Titanfall is easily one of the most anticipated games of the last ten years, and certainly the most anticipated of 2014. Last month, I got to spend a solid amount of time with the Titanfall beta, and while my time with it definitely indicated some irritating flaws, the game still stood out as an excellent example of the kind of quality we expect in games. Today, my goal is to see whether or not the final product lives up to the standards that the beta and all the game’s hype have set.
While Titanfall is by no means perfect, it does do very many things correctly. One of the more obvious features of Titanfall is the ability to play as either a Pilot (human character) or a Titan (giant mech). At first reaction, one would think “Why would I want to play as a measly little soldier when I could be in a huge, powerful Titan?” If that is your train of thought, I am afraid that you are sorely mistaken.
One of Titanfall‘s greatest achievements is the balance of power struck between Pilots and Titans. More specifically, neither combatant has a significant edge over the other. Both sides have equally viable tactics at their disposal that can be used to dispose of the other. Indeed, players can be just as successful and destructive as a Pilot just as they could be with a Titan. What this incredible balance does is allow for a game that is never one-sided, limited to whoever controls the most Titans at once. A more subtle accomplishment that this balance attains is the promotion of transition between types of combatants. Because both sides can equally successful in battle, Titanfall encourages players to switch between Pilots and Titans (whenever possible) so as to better adapt to the player’s immediate situation.
What makes this even better is just how fluid the transition between Pilots and Titans is. Entering your Titan is simple and navigating it feels just as easy. In the tutorial, players learn that Titan technology is designed to act as a natural extension of the Pilot and its abilities, and this ideal is fully and successfully realized in-game. Operating Titans is easy and does not feel any different than operating a Pilot (other than all the explosives that would put a Fourth of July show to shame).
One thing that is incredibly addicting about Titanfall is its incredibly quick pacing of combat. Walking is something of a death wish in this game, as players can always be shot down quickly, and if one does not remain in constant motion, they make themselves a fairly easy target to shoot down. To that end, the name of the game is moving: running, jumping, walljumping–constantly remaining in motion. Being shot down may not take very long, but the reverse is also true: shooting down an unwary opponent is a quick process, often achieved while still running yourself. By the time players have nabbed a kill, they will already be well on their way to find yet another opponent, allowing the cycle to continue.
Even the Titans, giant machines that one would assume to be clunky, are incredibly agile and nimble. While combat with the Titans is more in-your-face and explosive than with Pilots, movement and timing of your defenses are still incredibly important to winning a contest against another Titan. Even once players have been downed, respawning is incredibly quick and throws you instantly back into the action, making it feel as though there has been little interruption in playtime. This emphasis on speed and agility make it very easy to lose track of time, as matches feel like they move by quickly, despite being roughly fifteen minutes on average.
Sometimes it actually feels like a shame that matches are so fast-paced. Due to that pace, it is hard to ever find any sort of moment to appreciate how well-done the maps are. Nevertheless, they are definitely a beautiful sight to behold. Each of them is incredibly large, with no deficit or suffering to quality of detail. Even the slightest things are paid attention to, such as a computer monitor hiding in an office somewhere. Each map has a healthy balance between wide open spaces and hidden nooks and crannies to suit every player’s particular preference. This allows players to employ their own unique strategies, without having to worry about the limitations of any particular map. Varying degrees of elevation and accessibility to be on or in just about any structure you find necessitates some serious strategy and vigilance, as looking up becomes just as important as looking forward or back.
Still, no game is perfect, and one of Titanfall‘s most irritating flaws stems, in part, from just how large the maps are. As I discussed in my analysis of the beta, the maps being so large is not in itself a problem. Titanfall utilizes a 6v6 match system, with bots comprising the rest of the combatants. That means, at any given moment, there are only six opposing players for you to shoot at (not including Auto-Titans). What becomes frustrating then is just how infrequently you come across an opposing player. Indeed, a large map taken in tandem with few human players means significantly fewer opportunities to encounter one another. To that end, much of your shooting will be directed towards the countless bots scattered across the map. It would be difficult to label this as an issue had the bots had a more competent AI. But alas, this is not the case, as the AI on the bots is so poor that they come across more as target practice than an actual challenge.
Now, do not mistake me as believing that either the large maps or a 6v6 player scheme is a flaw. The maps, size and all, are fantastic, and I truly do not find an issue with the 6v6 system. When considered individually and independently of one another, these things are fine. The problem arises when the two are considered in tandem. At this point, their synergy is frustrating at best.
Though it would ultimately be unfair to acknowledge that, as frustrating as the bots-and-maps issue may be for more experienced players of the genre, there is some purpose behind it. Titans are not available at any given moment. Before you can deploy your Titan, it must be “ready” (determined by a simple time mechanic). Several things affect this time, one of which is kills. For newer players who are not as skilled as some more experienced players, landing kills would be difficult were it not for the bots. What this essentially does is allow for even newer players to grab kills that allow them to achieve that oh-so-satisfying feeling of Titanfall just a little bit faster. Indeed, getting these easy kills also provides a feeling of satisfaction to less-skilled players that they are still contributing to the match.
One fun thing that Titanfall provides for is a good amount of customization in terms of loadouts. While there are several base Pilot types and Titans, there are a lot of options to use when creating your character. Players can choose among a variety of weapon types and ordinances (think of these as just special powers) for both Pilots and Titans. This allows for players to create a character that is tailored to their specific play styles and interests. Unfortunately, customization does not extend very far beyond loadout and selecting your character’s gender. For a purely multiplayer experience, allowing players to fully customize their own characters and give their combatants a sense of individuality would have been nice. Nonetheless, I imagine this was not included because it would not jive well with the background narrative of two military, regimented factions at war with one another.
Thankfully enough, Respawn and Titanfall did indeed deliver on the high quality that came to be expected from this game’s immense amount of hype and marketing. While highly-advertised games often run the risk of not living up to expectations, it is very refreshing to see that Titanfall goes above and beyond in terms of quality. Boasting an exciting, fast, and unique gameplay experience, Titanfall is certainly a game that absolutely anyone with an Xbox or PC owes themselves to play.
[+Power balance][+Character transitions][+Pacing, movement][+Beautiful, functional maps][+Loadout customization][-Bots & 6v6 don’t synergize well with large maps]