilot. That’s where the big bucks lie. Once you have signalled for your Titan and seen it hurtle into the battle from heights your pilot can’t reach with its puny jet pack, you can hop in straight away where you will suddenly feel the weight difference.
Titans are a big and heavy concoction, of which there are 3 breeds so to speak. An Atlas is the “attacking” Titan and first one you can lay your hands on. It has mid level armour and the capability to engage small thrusters allowing it to “dash” (dodge) twice before needing to recharge. The second to be unlocked is the Stryder. It’s the smallest and weakest of the Titans. To get the best out of one you need to be proficient in hit and run tactics, aided by the capability to dash 3 times. The last of the Titans to become available is the Ogre. The clue is in the name with this one. It can only dash once so you need to rely on greater durability.
Each Titan also comes with its own special ability in the form of a “Charge Core”. Unless you use a “Burn Card” to decrease the time it takes to charge, you can’t use them straight away. If you maintain your behemoth well and get the chance to engage a Charge Core, you can find yourself racking up some much needed kills or get yourself out of a tricky situation! The Atlas has a Damage Core, the Stryder has a Dash Core and the Ogre has a Shield Core… All pretty self explanatory really.
Both Pilots and Titans have upgrades and perks that you unlock through levelling. A personal favourite of mine is the Nuclear Ejection for a Titan. This means if you destroy my Titan, it’s going to blow up and take as much with it as possible. This is used best if your Titan is “Doomed” in a nice narrow area with little room for escape. I’ve turned the tide of battle during a “Last Titan Standing” game mode by luring folk into said narrow areas and then turning into a Kamikaze. It’s incredibly rewarding to eject from a doomed titan then look down below you as 3 others blow up in your wake!
The Titans themselves change game play entirely. Some people like to leave their Titan on AutoPilot whilst teaming up from 2 angles to defeat you. There is some in built need in everyone to see a Titan and try to remove it. Using a Titan as bait will sometimes earn you some easy pickings! Others may hunt in packs and as with any FPS, you will always get the odd Rambo.
Burn Cards are pretty nifty too. You earn them through completing certain challenges and then you can activate them one at a time for what is essentially the next life of your pilot. They can range from giving you boosted weaponry or being permanently cloaked, to earning double experience points. Handy if you plan on working your way through the generations.
A slight downer on the title has to be the weapons. There just isn’t much to grab the imagination, and the available arsenal is extremely limited. In fact whilst I think about it, there is really only 1 assault rifle and it’s probably the weapon I’ve used the most and been killed by the most. There are unlocks for them along the way to boost certain stats but more variation would not go a miss.
If graphics from a game like this are really the only reason you’re buying it, then get hold of your very own PC copy. That is where you will find everything looking that little bit more… Extraordinary. In terms of the Xbox One, you can tell that this title isn’t using the full potential of the console as it still a cross over game.
Having said that, what you are seeing is by no means terrible. I don’t think it is possible to get bored of watching your Titan Fall into battle. In fact I’ve died many times because both I and the pilot I am controlling are looking skyward, limp faced and dribbling, at the impending metal war machine.
As you’d expect from a game such as this, there is no short supply of explosions, gun shots, or empty bullet casings tumbling to the floor. This is all very good and suits its surroundings in every way that it should.
For me, the absolute best noise links with the graphical master piece of Titanfall when a Titan is doing exactly that… falling. The sheer dirty sound of it tearing through the atmosphere on its way to you never fails to ignite excitement. Your very own juggernaut is mere moments away from your grasp!
Whilst you are thumping around inside a Titan, the onboard computer likes to inform you about things such as running away to re charge you shields. Quite often she will tell you that “you are outnumbered 2 (or 3, or 4 etc) to 1” It’s at this point I finally understand Han Solo and yell back “Never tell me the odds!”
The biggest question would probably be about if, or rather when, the next edition of Titanfall will grace us with its presence. If CoD is anything to go by then it will be once every 2 years for a studio to produce their next version. In that time you will gladly keep playing but as soon as the next edition says “hello”, you will no doubt migrate to it for any new features.
If that never happens it’s not like you won’t have anything to do. Just like the prestige system in CoD, after you reach level 50 you can reset everything to become the next generation. This grants you a new emblem by your level and greater experience rewards. The generation system goes all the way to the 10th generation… Effectively that’s level 500.
Along the way you have challenges to complete such as dropping a Titan on someone which is quite similar to perhaps dropping a care package on an enemy, but they keep the experience flowing. Some challenges require that you murk up the AI controlled grunts and Spectres too. For anyone struggling to get kills, there is always something that can be done to appease the frustration.
Titanfall arrives at the perfect time to rejuvenate the FPS genre. Just when everything was starting to get a bit stale, Respawn’s offering brings with it a freshness like warm washing out of the tumble drier.
This review and no doubt many others will comment on the similarities between Titanfall and CoD, but that is by no means a bad thing. CoD is a great model to structure a new endeavour on. For me though, that is where it has to end. Use CoD as a scaffolding to get under way but the next Titanfall will have to become more, so that it doesn’t stagnate too quickly.
It’s a fantastic first effort from Respawn and I eagerly anticipate anything else they put their hand too. The only thing that stops this game getting a full 10 from me is that it is almost too familiar. It’s both a gift and a curse. I’m also still bitter about the weak attempt at a solid story mode. Ultimately, the game is excellent and a fantastic paving stone for the next generation.