On the shelf, Titanfall looks like something completely different to what it is. Looking at the artwork, I assumed I was getting some kind of Neon Genesis Evangelion/Mechwarrior hybrid with a dark yet beautiful plot, probably where the protagonist’s family are all slaughtered.
Ironically, if I had known nothing about it and just gone on the assumptions I had I would have bought it straight away. I hesitated because I heard a lot of things about the game I didn’t like: “Multiplayer only”, “successor to the Call of Duty franchise”, “Yes, You’ll need an Origin account to play this”. If it wasn’t for quite a few people I trust telling me how good the game is, I would not have bothered with it. This is kind of the flavour of this review. I’m a little bit out of my comfort zone, but trying to keep an open mind.
If, by some chance, you don’t know about Titanfall yet, think Modern Warfare crossed with Pacific Rim with a good measure of Mirror’s Edge thrown in. You are generic “Titan Pilot” on a team of 5 other pilots. Use a combination of park our, gunplay and Evas (Titans. I mean Titans) to beat the other team in either straight up death matches or capture the flag-ish hard point missions.
I would tell you about the teams but the teams don’t matter. At all. The game can’t even be bothered to pretend they matter. One team is a bunch of assholes for oppressing everyone and the other are a another bunch of assholes who murder everyone. Plus the campaign makes you play through twice, once on each side, so you can decide which group of assholes you hate least.
The campaign is where I had my first moment of confusion. It seems strange but the game’s plot doesn’t care if you win or lose the current mission, the plot will move forward either way. It’s an interesting choice to have made because while the game’s plot advances, it soon becomes clear that you have no impact in the story.
I am very much a story gamer. The experience I am getting out of a game is akin to reading a good book or watching a good film. I’m in it for the drama and the characters, even to some degree the cheese factor. I like seeing the hero crush the villain. I like seeing a new world and the people that live there and what the rules are there and this game meets zero of those requirements because it’s shooting for a completely different audience. They’ve already MADE the assumption that you aren’t in it for the intrigue or characters the fertile setting has to offer, you’re in it to smash your friends (or complete strangers, we’ll come back to that) into a gooey red paste. And that’s fair enough, a lot of gamers don’t care about why things are happening at all. What’s weird though is that they tried to justify it with this half hearted plot with an old grizzly marine heading a militia to defend against this evil galactic empire and none of it matters at all. It’s just so much white noise trying to mask that we’re in just another military desert.
The multiplayer only aspect of the game was another thing keeping me away. I don’t play competitive online games because I’m not very good. It’s always been a bugbear for me that when I enter a game I won’t have as much fun because I’ll be against players who take this much more seriously than I do, have more time to get the hang of the objectives, the maps and what they can exploit to win. Guess what happened?
It’s taken me this long to get a copy of the game and reach level 8 (two levels before you get to customise your Titan, which I am really looking foward to), and the game’s matching algorithm set me up against a team that were between levels 35 and 40. Considering the bonuses one acquires for levelling up, I was blown to smithereens more times than I care to admit. This is definitely an area for improvement. I mean I have a life and two jobs! I can’t be expected to play one game for a week straight in the hopes that I can last longer than 20 seconds at a time. Can’t the game match me with opponents (and team members for that matter) with equal skill?
With all that said, Titanfall itself is a remarkably solid experience. The weapons all feel good to use, the wallrunning and double jumping movement system feels fluid and while you’re playing you’re having a good time. After the first three or so minutes (when your Titan becomes available in each round) things really start to pick up.
At first I wondered why you don’t start the mission piloting but having the direct comparison from being a soldier with a gun to being a hulking mass of death really does enhance the game experience. The timer to more Titan Time counts down after death/destruction, and can be lowered by completing the mission’s objectives. This translates into an incentive to do well and I really like that. This is probably the main reason for the multiplayer focus. In a traditional single-player game you would probably have to wait for scripted sequences to call your Titan down and that would really hurt the overall experience.
Most of the problems I have with the game boil down to not being very familiar with this type of game, and can’t therefore be rightfully held as flaws. It’s a fun fps with great gimmicks in both the Titans and the pilots’ Parkour movement system. It’s not the most welcoming game to someone new to the genre but if you can handle a few losses and the arbitrary nature of the matching algorithm you should really enjoy yourself.
It’s not what I would call an epic to appeal to those craving another Bioshock or The Last of Us, but if you can enjoy dropping a robot on top of your opponents you’ll probably find something to enjoy.