It’s no great secret that Titanfall had high expectations and a great deal of weight on its shoulders. After rolling out an exceptional online beta, many had predicted it would be the game to boost the Xbox One sales into the stratosphere.
So does it live up to the hype?
I’ll be honest with you, right off the bat. Titanfall is easily the most I’ve ever enjoyed a multi-player shooter.
Taking place across a range of planets on the fictional ‘Frontier’, a desolate corner of space run by evil conglomerate the IMC, Titanfall spends little time outlining a particular in-depth plot. The long and short of it, explained to the player in a brief opening cut-scene not much longer than two minutes, is that humans have colonized a bunch of a planets with the intent to mine them for resources, and a war has broken out between the IMC and the civilian militia, in this far away galaxy, in the future.
A key part of this war is the use of Titans, giant mech suits that plummet to the battlefield mid-skirmish, for players to jump into and unleash carnage.
What this translates to is 6 on 6 online multiplayer battles. And they are, quite simply, terrific.
In much the same way that Halo: Reach changed the way we thought about conventional shooters with the use of equipment, Titanfall seems to relish in rebuilding the dynamics of a FPS from the ground up.
The first key step here is the addition of pilot free-running – allowing pilots to dart around the battlefield through use of running up and along walls, double jumping and clinging to surfaces around the battlefield. This dynamic is fantastic for a myriad of reasons. Not only does it make moving around the battlefield genuinely very, very fun (much like a platformer), it forces you to play an FPS in three dimensions.
Not being confined to looking for what is directly on your level, or being trapped by a sniper that somehow managed to find higher ground, means you explore the space above and below you at all times, completely changing the way you play.
On top of that, making the pilots small and nimble means the David and Goliath battle of Titan versus Human doesn’t feel completely impossible. Killing a Titan from the ground is challenging, sure, but very possible and immensely satisfying.
Titans are a complete game-changer too. Many games across the annals of this industry have toyed with the idea of mech suits, but this is easily the best it’s ever been done.
At all times, you have a Titan cool down time that is reduced by killing pilots or enemy bots, capturing hardpoints, or generally achieving game objectives.
When you make this timer hit zero, you can call your Titan in – it plummets to the ground in a spectacular fashion – and you jump into the cockpit, a flawless transition from soldier to machine.
Each Titan can be customized (to a certain degree, one that might disappoint certain players due to it’s reasonable shallowness), but each one offers a might advantage to the battlefield. You can mow down humans with your Titan fairly easily – although each pilot is always armed with a back-up Anti-Titan weapon – but the real challenge comes in the form of fighting other Titians.
Some of the best moments in this game come from Titan battles, be it pounding each other with giant metal fists or catching an opponents missiles with an energy shield, only to fling them right back.
Pilot customization is also a huge elements of this game, and not once does it feel like the humans are any less of a focus for the game than their giant robot accomplices.
Pilots are offered up a range of weapons, ordinance and equipment combinations which are unlocked over time, and be tailored to fit any style of FPS play.
Again, the amount of weapons and customization options you have is nowhere near the level you might find in a game like Call of Duty, but this is okay for the most part, as the options you’re given do a terrific job of covering all the stylistic bases you’re likely to need. Further play options come in the form of ‘Burn Cards’ – cards you can equip prior to your games, which allow for a special bonus to be activated during your next spawn. This can be anything from an upgraded rifle to a free immediate Titan, and is a great addition to the game to keep the always fast-paced battles that extra bit exciting.
I hadn’t realised that Titanfall didn’t have a single player campaign until I actually booted the game up, and I have to say, as much as I would rate Titanfall almost flawless otherwise, I find the lack of literally any single player content, somewhat of a slap in the face.
Paying $120 for what, on paper anyway, is essentially half a game (when you compare it to games like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4, which have a lengthy single player and a solid multiplayer) feels somewhat unacceptable to me.
Sure, the game does offer a Campaign of sorts, with a collection of themed Missions based around playing as either side of the war and introducing characters via video communications in the top right corner of your screen.
But these serve as more of a distraction than anything else.
Does the lack of single player content detract from the quality of Titanfall? No – it’s still comfortably the best shooter available for current gen consoles and the best online shooter in years.
But with the addition of a compelling single player campaign – the design and storyline for which already seem to exist – this could have been one of the greatest games of all time, held in the same regard as Halo.
So, I’ll keep playing Titanfall because it’s so, so, so awesome, but it just feels like kind of a disappointment that because there’s nothing to hold onto here in a story sense, once I stop playing, I won’t retain anything – whereas Master Chief and Cortana created something wonderful, Titanfall is just a very, very flashy adrenaline pumping war sim.
Part of my distrust with online only games is that New Zealand so often lacks the servers and internet speed required to run the game properly, and we end up with a half working product and no offline alternative.
But I’m happy to say that, aside from a few hiccups that saw me unable to join games on the day of release, the servers seem robust and ready to deal with our country’s lack lustre internet, which is a huge relief.
This is somehow made even more impressive by how good Titanfall looks – landscapes are so beautifully vivid, and more often than not so much is going on at any given time, yet nothing ever drops below looking magnificent.
I’d love to give Titanfall a 9.5 or a 10, I really would.
But in this day and age, the idea of paying full price for a game that (while excellent, so, so excellent) must be played online, just seems sloppy – as if it was rushed out the door incomplete. Other reviewers have echoed this sentiment more harshly than I have here, so let me be clear: this game is excellent at what it does, and you should definitely play it.