key review info
- Game: Titanfall
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: Yes
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Titanfall surprised a lot of gamers from all around the world last year, when it was revealed as a multiplayer-only first-person shooter that combines the fast-paced gameplay from the likes of Call of Duty with sci-fi mechs seen in titles like MechWarrior.
After a lengthy hype campaign supported by publisher Electronic Arts and by Microsoft, who secured an exclusivity deal for the Xbox One and Xbox 360, Titanfall has finally dropped, bringing the much anticipated multiplayer-only shooter experience.
Does it manage to live up to the titanic amount of hype or should it fall under the radar? Let's find out.
Titanfall goes all-in on the multiplayer aspect of first-person shooters, but it still wants to transmit at least a form of story, charting the conflict between the IMC (Interstellar Mining Corporation) and the Militia, which is waged on the Frontier, a group of vastly different planets scattered throughout the universe.
The game has a story-themed match playlist, which takes players through nine matches on either side of the conflict and features lengthier exposition via in-game comm chatter and small picture-in-picture sequences with the main characters.
The conflict seems relatively interesting and the universe of the game has all sorts of really fascinating elements but, unfortunately, Titanfall does very little to shed some light on them. Much is left to the imagination of the players and it wouldn't have hurt if a full-fledged single-player campaign, however short, had been added to the game.
Seeing as how it's not big on story, Titanfall needs to impress in terms of gameplay and, thankfully, it achieves that in quite a few great ways.
Players control Pilots who can engage in regular infantry warfare on the ground but also take control of giant mechs called Titans. The two sides of the core first-person shooter gameplay are drastically different.
While the infantry warfare may sound like regular Call of Duty-like encounters, especially since Respawn was founded by veterans from Infinity Ward, it's actually a whole new type of beast. Pilots are extremely agile combatants and, thanks to their portable jet packs, can engage in all sorts of acrobatic and parkour moves, from double jumps to wall running and much more.
Even so, seeing as how players control tiny pilots in a battlefield populated by quite a few giant mechs, you might think that, until you get your own titan, you're practically helpless. It’s actually completely the opposite, as pilots can easily take down titans through different clever or brute-force ways. The easiest is just swapping to your anti-titan weapon, like a big rocket launcher, and targeting an enemy titan. You can also equip your invisibility cloak and a Stim pack and just sprint towards the enemy to get on top of it with the press of a button. Once you're riding it rodeo-style, you can simply start shooting its brain core out in one of the most epic sequences in gaming nowadays.
Of course, controlling your own titan is an exhilarating experience that allows you to stomp out regular enemies and engage on equal ground enemy mechs. Thanks to different warning systems that alert you of enemy pilots riding your hull or locking onto you with their weapons, the experience is quite balanced.
In the end, Titanfall puts the biggest emphasis on balance when it comes to its gameplay. You can choose between different pilot and titan types or loadouts, but all of them have advantages and downsides, particularly when it comes to the three Titan varieties – the fast but weak Stryder, the slow but powerful Ogre, and the in-between choice, the versatile Atlas.
Titans and loadouts can be customized in many different ways with special gear, abilities, and ordnances, so experimentation is key before you settle on your favorite equipment. Even so, depending on the map and game mode, you should certainly keep changing things, as a shotgun is particularly good during Hardpoint Domination matches on small maps like Relic, while the versatile assault rifle is great at clearing hordes of AI-controlled Grunts or Spectres in Attrition encounters on bigger levels like Angel City.
Progression in Titanfall is done using not just XP earned during matches but also by completing various challenges which, in turn, unlock Burn Cards. These are one-time use abilities that can be employed in a single life during a match, ranging from shorter Titan build times, to bonus weapons and much, much more. For those who reach the maximum of level 50, you can use the Regeneration system to restart the whole thing, à la Call of Duty's Prestige mechanic.
If there's one area where Titanfall falls short, that’s actual visual customization and weapon variety. Besides the awesome pistol, the versatile assault rifle, and the powerful shotgun, the other guns, like the SMGs, don't feel that great. What's more, while I'm sure Respawn doesn't want players to run around in bright pink Titans, some degree of customization when it comes to your hulking mech would've been welcomed by many players.
Titanfall ships with 15 different maps that are extremely varied both in terms of layout but also when it comes to the general feeling. From the tropical environment in Smuggler's Cove, to the harsh desert of Boneyard or the industrial feel of TKTKTKTK, the world of Titanfall feels lush and alive, especially when you factor in Easter Eggs like giant flying creatures with which you can't actually interact.
While the maps are certainly varied, there are just five different gameplay modes. The first is Attrition, which is basically a Team Deathmatch encounter in which you can score points by killing enemy pilots, titans, but also grunts and spectres until reaching a certain limit. You then have Hardpoint Domination, which is similar to Battlefield's Conquest mode, where your team must hold three different objectives scattered around the map. Then there's the Capture the Flag, which has been a staple of first-person shooters since the dawn of time. There's also a Pilot Hunter mode where only killing enemy pilots earns a team any points.
Last but not least, and one of the most intriguing in the whole game, is Last Titan Standing. Here, each player starts the match in a Titan and must eliminate the other team until there's just one titan left. Working as a team, using the choke points in each map, and organizing ambushes are critical in this mode, as once you're out it's game over.
While I'm sure that the relatively small number of modes in the game is certainly something that might be addressed via DLC or future add-ons, it still affects the game's appeal at launch.
In terms of actual online mechanics, there are also some distinct missing features, such as a spectator mode, not to mention wonky mechanics, like the balancing system that often starts the game with uneven teams or allocates high-level players in one team and low-level ones in the other, ensuring total domination.
Graphics and Sound
Titanfall looks and feels good, at least on the PC, where you can employ all sorts of advanced technologies and options, including an "Insane" setting in terms of texture quality. That said, its colors are bit a too washed out in quite a lot of situations, even if some maps, like Smuggler's Cove, try to add much-needed color to the whole first-person shooter experience.
In terms of sound, the voice acting is pretty good for the different IMC and Militia personnel and there's a huge amount of secondary voice acting for fellow pilots, grunts, or spectres, not to mention plenty of sound effects for titans and the like.
Titanfall is a great, fast-paced shooter that introduces just enough new elements to the core recipe so that it feels fresh and exhilarating once more. It might have worked even better with a single-player campaign or some more attention paid to the modes or customization options, but it's still quite worth your time.