Game Review: Titanfall [PC/Xbox One]
This game review was written using a PC retail copy.
It’s truthfully taken me a long time to write this. Not for lack of anything to say, just that, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Titanfall.
There are certain occurrences that simply do not go together in gaming. JRPGs and mature dialogue; 2D fighting games with a deep and involving story line; MOBA games with a friendly community. Respawn Entertainment has endeavoured to be the exception to the rule, by delivering epic single player moments, in a multiplayer game. It’s almost a fool proof concept. Running along walls, using a jet pack to boost through windows, cutting your own path through tight spaces and then finally jumping in to a huge armoured suit with a weapon load-out that would make Iron Man a little jealous.
Titanfall takes place on 15 superbly designed maps, compact buildings and narrow walkways surrounded by roads or warehouses within the usual array of differing locales. Jumping from wall to wall and finding ever more optimal routes throughout the battle make for some great moments. Add to that your choice of ordinance, firearms and some specialised abilities and this all starts to sound quite familiar.
This is where you would expect me to start talking about killstreaks, right? Kill a bunch of people and call down an air strike. What if instead of calling down a killstreak, what if you are the killstreak? That’s where Titanfall becomes more than just another shooter.
It’s true that the parkour aspect of the game is somewhat out of the ordinary. The concept itself has of course been done before. As I said in the beta impressions (link), it’s not totally dissimilar to Mirror’s Edge, and in fairness, it’s just as precisely executed.
It is without a doubt though, that calling down a walking tank is where the game departs from modern military shooters. And it’s a joy; oh it’s such a joy to hear those words. After sprinting over roof tops with no real protection other than quick reactions, feeling pinned back by an overwhelming force of NPCs and enemy players. Just a single button press can completely change the play style.
Standby for Titanfall.
The transition is handled beautifully. Your large metal saviour reaches down and pulls you in to an armoured sanctuary. The doors close and then light up as your view screens. The lightning quick movement of the pilot replaced with a lumbering, mighty stomping beast. Instead of a booster pack to help navigate buildings, a large powerful thrust hurls your warrior sideways, backwards or forwards. The feeling of power and safety instead of anxious twitch shooting. In this maze, the rat has a large gun and power armour.
Titanfall is played out through either the Campaign mode or Classic mode. The latter is straight up multiplayer . Jump right in and start shooting. The Campaign mode is where we were promised narrative and breath-taking single player moments. Unfortunately, this is where some cracks start to show.
The Campaign mode was something I was really looking forward to. It was mouth-watering to think of a multiplayer shooter being played out with engaging narrative, followed with huge action film style moments. Having played through the Campaign mode, I struggle to see much difference between that and the Classic mode. It’s not totally devoid of cool moments; one particular map sees some of the pilots being scooped up by dinosaur-like flying creatures. Although after the first few minutes of the game, all of the scene setting is forgotten, and it’s business as usual.
Characters will continue talking backwards and forwards, but it’s of no consequence. It doesn’t really add anything and I didn’t feel any kind of connection, emotional or otherwise, to any of the characters. I appreciate what Respawn was trying to do here, I really do, but they just haven’t delivered on their promise at all.
Don’t misunderstand, it doesn’t detract from the experience, it adds to it, but only slightly. Although it’s not something I would expect anyone to go back to.
The Classic mode is not without its issues either. Again, the game isn’t broken or unbalanced; it’s just that there isn’t much to it. Remember, this is a £40 game, even on PC. If I’m paying top dollar for a game, I expect there to be a large amount of content. That’s what it boils down to with Titanfall, the content we have, is to a high standard, but other than a few game modes and the 15 maps, that’s pretty much it.
Game types will consist of Hardpoint (Domination), CTF, Attrition (Team Deathmatch), Pilot Hunter and Last Titan Standing. The first two will be familiar to any online shooter fanatic; the third is simply another variation of deathmatch. Last Titan Standing is a Titan vs Titan match, you all start in your chosen power armour, you get one and one only. You can eject and run around on foot as you would normally, the winning team is derived from who can hold on to their metal war machines the longest.
It all sounds a pretty standard affair, and to be honest, it is. There is an unlock system within the multiplayer as you would expect. More powerful and specialised weapons become available to you as you progress. People starting in the weeks after release may find themselves a bit behind, but none of the items make an insurmountable difference that skill can’t overcome. As is always the case in online shooters, the important thing is map knowledge and some good reflexes.
Visually Titanfall is a treat, as I mentioned, the maps are well designed and the art style doesn’t fall behind either. A murky, industrial tone is held throughout all the maps, despite their differing themes. It’s hard to believe this is the Source engine at times, highly modified of course.
The characters models are nicely detailed, as are the Titans. With everything cranked up to the max, it all runs very smoothly on a high end PC and looks far superior to its Xbox One counterpart, not to mention running at a much higher frame rate, despite what Microsoft suggested.
The audio is also high quality, emptying your clip makes for some satisfying and powerful sounding effects, jumping into a Titan doesn’t disappoint either, the clunky movement and massive weaponry are not mistreated by the sound team in any way.
The presentation is a bit of a mixed bag though. The menus are basic and uninspiring, it’s easy to navigate, but no time has been taken to give it a nice polish. The training missions which you are immediately thrown in to, play out nicely by way of putting you in a simulator and running through basics of pilot and Titan movement. Oddly it doesn’t instruct you on wall-hanging, it isn’t the end of the world, but it seemed a strange omission to me.
After you have waded through your training, the game gives you a half-baked attempt at easing you in to the game. Upon leaving the simulator, your surroundings reveal that you’re in fact on a space ship and prepared to jump in to hostile territory. Instead of continuing with the fiction, you simply get a fade to black and thrown back to the options screens.
It’s all these fractures that start making the cracks in the fourth wall gape open into reality. There seems to be a great concept here, one that could have seriously changed the genre. What we are left with is bare bones, a skeletal showing of the bare minimum needed to make a game functional. It’s offset with some wonderful moments, but they can’t quite keep me from feeling short changed.
The nagging feeling is further compounded by the fact that, let us not forget, this game was published by EA. That means there will possibly be five or six lots of DLC to be downloaded and added to the game. Does that mean that at some point we will have the things we are missing? If the Battlefield franchise is anything to go by, then it’s a possibility. New game modes, weapons and maps are the usual offering from EA’s DLC methods.
The problem is that, I’m not okay with that structure. Again, this is by no means assured to happen, but I feel like six months down the line, with all the DLC in place, this game may look and feel much more complete. In the here and now, it doesn’t. There is already a Season Pass available on Origin, that’s a fairly good indication of things to come.
That said, I’m not reviewing what the game might become, I’m reviewing the state that it’s in currently.
From a technical standpoint, I haven’t come across any problems, not slightly before or after release. There was a slight hiccup with the servers within the first week, although I think it was rectified quickly. You will need a fairly hefty PC to max it out at 60+ FPS, but it can be run on very modest machines and still look great.
I’ve written a considerable number of derisive words about Titanfall, but for all my griping there’s simply no denying how fun this game can be. I’ve had numerous moments that brought a very broad smile to my cynical face.
The parkour is simply effortless; you can glide around the map, either at ground level, or from a higher vantage point. Piloting the enormous Titans is nothing short of heaven and all of this backed up by a complete change of gameplay from pilot to Titan. This isn’t a game I will be done with quickly as there are ten Generations (Prestige) to get through and plenty of fun to be had.
So why not a higher score? I assume most people just look at the score rather than actually reading the review these days, so I will explain to those that skip to the end.
Titanfall is a great game, it’s fun, it really is. If EA had asked for a much smaller price, I might have given it a better score. Why should that affect the score? Glad you asked.
If you want to charge approximately £40 for a multiplayer game, more power to you. I will even vigorously defend your right to do so. Although if you are going to do that, I expect a game worthy of the price tag. I don’t expect the bare minimum amount of content, I don’t expect there to be a tiny amount of weapons/ordinance etc. in the unlock system.
We were promised something special in the campaign and we didn’t get it. We were told we would get awesome single player moments in a multiplayer game. We didn’t get it. As much fun as Titanfall is, I can’t ignore the lack of content and bare bones feel of the game. There is still so much more that could have been done here.
There is no polish, no feel of a finished product. Just a great concept that needs adding to. If you buy a book, you wouldn’t expect to pay any more after the first ten chapters. You certainly wouldn’t put up with characters or plot points missing. So why it okay to do this with games?
I’m sure that EA/Respawn will argue that they have released a finished product. Respectfully, I disagree. I think they have released a fun game that will be finished in six to eight months. Maybe I’m wrong; if that’s the case I will admit as much in the coming months. What I won’t do is sit here and tell you this is a game worthy of £40, because I don’t believe it is.
I truly hope that within the next year, all the extra content is released and received well and the game is better for it. I want to play the game we were promised, I just don’t want to have to pay extra for it.
You can have a lot of fun with Titanfall; a lot of people may disagree with my review and that’s fine. It’s not a bad game, not at all. It’s a good one in fact. It just falls shy of greatness due to missing parts, but that can be corrected, right?
Standby for DLC.