Titanfall Review: A solid introduction into what will be a long-running franchise
Let's just be blunt and get right to the point. Do I like Titanfall? Yes. Do I love Titanfall? No. It's a good first effort in what is clearly meant to be an introduction into a long-running franchise that will undoubtedly change a few things from year-to-year. Maybe next year it will have you destroying zombies. The year after it will let you customize your Pilot's look. But that's the future. Let's discuss this Titanfall – which has some really cool elements, but comes up just short of being a great game.
Titanfall is more than just Call of Duty with mechs, but it's obviously influenced by the Activision franchise. It's not the revolutionary, definitive shooter that every outlet has claimed it to be, but it does empower the player.
The story behind Titanfall is... not much of one. The IMC and Militia are at war with each other, because it's a FPS and there has to be a conflict. The story is introduced through a short dual-sided campaign (one for the IMC, one for Militia), that takes about two hours for each one to complete. Titanfall is a multiplayer game. Even in the campaign, you're playing it on one side with five teammates, and you're going against six human enemies. It's a chance to get acquainted with each of the game's modes, but as far as delivering a story, it fails miserably.
I couldn't begin to tell you why the two sides are going at each other, but it doesn't really matter because no one cares. They just want to play the game, so why even have a story? Titanfall has as deep a story as MAG did. The “story” is delivered via voice acting in-between matches – which is kind of annoying when you're trying to focus on changing your Pilot and Titan loadouts – and through a couple minor changes on how you jump into the match. That's all. It's a waste of time.
That said, once you're into the match, you're having fun. I said that Titanfall empowers the player. This happens not through the Titans – which you might have thought – but when you're running around as a Pilot. The Parkour wall-running and double-jumping makes you feel like a super-human. I found my time as a Pilot more enjoyable than being in the Titan, and it's where player skill really takes effect. The controls handle exactly how you'd hope they would. The action feels like a mix of Call of Duty and Halo.
What I don't understand is the hard-on that players have for Titans. Sure playing in a Titan is not only cool, but needed when you're going up against multiple enemy Titans. But you know what's cooler than fighting in a Titan? Jumping onto one and taking it down as a Pilot. It's not some existential moment when you call a Titan down. It's just another tool to help you achieve victory.
Everything about Titans become cooler when you're a Pilot running among the colossal pieces of metal, or stalking them among the rooftops. The reason I say Titans are just another Tool is because everything is so balanced in the game; Titans aren't the end-all be-all. No weapon feels overpowered, and no Titan for that matter. Everything you'll encounter has a counter. And if you do feel like something is overpowered, it's just because that player is better than you. Damn you Ace of Aces.
There are also AI-controlled Grunts and Spectres populating the battlefield, making it feel more alive. Not only do they help you rack up points, but they add a sense of chaos to everything. Titanfall's combat wouldn't feel as impactful without them. Acting as minions in a MOBA do, killing these will get you Attrition points, experience points, help you complete challenges, and take time of your Titan respawn time.
The map design is superb across the five game modes. The maps are as vertical as they are horizontal, begging the player to get to higher ground with the Pilots maneuverability. There are multiple ways to flank the enemy and position yourself to take out Titans, so the key is to keep moving. In case the Parkour didn't give it away, you should always be moving. That said, I had some issues with spawning and getting killed immediately by someone standing right there.
Like I said, there are only five game modes, and that's a downfall for the game. There's Attrition, where you get points for killing Grunts, Pilots in Titans and the first to reach the point goal wins. Last Titan Standing is a best-of-five game mode everyone start in a Titan, and when one team runs out of Titans/Pilots they lose the round. Hardpoint Domination is your typical “hold this capture point and get points for it until you win” mode. There's a Capture the Flag mode, and then there's Pilot Hunter, where only killing Pilots will give you points. Titanfall will need to add more modes to keep the attention of FPS fans that are used to a robust selection.
Likewise, the options available to you for loadouts feels a little lacking, but that might be due to the fact that you're making loadouts for Pilots and Titans. You unlock newer weapons as you level up, and you get attachments for those weapons through challenges, such as enemies killed with said weapon. Then you have some more options to suit your playstyle, such as wall-running longer, or choosing a sprint ability instead of cloaking. There are also some choices for Titan core abilities and weapons, but Titanfall doesn't come close to the options available to you in games like Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts.
What Titanfall does have, though, are Burn Cards – cards that are equipped for a single game and grant you power-ups until you die. Some burn cards make you run faster, some give you more XP for shooting Pilots, and some give you Amped versions of your weapons. They are unlocked by completing challenges and earning levels. The real strategy comes in deciding when in a match to use a Burn Card. It's a different element for a FPS and another tool in the Batman utility belt for every Titanfall player. I've already said Titanfall is about player skill and empowering the player, and Burn Cards are part of that.
Titanfall isn't the most amazing shooter I've ever played. It doesn't live up to the unreasonable amount of hype it has received, but it is a fun game, and a good one at that. What it lacks in depth and variety, it makes up for in map design, maneuverability, action and balance. Titanfall is probably the most balanced and versatile shooter that equips players with multiple tools to get the job done. It's a really good first entry into a franchise that has a bright future, and I look forward to what Respawn Entertainment has planned for it.