What Could Have Been: Titanfall Review

Titanfall is a refreshing first-person shooter that may indeed reinvigorate the stagnant genre, but the execution of features leaves much to be desired.
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Titanfall is one of the most perplexing titles of the new generation for a number of reasons–most predominantly that the gameplay is utterly fantastic and fresh while the execution is inconsistent. Does Titanfall live up to the hype? Well… that depends on what you want out of it.

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Titanfall has been lazily derided as Call of Duty with mechs, but that’s like calling Batman: Arkham CityZelda but with Batman.” It’s somewhat accurate as far as genre goes (adventure with RPG elements, in the case of Batman and Zelda) since they both share many elements, but it’s also horrendously over-simplified.

Titanfall, at its core, is a twitch shooter that harkens back to the glory days of Doom, Unreal, and Quake.

Each player controls one of six pilots on each team (for a total of twelve in each match) who can move incredibly fast and jump incredibly high. Pilots can run, jump, climb, and wall-run from location to location, sometimes rarely ever touching the ground. Each pilot can hold two standard weapons, one anti-Titan weapon, a variety of explosives, or a tactical ability. As far as appearance is concerned, players can only change their character’s gender. Though the addition of female pilots is certainly welcome, it ultimately feels lacking compared to the deep appearance customization players can find in other shooters, such as Call of Duty.

In addition to movement more similar to the 1990’s era shooters with some new controls that seem inspired by Mirror’s Edge or Brink, Titanfall also features giant mechs called Titans (as luck would have it), which players can either directly control, or command to follow or guard. AI-controlled Titans are by no means easy targets, but nothing beats a human-controlled Titan.

These mechs are massive, dangerous, and fast.

Each Titan has a primary weapon, a heavy weapon (called ordnance) with a cooldown, and a tactical ability that can sometimes give one Titan the edge over another Titan or several. These mechs are massive, dangerous, and fast. When two Titans duke it out, players can either stay away to avoid getting caught in the crossfire, or jump into the fray and attempt to jump on the enemy Titan (called “rodeoing”) and shoot out the weak spot on its back.

Titans have a handful of weapon, ordnance, and ability varieties, as well different body-types, giving players customization for their Titan that is as deep as that of their pilot. For example, I have one Titan set to explode once it’s defeated, killing all enemies caught in the blast. It’s also the fastest Titan, so I can move the Titan closer to a group of enemy pilots or Titans. This deep customization of your weapon loadout is what defines Titanfall.

Titanfall features several game modes, though you’ll probably only end up playing about half. The game features the standard gameplay modes that players have come to expect from a first-person shooter. Team Deathmatch (called Attrition/Pilot Hunter, depending who you ask), Capture the Flag, and King of  the Hill (Hardpoint Domination) are all present.

Losing your Titan doesn’t mean you can’t be useful.

However, Titanfall also features Last Titan Standing, which, as you might expect has players fighting to have the most titans at the end of the match. Each pilot on each team starts with a Titan. The first team to lose all Titans loses. If a player dies, they will not respawn until the next round. However, a destroyed Titan does not mean that the player is necessarily out  of the match–players can still hunt enemy Titans or enemy Titan hunters to help secure victory for their team.

AI opponents are important for both new and experienced players.

Now, Titanfall also features several AI opponents called grunts or spectres, and most players dismiss them as cannon fodder. What they fail to realize is that they’re useful cannon fodder. For every enemy a player kills (grunts, spectres, pilots, or Titans), the spawn time for their Titan decreases. This allows newcomers to rack up kills on easy targets using the Smart Pistol (an auto-locking gun with a slight delay) and spawn their Titan. This use of AI opponents is part of what makes Titanfall one of the most accessible shooters I’ve ever played.

Titanfall also features a multiplayer story campaign, if you can even call it a story.

Titanfall’s story is painfully awful.

Compared to Titanfall‘s story, the story of Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 deserve awards for not completely phoning it in. Titanfall’s story is weak, boring, and often nonsensical. A major character dies, but with perhaps five minutes of what could vaguely be construed as cutscenes at all, with maybe thirty seconds devoted to this character, it didn’t matter in the slightest. Literally the only reason players should play the story is to unlock the additional Titan bodies so they can customize their Titans even further. The story felt thrown together and like a waste of time. It would have been better if Respawn didn’t even bother with the story and attempted to make the multiplayer experience that much better.

“I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m being watched.”

Frequently, I would find myself kicked out of servers due to unbelievable latency while still able to play other network-intensive games such as any MMO and Call of Duty: Ghosts, and also the worst internet speed offender: Tumblr. Considering it’s been a few weeks since launch, it’s odd that Respawn and EA still haven’t managed to fix the many connection issues with the game

Furthermore, Titanfall doesn’t feature private matches in any respect. Players can create their own groups of friends, but there’s no way to guarantee you’ll face a group of friends, or a random other group. It seems lazy for Respawn to not have private matches, especially in 2014.

Titanfall is still impressive.

Regardless of any faults, those who play Call of Duty or Battlefield for engaging multiplayer will find a good time with Titanfall. Gameplay is fast, fluid, and fun. Those who play video games exclusively for an engaging story will be furious, confused, and ultimately disappointed by Titanfall, but considering its a AAA first-person shooter, they really shouldn’t be surprised. Despite a hilariously awful story campaign, Titanfall may indeed jump-start a new era of first-person shooters actually being original again, but EA and Respawn must fix the remaining network and server issues.

What Could Have Been: Titanfall Review
Titanfall is a refreshing first-person shooter that may indeed reinvigorate the stagnant genre, but the execution of features leaves much to be desired.

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Brian S
Brian transcribes for a tech company in Bellevue, WA. His favorite games are Max Payne 3, Dragon Age II, Life Is Strange, Tomb Raider, and anything involving Batman. All his reviews are spoiler-free. His brow is perpetually furrowed.