Truly new first-person shooters don’t come around too often, especially from well-known and esteemed development teams, so expectations for Titanfall were sky-high. What they’ve produced is one of the best new IP to come out for years, but one that doesn’t quite shake the Earth completely either.
The premise of Titanfall is rather simple, but the game does a good job of giving things a bit of depth. In a world far away, two factions: the IMC and the Militia are squaring off against each other in Earth-like battlefields. The futuristic setting is varied with some traditional desert and urban environments, which are visually stunning and fun to play on. The matches themselves take place between two teams of six pilots, which are human controlled players. They’re joined by sporadically spawning AI minions, Grunts and Spectres. The key to the game though are Titans, which are mechs that can be called in to battle from orbit when enough time goes by. Players can choose to pilot (see where it comes from now?) these mechs, or go ahead on foot whilst their Titan roams the battlefield. Despite the huge mismatch in pilots’ and titans’ firepower, games are usually rather balanced even when a team has the upper hand in terms of mechs. Yes, sometimes when your team is down by a few titans it can get overwhelming, but that’s a punishment that really should be in the game. It does take strategy to avoid Titans if you are on foot, and you have no chance of dispatching with one alone, but it can definitely be done and being a pilot without a steed isn’t a death sentence by any means. I was worried about how the game would handle this sense of balance when I started playing, but my fears were unfounded. The game is one of the most fun multiplayer shooters that I’ve played.
The game is multiplayer only, with a flimsy “campaign” offering merely a few cutscenes and some lobby dialogue to frame the multiplayer matches with some sort of context. Game modes are traditional fare, more or less, with Hardpoint Domination, Capture the Flag, Attrition & Pilot Hunter (Team Deathmatch variants) and Last Titan Standing being relatively self-explanatory. These modes are fun, but I rarely go past Attrition or Hardpoint, as they are easily the best, most fast-paced and most worth playing. I love the traditional capture and defend dynamics of Hardpoint, and feel right at home capturing flags and then sprinting away for the next one. The other modes don’t really have that thrill. Last Titan Standing is a much less intense than it should be, as living after your titan is doomed to death really takes the edge off being functionally eliminated from the game. For a multiplayer only full-priced game, the range of game modes is rather lacklustre, and it could be a bit of an issue a few days down the line in terms of gameplay. Hopefully it’s something that DLC will be able to fix.
We all know that Titanfall’s roots come from the Call of Duty series. With a development team that is Infinity Ward, circa Modern Warfare 2, respawned, the game has a lot of similarities with the almighty franchise. I mean that in a good way – as the game’s shooting mechanics are as fluid as could be, which is a trademark of CoD. What really surprised me about the game is how it appears to be an uncanny crossover of Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo – taking the gameplay elements of each and fusing them together really well. In that sense (and also with the style of the factions and the maps) the game bears a strong resemblance to Killzone on the PlayStation. Players and weapons have a weight that Battlefield games normally offer, and I think Titanfall does a better job of getting that feeling across but not overegging the pudding. Titanfall expands upon Halo’s manoeuvrability in a big way – with the pilot being perhaps the most agile character ever seen in a multiplayer shooter. Each pilot is equipped with a jetpack, and that means that they can jump for a considerable distance and then do so again if they want to. Pilots can run on vertical walls to get around, which is much faster than hoofing it on the ground. I’m still floored by how fun it is to get around the maps in Titanfall, as basically any jump or run you would ever want to do can be made – it’s just a case of mashing the jump button enough. The incredible movement in this game is its biggest triumph.