Drop. Hit the ground running. Jump, wallrun, short burst from SMG, cloak and make a quick getaway… right into a mob of grunts. Throw a grenade and jump into an adjacent room; two more kills and there it is: “Stand by for Titanfall.”
Such high-speed, adrenaline-pumped encounters define Respawn Entertainment’s debut title. Headed by some of the best minds behind the first two Modern Warfare games, the studio aims to take the online FPS to the next step of evolution. But is this game about parkouring pilots and their mechs the missing link?
What’s it about?
Titanfall is a fully online game. Even the campaign is just a series of loosely connected 9 maps alternating between Attrition and Hardpoint Domination modes. And you play through them twice (once per faction). The plot itself is a simple tale of a war between corporate IMC forces and people’s Militia, taking place at the Frontier, a cluster of Earth’s colonies. You get the occasional in-engine cutscene or set piece section depending on your faction, but most of the story is told through audio dialog between matches. You can’t play this mode solo, and the game’s mechanics sometimes interrupt cutscenes with killcams and the like. A real shame, since the writing and acting are great (even in the Russian version I had to play due to region-locking) and the way the story unfolds hints at something more than you get, despite the disappointing cliffhanger. Well, maybe next time.
How much is in there?
Once you’re done with this 6-hour glorified tutorial, you get to the meat of the game. There are 14 maps, ranging from futuristic cities to exotic beaches with skyscrapers, crashed carriers and giant animals as background. All maps are multi-level, with both horizontal and vertical combat for soldiers and Titans. On those you can play in 5 modes – Attrition (TDM), Hardpoint Domination (Conquest), CTF, Pilot Hunt (TDM without AI minions) and Last Titan Standing. When in doubt – play either Attrition or PH. The rest require a lot of teamwork and tight-knit groups (as in friends). But there is no option to create custom servers, just parties. There’s also no clan support. At least lag is very rare and connection issues are nonexistent. Again, maybe next time.
How does it play?
Fighting in Titanfall is chaotic, fast (matches rarely last longer than 15 minutes plus the TF2-style epilogue) and packed with “wow” moments. Between match start and all hell breaking loose there’s usually less than 30 seconds. If you haven’t heard of Titanfall before, don’t let the 6v6 player cap fool you – you’ll have plenty to shoot at. In addition to Pilots (local name for players) and Titans, you’ll run into Minions. Those are AI-controlled soldiers and robots that act as mobs from DOTA or any other MOBA game. They’re easy to kill, come in big numbers and don’t provide much of a challenge. You can farm them for XP, turn them to your side (by hacking robots), but killing scores of them also shaves seconds off your Titanfall countdown timer. The more you kill, the faster you can call down your Titan. This, plus hackable robots and turrets, adds a lot of strategy into what seems like a cross between Call of Duty and Mirror’s Edge.
The Mirror’s Edge part is pretty clear – pilots can double-jump, wallrun, climb, etc. This allows for clever navigation and the map design reflects that. As for COD – there’s both the fast-paced CQC and character progression. You can customize both your Pilot and Titan with equipment you’ve unlocked. There’s the standard pistols, shotguns, rifles and SMGs, all with various modules, plus exotic weapons like the Smart pistol that locks onto enemies, and a whole category of anti-Titan weapons, including RPG, Sidewinder mini-rockets launcher, magnetic grenade launcher, etc. This is topped off by various explosives, Abilities like Cloaking and Adrenaline Rush and Kits that enhance your abilities or give you bonuses like teammates positions on your minimap.
Titans come in 3 different models of varying speed and durability and you can outfit them with various weapons (auto-cannon, railgun, quad rocket launcher, arc gun), and their own Abilities and Kits (the Nuclear Ejector being the most useful). Unlocks are a bit slow for both infantry and mechs, but chances are you won’t miss them. Titans themselves are not simple vehicles too. You can call one down and leave it to defend a Hardpoint or get it to follow you around, controlled by AI. Being an armored mech, it can hold its own against anything save for a bunch of player-controlled Titans. Want an even bigger edge? Try Burn Cards, which give you 1-life access to buffed weapons, increased XP rewards and specific bonuses like instant abilities and permanent cloak. You get dozens of them every round instead of having to pay for them with micro transactions like some gamers feared prior to game’s release (finally some good, EA). This may all sound chaotic and overwhelming, but once you get into it, you’ll feel right at home with the game’s mechanics.
How does it look?
Same can be said about Titanfall’s visuals. If you aren’t impressed by screenshots, just remember that A.) all games look better in motion and B.) this is built on Source engine. The very same one that Valve’s games work on. So not only does Titanfall look well, it also runs at rock-solid 60FPS at 1080p. Varied environments, both urban and rural, look lived-in, with tons of details, buildings you can enter and branching paths. As for audio, it’s top-notch. From Titan’s computer that feeds you tactical info, to grunts’ yelling reports and all the foley sounds, Titanfall’s production values remain high.
Is It Good?
Yes. Definitely. This hybrid of Call of Duty, Mirror’s Edge and MOBA is fresh, entertaining, addictive and suits both casual players with 15-minute quick matches and hardcore players with clever customization and variety in map design and game modes. Titans are awesome. Period. Minions are a great way to get good at the game and keep yourself away from the frustration of cheap deaths if you aren’t that good at COD of Battlefield. Respawn does have to work on community features and support and add some kind of offline and private components. But for now, strap in, get out there and stand by for Titanfall.
Release: March 2014
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Genre: FPS, Online
Similar Games: any Call of Duty since Modern Warfare
Reviewed on: AMD FX 6300 3.5 GHz, 8 GB Kingston HyperX Blue DDR3, Palit GeForce GTX 660 2GB, Acer S235HLbii 1080p Monitor, Windows 8.1, Xbox 360 Controller