Titanfail -- The Problem with Titanfall Failing to Meet Its Own Hype

"Believe the hype!" they said. "The future of multiplayer!" they said. Yet some gamers are forgetting why they even wanted to play Titanfall.

You needed to be sleeping under a sound proof rock to not hear about Titanfall before launch. A full PR blitz from EA on the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC exclusive title had us all ready for the creators of Call of Duty to bring us the next generation of multiplayer. Now, just roughly a month later, and some gamers are starting to ask themselves why they don't want to play Titanfall that much. Whether you're a hardcore pro multiplayer gamer or just the average shooter fan, there's been an awful lot of concern recently to the game's longevity.

Surviving the Longhaul

Despite including 20 maps, five modes of play, an experimental multiplayer campaign, a highly touted amount of accessibility, and a near universal praising from game critics, Titanfall is already showing its age in some gamers' eyes. Features missing such as private matches, clan tags, custom lobbies, and improved matchmaking are just now being included. Other aspects such as new content and unlocks are left uncertain as the only planned DLC we know of is the extraneously overpriced $10 USD Expedition map pack, which only adds three new maps for a sixth of the price of the game.

Pilots, we are going to Yavin IV. Our mission: find Luke Skywalker!

Additional content is coming for the game besides the map packs, but it's unclear if it will just be the new fixes fans have requested or more guns and abilities as well. So far basic Titan customization is confirmed in addition to a beta for private matchmaking, but these feel like features that should have been included out of the gate. What's worse is that despite these new inclusions being free, the fact they were not available at launch almost puts the cost of the $60 USD game at a level with most Season Passes. Instead of a guaranteed product, you're investing in the idea that the product you wanted will eventually arrive at a later date.

It also doesn't help that the modes are all fairly limited and repetitious as far as objectives go. The only stand out modes of play that are distinct to the game are Pilot Hunter and Campaign, with everything else fitting as Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Conquest (from Battlefield and Battlefront), and Arena (a.k.a. Last Man Standing, or in this case Last Titan Standing). The modes all work fine but there is no variation between them other than the maps. All objectives exist in the same locations even when map spawn positions flip mid-game. Each mode is statically isolated until the rounds are done, something that even Killzone 3 was able to avoid with its Operations and Warzone modes before next-gen consoles even had their names.

When the Titan hits your eye, like a creepy ogre guy, that's a bad day...

A Tale of Two Titans

When you first get your hands on the game, you can tell it was tested to the greatest extent without prejudice. This is good, but that laser-focused approach to trying to make the gameplay perfect hurt any chance for distinct modes and clearly resulted in the half-baked story campaign. Without spoiling anything about the plot, the game takes a sudden jump ahead to the future with completely new character developments that happened without so much as a moment to catch your breath. The sudden new focus of the story in the final mission comes out of nowhere and doesn't even fit the gameplay. Earlier missions have nothing to do with the final plot focus and entire important cutscenes have nothing to do with the modes you are playing.

As absurd as it sounded to Respawn, many gamers wanted a single player campaign. The lack of any story-focused offline mode, and the act of leaving most of the key narrative portions before and during shootouts, means the game itself tunes its own story out. Titanfall would not have worked well as a purely linear affair, but even a story-focused botmode similar to Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag's Wolfpack mode's Discovery missions (with a few more cutscenes) would have been better than what was produced. Blocking off the Stryder and Ogre mechs through campaign has also had mixed results; it seemed like a good idea, but upset some fans.

What's worst of all though is that there's just nothing to aim for in the game. You get a Titan in two minutes regardless of your ability as a player. The levels and story never change based on your actions. There is no ongoing conflict progression between the IMC and Militia through player matches like there was in the hybrid PS3-Facebook metagame for Resistance 3's competitive multiplayer and Facebook app. There's no added story content for continuing to play like in Bioshock 2's multiplayer that gave you audio diaries providing a narrative for each playable character.

There is even a small count as far as guns and gear unlocks are considered, meaning it doesn't take too long before you have every piece of gear you need; something that hurt Brink as well. What guns are on offer are all fairly standard save for the smart pistol, most anti-Titan weapons, and electricity guns.

"Excuse me sir, do you have time to talk about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?"

Titan Tunnel Vision

Despite being developed by one of the most highly lauded dev teams for multiplayer shooters, they seem to have bet all their hopes of keeping an active player base on one single aspect: the gameplay. None of its modes are what set it apart, and you could easily remove Pilot Hunter without so much as a blip of notice on most players' radar. It's true innovations come in the form of the grunts/spectres to add scale, evening the playing field for new gamers, Titans as a new take on becoming a juggernaut-style player, and the pilot movement system that finally gave us a first person multiplayer platforming system that works without a hitch.

While these mechanics are well tuned for a multiplayer experience, it's hard to argue that most of these design decisions should be what every multiplayer game should follow. A lot of the ideas on offer are exclusive to Titanfall, instead of the fairly maliable ideas Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had. Instead, Titanfall is very much its own thing, and judging by both the hype and final response, players were expecting this. They were expecting the game that would kill Call of Duty. The game that would put an end to gritty military shooters (irony, considering Titanfall's fairly generic gritty sci-fi warzone setting) and give us something new. Respawn seems to believe that more than anyone else, but that faith could be misplaced.

"And that son, is how Pilots are born."

Greatness Shouldn't Be Taken For Granted

To be clear, this is not a review of Titanfall, but a retrospective on the game since launch. Having dropped below #20 on the most popular streamed games on Twitch.TV, a relative lull in big news for the title, the critical panning of its campaign mode, the open questioning of the game as to whether it will stay relevant as the year rolls on, and the notable but confusingly divided post-launch support all leave the fate of the game in question. Whether it will defy detractors and show that all you need is solid gameplay or be an early fumble in an otherwise promising franchise won't be clear until we reach the holiday season. With new competition releasing from October to December, we'll finally see how truly endearing Titanfall's standing is.

Featured Columnist

Grumpily ranting at this computer screen since before you were playing Minecraft. For more of my work: https://elijahbeahm.contently.com/

Published Apr. 20th 2014
  • Si_W
    Still playing this, and now overtaken BF4 as my main mp shooter after getting myself trapped in the old regen hunt (damn level 5 and arc cannon challenge)...
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Good for you mate, I'm glad you and some of the players are still enjoying it. I just wrote it as I saw it (and TBH, afterward, I'm happy things at least mellowed out, but the game has kind of fallen into the background outside of highlights from particular YouTubers).
  • Fullmetaljackass
    I agree with the article. I own 2 of every console and have a gaming computer. Yeah, i dont ever want to miss a good game. Im a little older, so ive been playing games for a very long time. Back when Atari was the hot ticket with "Pong". Yup, im a fuckin' relic. Anyways, with all the talent in Respawn, i was expecting a little more depth. The games plays very well, but its so easy to rank up and max out. And the unlock tree is boring and uninspiring. There just seems to be a lot of missed opportunities. Everyone i have spoken to has a suggestion or two on what they wished the game had (pilot classes: medic/revive, engineer/repair) game matches with 12 vs 12 with no bots, weapons exclusive to gen upgrade unlocks...etc. some good ideas, some not so much. I know a lot of people would like a campaign, but that really didnt bother me. I never play them anyways. Also, the fact that its a "next gen" game that really isnt and better than the last gen stuff is a little dissapointing. Maybe Respawn just needed this to get thier footing? Who knows? Im not a graphics whore, but even that is a bit lackluster considering its " next gen". After making Gen 2 most of my buddies have put the game back on the shelf and put Battlefield back in. I can talk them into playing Titanfall with me, but after just a couple of games everyone is like: "thats it for me guys!". No staying power. Im not saying its the biggest piece of shit ive ever played, just not a "comeback" game. Once youve got 6 hours or so in, youve seen and done it all. Were as games like battlefield show you a completely different match every single game. New tactics and strategies. Titanfall is just one dimensional. But, the game plays well. Just not immersive enough to keep me coming back for more. Vince and the boys are not schlepps, i can guarantee you Titanfall 2 will be what Titanfall should have been. Not a hater, just me and my gaming communities' opinion. I woul give it a 6.5 out of 10.
  • Connor Van Ligten
    Featured Contributor
    I love titanfall, and it's nice to see someone pointing out VALID negative points about the game such as repetition and lack of content than just blindly bashing on it. Great article!
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Thanks you very much sir!
  • katosenpai
    The only reason I enjoy this game is because of two modes, Last Titan Standing and Attrition. The fact that I continue to play this game is probably due to the fact that me and my friend are quite good at the game with 75% win rate. I can understand most people not liking the game, because they flat out suck at piloting a Titan and who likes losing? Whether or not you enjoy the game just comes down to whether or not if you're actually GOOD at it, just my two cents.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Interesting preference but did you read the article? None of what I had to say was in relation to players winning or losing. In fact the game is one of the games least likely to do this due to a number of reasons, some of which I cited in relation to it's accessibility. It's not a hard difficulty turning people off, from all that I've been finding.
  • Trevor_3958
    First of all i agree the lack of single player campain sux, but teh multiplayer campaign is there to give you a chance to kick back and fight not only real compeditors but more ai, wait AI oh my god, theres nothing wrong with it considering like in call of duties you get challenges completed by mowing these down also like weapon upgrades new perks or 'player abilities" ect.. its set up in a level up challange stomping system that everyone recognizes, every one on the field is a pilot and you get your titans and when you do as long as your alive your earning weapon attachments tactical abilities and competing challanges, your titan blows well if you ejected your back on your feet after a fall this fall you can take the other ejected pilot out mid landing you can take titans out or land on a titan friend or foe for some rodeo one to destroy it the other to get a quick ride to a safe spot and avoid a death. Its better having 2 different upgradable sets at once, your set your titans loadouts and your pilots also the burner cards giving you up to 3 different helps-boosts ect.. that you can if you choose to use during your match. also the campaign offers exclusive content to be unlocked and is a good trainging to prepare you for all out multiplayer. I smelll a fan boy, because infinity ward didnt allow your prescious ggdr5 ram system a copy..... Its not the ram in a GPU its the chip, its features and supports its ccaches and speeds the Xbox not because i want it to as most my electronics are sony but the ONE will dominate gaming again so get used to it and dont cry over exclusives, I hate the fact a new gen G-tourismo will be out of reach until i can justify having both systems but i wont attack over it. boxers not panties my friend
  • user_name1234
    haha lol "What's Titanfall??"
  • RobS_451
    I can get with you in regards to the lacking campaign, but I feel like the suggestion for it to be more like AC4's wolfpack might be a bit misplaced. That mode in AC4 felt a bit more tacked-on than even the Titanfall campaign to me, and I could probably have done without it entirely - it was a lot of clutter on the multiplayer pile for that game.

    I think there's a lot of potential for the story in Titanfall if handled properly (though I wish they would have done it to begin with.) I've spent a good deal of time since launch daydreaming about cool directions to take the setting. If they get it in their heads to flesh out the "multiplayer story" idea, we might be looking at something pretty solid in the future...but who knows where they'll take it from here, if anywhere at all.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    I admit a carbon copy wouldn't work well but there actually was a very specific purpose for Wolfpack mode. It's both a tutorial and easy mode for new players. I became far more refined at the game's platforming, detection, and abilities thanks to spending a few hours in Discovery and regular Wolfpack. Plus soloing it on Hard can be just as thrilling as trying to catch all your prey in time in Manhunt, but with an even tenser time limit.

    I agree that there's potential, but I can't help but keep thinking back on the ideas Killzone 3 presented. It's Operations mode had all the set piece-style moments of a single-player game while being a multiplayer experience that rewarded the best players and let the story branch naturally. It was less over-arching narrative focused but I bet we could see some awesome things from combing that sort of mission with the Wing Commander way of doing "Win/Lose" across the various scenarios. It'd be a massive undertaking, but it'd be a genuine evolution of how we play multiplayer games as well if done right.
  • Rodeo-Ranger
    Very good and honest review. The game itself for me is fun to play ....but the goofy sitting and waiting 2 minutes between matches . The Team Voice that doesn't work , The pistol with bot aiming , the kicking someone from 20 feet away and killing them with a single kick, the cloaking stolen from Crysis , the lack of Clan Tag support , the lack of Team balance support , the fact that you never play on a server you choose all guarantees this game to failure . I fell for the hype and bought the game expecting great things . instead I got a game tailored to 12 year old players and not the guys who build the graphics machines that play it ! Let us make our own servers , let us have Clan tags , allow us to make our own maps . give us a console so we can tweak our game and stay interested . After just 2 weeks I find my self back playing BF4 that has most of the things I want in a game . Riding around in a huge Titan is only cool for a so long . Bots that are only canon fodder are silly , they don't even shoot back ..lmao . And a pistol that aims for you along with cloaking is all tailor made for campers who hide like little girls , some call it sniping , lets be honest , sniping is one guy assigned that role not a whole team .I want to fight and run , and shoot and have fun , not sit on a roof top , clocked with a bot aim pistol . TITAN- FAIL ....is only my opinion , but I have been playing PC games since Wolfenstein 3D and nothing has bested Counter Strike Source as far as allowing players to manage their game and get players involved , making maps , gun skins , their won models etc . PC games are being put aside to make deals with console makers and when we stop building Gaming systems and stop buying graphics cards the industry will die .. This is all a ploy to put companies that lease servers out of business and please console makers . The gaming industry has sold out to the Consoles .
  • YEP_7661
    I'd rather gameplay and a flawless netcode than a stupid story line. Multiplayer makes every game better. DUH
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    As a huge advocate for multiplayer in games... I kind of have to say no to your latter point. I don't think multiplayer is needed for EVERY game. Would a bunch of them have more replay value and fun factor? Possibly, but somehow Flower doesn't seem like it would benefit from it's own variant of Capture the Flag.

    I agree on gameplay and good netcode being key points, but not everyone feels that way. We're still in the "we are storytellers" phase of the medium where everyone is now obsessed with written narrative instead of organic storytelling. With games such as Dark Souls and Minecraft showing an alternative form of storytelling though, we might see less of Uncharted-ish narratives.
  • Rj_6805
    its a boring deathmatch with robots
  • realist_9909
    lol i find it hilarious really, the level to which people will stoop for attention."Gamers are already starting to ask themselves why they don't want to play Titanfall that much." what was this sentence meant to accomplish? What was everything you wrote meant to accomplish really? i mean there is nothing new there, its all been said already. why regurgitate it? and add to it broad assumtions of things you couldn't possibly know. do you know what goes into making a game? could you do a better job with a team of only 60, building a new concept, overhauling an engine youve never worked with? doing somehting completely new with limited time and funding? granted the game isnt perfect and could definitely use polishing. but frankly given the circumtances this game is quite an achievement. its the start of something new, something that'll be built upon with titanfall 2 n 3 n so on. im so sick of you armchair critics thinking you know what the hell you are talkin about. lol poor u scrapping together this living on silly little articles. find a new career.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    What wrote was meant to add discussion and take a critical look at the potential flaws of our expectations that one single game will change the entire course of a part of the medium. Actually I do know about what goes into making a game, as I've worked on a few projects (nothing as grand in scale as Titanfall, but at least one was aiming to be close to that), one of which actually did involve trying to convert an engine for a very different style of play than it was used to (from first person shooter to third person adventure game, more in the Telltale sense of adventure, although we did include very light third person shooting). I'm aware of how much effort goes into making a game, I've seen people burn out or glow brighter than they ever have before while trying to make it happen. I've seen all sorts of mistakes made by those less experienced and got the chance to even make my own mistakes.

    I'd rather this not just turn into a debate about how new the game is, as a number of it's concepts have appeared before (Killzone 3, Brink) but likewise I know that it's doing them all in a different manner. As a balancing and gameplay design feat, it is an achievement. As a multiplayer game as a whole, it's holding itself back from true greatness by ambition purely focused and pooled into half of the game. What's more, I'm not even trying to review it here, these are not just my opinions, I was making an effort to understand how the various recent and growing dissenters could find the game boring despite having been so hyped for it. I even say at the end of the post that this is not a review, this is not me judging the game, this is me trying to piece together why things are the way they are with it and it's fan base.

    Whether it is the start of something new or not is completely up to debate. Don't forget, this is basically the same situation as Resistance: Fall of Man. It was a launch (in Titanfall's case, near-launch) title that tried to offer new gameplay ideas (the weapon wheel, massive online multiplayer focus, every gun featuring an alternate fire mode), but it's all but sputtered out unless either Insomniac or Sony revive it for PS4. Maybe Titanfall 2 will blow everyone away and fix all it's problems. Maybe it will coast on it's laurels. We don't know yet, so we can't assume either way as fact. That's why I said we can't even be certain if the original is truly a passing fixation or a big hit until months from now if not years, as multiplayer games live a different lifespan than single player games. Judging by your username, I trust you have already realized all this though.

    Also, I'm not making a living on this, I'm not even being paid for this. I'm writing this voluntarily. You are free to agree or disagree, in fact I encourage and applaud differing opinions to ideas. However, I'm not as keen on intentionally aiming negativity at others simply for disagreeing. Take that note as you will.
  • Just me_4859
    "Gamers are already starting to ask themselves why they don't want to play Titanfall that much."
    ... and this is based on what exactly? You went and asked them or you just made it up?
    Ignore the hype and just enjoy the game for what it is and that's a really fun FPS. One of the comments below says that after 6 hours Titanfall was dead to them. Well, there was an open beta so you probably should have realised it wasn't a game for you if you were bored after 6 hours! I'm still playing it and still really enjoying it but as with all games people will move on to the next thing at some point.
  • DLConspiracy
    "extraneously overpriced"? That seems a bit exaggerated. It seems to be on point with competitors. $25 for the entire season pass.

    Honestly I can see where someone who doesn't have a team of people to play with may get bored with this game. It is team based so just because you may be playing strong doesn't ensure a win for the team. As far as the single play campaign is involved. I think its fair to say that anyone that plays the game wants a campaign. They the makers at Respawn did too but this game almost didn't get released because of the issues it was having. You can read about the issues they had in " The Final Hour of Titanfall". So they didn't try to ditch the single player campaign at all. They wanted one but they are a new studio who before hand was in a long court battle over Infinityward.

    With that said I personally enjoy this game. I can't say that I agree with your feelings on this. To me I can't even go back to rats in a maze COD. Call of DUTY is far too grounded for me and lacking the general wow factor. This coming from a heavy heavy Hardcore COD player. Not to mention Respawn has been one of the more harder working devs to please their fans that I have seen. I think quite a few devs could take note of their quick response to fix their game. The game is a combination of a lot of successful multiplayer games. I noticed that you played this on PC which is surprising considering the many online games that have nothing but repetition to offer. Even Hawken has a bit of repetition to it. I think that is to be expected from online multiplayer. In fact I would be willing to bet the repetitive woes stem from your enjoyment of Battlefield am I wrong? I say this because battlefield is much more of a strategic and careful shooter with environment destructibility and lrger maps. Comparing Titanfall to a fan of it could be hard to break them from it. As I feel Titanfall probably is more akin to COD and Halo.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Some of us don't have $10 to spend on the bare minimum content that could be offered. When it launched, Resistance: Fall of Man on PS3 offered it's map packs for free. Team Fortress 2 still does. Charging for map packs splits the player base and outside of clan matches the DLC maps will decline in use the later into the game's cycle. I usually would be getting a whole game for $10.

    Speaking as someone who normally plays without a team of friends in multiplayer, I didn't really have any problem with that in the game. So they made a behind the scenes interactive thing like Portal 2? I'll be sure to look that one up.

    This isn't my feelings on the game itself, it's me looking back on the game's problem. As I said to Geraximus, I personally feel the game is very promising, but I have to acknowledge it's problems as well. Once again, I covered that point with Geraximus -- repetition can be fine, but once you realize it's repetition, the immersion and illusion are gone.

    How on earth do you know which platform I've played it on, I never mention that? How do you know I've played Battlefield? Don't make assumptions of my playstyles sir, as you know what they say about such approaches. Contrary to your belief, Battlefield is not my end-all, be-all multiplayer preference and even if I enjoyed it to that extent I would not simply call a game worse for not being like it. I've played a far wider variety of multiplayer shooters, plenty similar to Titanfall. Please refrain from transposing my gaming preferences based on what information you have created out of thin air.
  • armands_1943
    after 6 hours titanfall was dead to me
  • Rj_6805
    earlier than that
  • NorthwestGamer
    I'm glad to finally see somebody who isn't just bowing to the hype. With all of the talk around Titanfall I have felt like I was the only person who had no desire at all to buy it.

    There is nothing but gimmicks that separates this from other multiplayer games, and most of those game include single player, too. Sure it is a good game, but that's it. Nothing makes this above the level of a decent game.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you! Yeah, I try to remain skeptical in most cases, although the hype as fooled me a few times (glances reluctantly at Bayonetta). I'm glad you enjoyed the read!
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    You have a lot to say for someone that didn't play enough of the game to know the mode is called, "Pilot Hunter", and not, "Pilot Hunt". =p

    The game is awesome. I agree some new game modes would have been nice. The funny thing is how easy it is to complain and not actually offer a suggestion on how you would change a mode or offer some kind of brand new super amazing "innovative" game mode you've thought up.

    And It'd be really nice if people would stop throwing the word "repetitive" around. I bet you can't name a single game in existence that isn't.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    I'll be sure to program my PC to taser me next time I forget a game mode's exact name. ;)

    I'm not saying it isn't, nor am I not suggesting improvements. I point to several examples they could have used to improve the game, such as Resistance 3's meta-game and Bioshock 2's approach to bringing narrative to multiplayer. However, the point of the article is not to do Respawn's job for them, although I have pondered how they could at least modify their current gametypes with mutators akin to L4D2. If you wish I'd be happy to discuss additional solutions here. I'd love to see the game do better, I've loved my time with it and look forward to what the sequel holds in store. I just also believe it's genuinely got problems and that they are worth enough concern some gamers are starting to question the validity of the game. I started thinking about that and listening/reading a few things in relation to that (including Driftor's video I have embedded up at the beginning of the post), and came to realize what I have now written. I mean, realistically, this is not the death of the game's universe and/or franchise, it just as first-game, launch-title problems, just like Resistance: Fall of Man did.

    I'm not going to argue that most games are repetitive, I'm a huge fan of multiplayer so some amount of repetition is perfectly fine with me. However, when it comes apparent to you while playing them that it's repetitive, that means the illusion and immersion are both lost and instead it turns into a Skinner Box with nice window dressing. That's not good, like when a game may feel "generic" (my personal pet-peeve word) simply because either the gamer doesn't notice the unique elements or the unique elements are not pronounced enough in the gameplay itself.

New Cache - article_comments_article_13721
More Titanfall Content