“Your Titan is ready to drop, pilot.”
I cast a glance left, right, and check behind me. My teammates are dashing around the battlefield, shots are being fired from all sorts of wild weapons in every direction, and behind me sits a group of IMC Grunts who are possibly there to support me, or perhaps they’re just scenery with firearms.
Shrugging, I call in my mechanical beast. It shoots out of the sky like a missile, plummeting toward the earth at a rapid clip. It lands with a thundering impact, killing an unfortunate enemy who was unlucky enough to run underneath. Without a bit of remorse for the poor fellow, I hop into my Titan and charge into the heat of the Hardpoint contest.
The above is what you might call a typical game of Titanfall, probably this year’s most highly-anticipated title to date, which launched in March on the Xbox One and PC, and in April on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game is an all-out war between Militia forces and the aforementioned IMC, and the theatre of war is on space colonies that the IMC has been trying to mine for resources. The Militia, unhappy with the way the company has been treating the land and its individuals, has decided to fight back.
The game was produced by Respawn Entertainment, a new game studio formed from the ashes of the Infinity Ward team behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but, even though some of the videos one can find on Youtube and other video mediums might suggest, the game is, as any player would agree, far more than “Call of Duty with mechs.”
First and foremost, the entire game, Campaign and Multiplayer modes included, is multiplayer. Where the campaign has some story mixed into it with audio narrative being spoken over the heat of the battle, the multiplayer attempts to trim off the few frills this mode has, reducing the game to mostly just the battle, though the extraction is still important if the team has lost, and the implied backstory hangs over the battle in any event.
The environments in the game are big. There are lots of tall buildings, some featuring three and four stories plus a roof, plenty of space in the open ground for both Titans and pilots to move, and it is filled with not only the player-controlled pilots, but also by AI controlled bots that are a part of both teams. Grunts are humanoid guys that look very similar to a given faction’s pilots, while Spectres are robots that can be hacked by enemies. On the whole, these enemies are not major threats, even in groups, as they mostly look around while crouched, and only sparsely shoot at enemy players, who can often wipe out an entire group of them with little effort. However, while a pilot is wasting ammo by shooting up groups of these AIs, another player can swoop in and kill the enemy pilot, showing that the AIs are indeed great distractions at the very least.
Starting out at level 1, a player earns levels through completing in game challenges and objectives, just as in Call of Duty or Battlefield. After the first few games using the default classes, the player unlocks the ability to customize many aspects of their pilot: the primary and secondary weapons, with several attachments for each such as sights or extended magazines; an anti-Titan weapon, usually a rocket launcher of some sort equipped for destroying the game’s big bad mechs; tactical abilities, such as Cloak, to make a pilot go temporarily invisible; ordinance, such as frag grenade, to help with infantry; and perk abilities, one for both the pilot and Titan. A pilot may prefer an extra grenade, or the ability to recharge their tactical power faster, and a Titan can have the ability to see all of the AI bots on his minimap at all times, for instance. After some time, the player can create custom Titans as well, selecting both weapon and chassis with different tactics in mind. Throw on top of all this the rather original Burn Cards, which are cards that offer various one-time-use, one-life perks that can be deployed in game to do anything from giving the user a more powerful version of a weapon they wield or amp up the XP earned from shooting Titans, and this game sizes up to much more than any facile comparison to other popular, fast-paced shooters.
Most important in the actual gameplay are the player controlled pilots, who are capable of far more than the everyday soldiers of most other FPS games. In Titanfall, parkour movements play a huge role, and allow players to navigate the maps in ways never previously thought possible. The pre-game training introduces the player to a myriad of ways to move through the in-game world, showcasing wall runs, wall hangs (in which a pilot grabs onto the wall with one hand and shoots with the other,) wall run combos, double jumps, and mantling moves that are not only helpful when it comes to getting to certain areas and outmaneuvering foes, but also vital to gameplay in some cases. If the mission has been failed and a pilot needs to make a hasty and possibly stealthy retreat, he or she will have to both avoid the enemy onslaught and get up to the extraction shuttle, which is usually hovering on a rooftop far above the heat of the battle.
The Titan combat is probably the most unique and identifying feature of the game. First comes the actual “Titan fall,” where the Titan drops onto the battlefield from space. Second, there are the several different guns and ordinance types available to the Titans that differ from the pilots. Thus, instead of grenades, a Titan may launch a volley of rockets. Titans cannot sprint or jump like pilots can, but instead are capable of dashes that can get them out of (and into) trouble. Titans are capable of melee attacks as well, which can result in an execution of the opposing Titan’s pilot if used on the opposing Titan while it is in its “doomed” state- when it will inevitably blow up. The other pilot can either choose to keep fighting through being doomed, or can eject and shoot him or herself far above the battlefield before falling back to the ground.
All in all, it’s a fun game. It’s a great game. It’s lacking in places, such as its less than intelligent AI bots that get boring to shred through rather quickly, even when intermittently encountering other pilots. The story is barely there, emphasizing heavily, as many FPS games seem to do anymore, the multiplayer, which is, for its being the entirety of the game, somewhat shallow. Games like Call of Duty have far more weapons and perks available to select, giving the players a lot more versatility and sheer possible combinations to try in battles, whereas Titanfall seems to fall back on two or three “bread and butter weapons.” But the parkour abilities and Titans are very unique and add a fair amount of intrigue to the game, and make it worth a few good plays, and the classic FPS gun game is always fun, too.
Am I hooked on it after playing for a couple of days? Somewhat. Is it worth picking up? Probably. This is definitely a title you’ll want to give a chance. Most available videos do not really do it justice, just as this review probably can’t. At the end of the day, Titanfall gets a solid 7.75 out of 10 from me. A solid first effort from the Respawn team.