How appropriate is it that Microsoft’s first giant game of 2014 features giants? Or, Titans rather. Arguably the most anticipated game of this spring, Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall, launched this past Tuesday. Despite its colossal hype, does Titanfall deserve all the pre-emptive praise? Well, let’s drop now. Standby for Titanfall review.
What Is It?
Titanfall does nothing to confuse you; it’s a multiplayer game through and through. The devs clearly focused their time and energy on multiplayer, and it paid off. However, you know how if you go to the gym and only bench press weights? Other muscles will not develop as much as much strength. Titanfall suffers a similar fate with its campaign.
The campaign begins with a montage of our current world entering a war-torn future. At the end, you’re suddenly assigned to either a fuel-stealing Militia faction or a fuel-defending Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) faction. There are some voice overs that explain the situation as you wait in the pre-match lobby, but only as though you’ve been involved with the story for some time, so you don’t necessarily get the full picture. You’re also introduced to the campaign’s first stereotypical battle situation involving the fuel.
After the introduction, it’s the usual fare: lies, faction changes, new discoveries. All of which are going on while you fight, but seemingly in spite of instead of as a result of your Hardpoint Domination or Attrition matches (the only two modes campaign uses). There’s just not a whole lot of explanation as to why the story matters. I took a look at the training mode, but it offered no insight.
You’ll play the campaign from both viewpoints but not to very differentiating ends. There isn’t much more story to learn from one versus the other. I never got the sense you were supposed to side with one faction either. You simply spend a couple hours fighting as the Militia before wrapping up another two hours as the IMC. To a point, that’s beneficial because you can easily ignore the narrative and simply focus on what truly matters in Titanfall: killing your enemy in hectic fashion.
Why Should I Care?
If you’re an Xbox One owner, there’s the very good chance Titanfall was one of the primary factors in your purchasing decision. After months of waiting, Respawn gives you that addicting multiplayer game you wanted.
The game is fairly straightforward, with a little more parkour than the average shooter. Outside of the campaign outlined above, you have your classic multiplayer that we gave some earlier impressions on during Titanfall’s beta. You’ll find the beta’s offerings of Attrition, Hardpoint Domination and Last Titan Standing in the final product, in addition to Pilot Hunter, where only pilot kills increase your team’s score. I can’t really say the final product fleshes out the game modes any more than what the beta offered, but it didn’t really need to do so; the beta offered fairly substantial game modes.
What truly gets fleshed out are the unlocking of Titans, ranks and weapons. There are three variations of Titans that can match any play style: the well-balanced Atlas, the nimble Stryder and the tank-like Ogre. You can unlock several customizable slots for both your pilot and Titan so you can tinker with what works best for you in battle.
As is tradition in shooters, you’ll get more weapons as you progress in rank and complete varied challenges. There are a fair amount of choices, but nothing near the likes of games such as Halo or Call of Duty. It works for Titanfall, though. The game’s straightforward approach isn’t really doing much to innovate the genre, but it’s not stalling growth either. I didn’t feel an immediate need for more, but surely after a couple months some new content would be welcome (at least three packs of paid content has been confirmed).
Even in situations where the game may be frustrating — I impressively managed to win no matches throughout the entire Militia side of the campaign — you’ll still feel comfortable and wanting to return. Balance was an area I stressed in my beta preview write–up and the final product delivers that very well. You’ll be able to move around throughout expansive maps without having to deal with too many bad luck situations, such as respawning directly next to enemies. In general, you’ll be given some breathing room to defend yourself. If you find running across a map too daunting, hitch a ride on a nearby Titan (or rodeo an enemy Titan and blast its “brains” out; I had quite a bit of fun doing that).
Titanfall isn’t without its minor issues, though. I found identification to be a bit of a hindrance. In the midst of chaos, you’ll want to shoot anything that moves the second you see it, but it can sometimes be hard to determine what you’re really looking at. I occasionally wasted ammo firing upon teammates because the friendly marker wasn’t terribly obvious. Granted, that could be some personal ineptitude as well, so I can’t completely fault the game for that. Graphically, some of the non-Titan character models are odd. They look great from a technical point of view, but are just generic in tone.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
Titanfall easily turns into a time consumer in a good way. Matches flow between 90 second intervals, enough to let you review your stats and equip some burn cards or unlocked weapons. Then suddenly, you’re back in a match and not feeling the desire to back out of it. Rank progression is very manageable, and can quickly generate that “just…one…more…match” attitude.
So is Titanfall the killer app that everybody was expecting? Not necessarily. I don’t mind games exposing their narratives through multiplayer functionality quite like this, but this one might have placed too much emphasis on multiplayer and too little on story. But for what Titanfall does, it does really well: be an addictively fun multiplayer package that will keep you wanting to come back for more.