Titanfall dropped on March 11th, 2014 by the creators of former lovechild Call of Duty. It brings science fiction, gigantic war machines, and vertical combat to the battlefield to pit a handful of players against one another in an immersive new universe.
The tutorial kickstarts the process by introducing refined controls and fluid gameplay under ideal circumstances. The wall jumping process makes you feel fast and powerful, but when you’re launched into the battlefield a lot of that is thrown out the window in favor of rapid button mashing which often results in bouncing opponents or missed wall jumps. It’s part of the charm.
While the controls might be refined, one of the greatest achievements might be in restraint, with a limited number of weapons there are not thousands of options to “figure out.” One of the challenges in having a balanced shooter is that weapons are diverse enough to cover each spectrum of armed combat: Melee, Short range, medium range, and long range.
With only a handful of weapons available at the start, the carbine, smart pistol, shotgun, the decisions focus more on the individual play style and less on the “type” of weapon that will dominate everyone on the battlefield. A few pumps of the shotgun, a steady stream of carbine fire, or a solid three locks of the smart pistol define the starting weapons in the game, leaving none of them overly powerful or unbalanced.
As your ranks progress you will unlock enhanced versions of these guns, including the addition of DMR options into the repertoire. Your style will define your choice, and in a battlefield that is as much vertical as it is horizontal you’ll often find yourself evenly matched as you fit your run-paths to your firing-paths.
Titanfall made the bold statement of reducing gameplay to six versus six when the zeitgeist of gaming has demanded more, more, and more. Rants were made regarding Battlefield’s increased number of combatants while Titanfall shifts it in a new direction. Is this good for the game? The genre?
I would argue that it’s one of the most necessary shifts in the shooter genre at the moment.
I still reminisce the days of Battlefield: Vietnam or Unreal Tournament on the PC where games would be riddled with bots to intermingle with player-controlled opponents. The AI may not have been as bright back in those days, but their directive was simple: “If it moves, shoot it.”
Titanfall attempts to recreate that by dropping into the environment a handful of pods filled with squads of NPC combatants that fill the void between encountering players. It offers the opportunity to stack a few extra points, provides some gamers an opportunity to contribute if they are not as skilled, and it fills what would otherwise be an empty battlefield.
If you drudge your way into my critics corner, I would argue that the strength of AI controlled units could be ramped up just a bit. You’ll rarely see an AI controlled grunt or spectre take down a pilot, and it encourages the mentality that the AI controlled units are “junk” enemies to farm for points. If they were made slightly more dangerous then players might start to consider them a legitimate threat. As it stands now, you’ll see pilots charge into groups of up to 6 grunts and jump kick each of them. They might fill up space on the map, but they certainly don’t threaten the space they occupy.
Titanfall is by no means a contender for game of the year, but it is one of the fresher takes on the shooter genre that I’ve seen in years. It’s a must-play game, and it will likely stimulate Xbox One sales. PC fanatics will be delighted at the visual fidelity the game provides, and Xbox One players will find themselves with hours of gameplay.
Just don’t expect a campaign or legitimate storyline. The game’s “campaign” mode provides extended audio logs and slight modifications to the online matches, but they unfold through multiplayer matches where the outcome is meaningless (unless you’re striving for the achievement). It’s a cute experiment, but it provides little to the game other than some context to the game’s factions.
Pick up this game. Drop your titan. Have fun for hours.