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