Posted by Ken Barnes
To say that Xbox One owners have been waiting for Titanfall to arrive is probably one of the understatements of the year. To say that a few gamers who have been thinking about taking the step up to the Xbox One have been waiting to see how Respawn’s new multiplayer-only FPS would fare is also in the same ballpark, understatement-wise. The news is positive for both of those camps, though. Firstly, Titanfall is here. Secondly, Titanfall is a triumph.
Without running away with ourselves, it’s safe to say that while the addition of the giant-sized Titans to the standard FPS mix are revolutionary, that isn’t all that Titanfall brings to the table. Sure, the periodically-available mechs split the game into two very distinct sections multiple times throughout the course of a round, but there are stacks of little tweaks and polishes that push the game head and shoulders above the crowd. Take something as simple as spawn points as an example. In other games, many players get frustrated when they spawn right next to a camping enemy, only to be picked off within seconds for a cheap death. Not once during our time so far with Titanfall has this occurred. Your player is spawned away from the opposition, with former spawn points being considered “unsafe” if enemies are lurking, and therefore ruled out. It makes the whole experience seem fairer and more intelligently thought out, whilst also ensuring that you have time to consider your approach before heading into battle. Other titles have tried similar approaches, but none have managed to get it done as well as this.
Also of note are “Burn Cards.” These are modifiers that can be carried into each match, which may improve your primary weapon’s ability to inflict damage, or allow you to respawn in the exact spot in which you died so that you can have a crack at a revenge kill. You can only play a card once and can only load them up one at a time, so there’s an extra level of strategy thrown in. You might start off a round by playing a card that causes your Titan’s spawn time to be cut every time you hit an enemy Titan. When you die, that card expires and if you wish to use one, you can select which of your remaining two cards should be played for the duration of your next life. Cards can be earned by performing well in battle, levelling up, or completing any of the hundreds of micro-challenges that are available. Again, subtlety and polish are the keys here. Were the cards horrendously overpowered, they would have destroyed the game, but they aren’t. A slightly amped-up SMG, for example, might provide an edge for a short spell and get you an extra kill or two, but it isn’t going to be enough to completely defeat an enemy battalion, or completely ruin someone else’s experience as you mow them down again and again.
But of course, the main added ingredient that Titanfall brings to the table are the Titans themselves. These hulking great lumps of steel are often the difference between winning and losing a round, and with the ability to customise your Titan’s loadouts, there’s nuance to be found. Battling in a Titan is a surprisingly tactical affair. You’d expect a giant mech to just go barrelling in with all guns blazing, but that’s often not the best way of doing things. Finding cover in order to preserve your Titan’s shields and deciding when to bail out of a failing machine are just two things that you’ll need to master in order to stay ahead of the game. Added abilities, such as the option of making your Titan self-destruct in order to damage nearby enemies when you eject are also nice to have and add a further level of planning to things.
As a pilot against such beasts, the game needed to provide at least some way of levelling the playing field. So, while there’s a certain risk-versus-reward element to attempting it – due to the fact that Titans can easily stomp you to death – pilots are able to “rodeo” these robotic behemoths. Do it to an enemy, and you can rip off their shield cover and destroy their circuitry with your gun. Do it to an ally, and you can ride around on their shoulder, taking out enemies as and when you can with the added protection that comes from…y’know…having a giant war machine covering you.
Without the Titans, Titanfall is a solid FPS that is easily right up there with the best of them. Throw the Titans into the mix though, and you’ve got a game that will eat up hour after hour of your life. We’ve demoed the game to a couple of gamers who aren’t traditionally interested in multiplayer FPS titles, and they’ve all been hooked within a round or two. There’s absolutely no better advertisement for a game than that.
Looking at the game more critically, there are some faults to be found. Each player gains XP by completing challenges and taking part in matches, and this eventually leads to them reaching level 50, being awarded a prestige rank - of which there are ten – and being set back to level 1. Reaching the second prestige rank is easy enough – you just have to reach level 50. Reaching prestige levels above that though also require you to complete challenges, some of which are fiendishly tough and somewhat luck-based, meaning that a lot of players will at some point hit a bottleneck that they can’t break through, through no fault of their own. It’s nice to see that Respawn have done something other than awarding ranks to the players who can afford to put in the most time, but a little more polish could have been added to the system.
On top of that, there’s a fair amount of graphical tearing to be seen. We’ve got no problems with the much-ballyhooed “lower” resolution or the framerate, but right from the outset you’ll see evidence of tearing that is somewhat unsettling. Whether or not this can be fixed by way of a patch remains to be seen, but it is something that is of genuine concern, and is also something that is easily noticeable by even the most novice of gamers.
But those minor flaws aside, Titanfall is everything that we wanted it to be. Big, brash, loud, addictive, and undeniably fun.
Titanfall is a genuine improvement on the standard multiplayer FPS fare that we’ve come to expect. By turning the game’s campaign mode into a series of well-balanced multiplayer matches, Respawn ease you into the gameplay slowly. Once you’ve ploughed through those 18 rounds though, you’ll realise that you’re unashamedly hooked.