For many, Titanfall acts as a rival to popular first-person shooter franchise Call of Duty. Setting aside that EA is publishing the game of the same genre, many members of developer Respawn Entertainment are former developers of the franchise they’ve been tasked with toppling. And while it will surely take more than one pebble to topple the Goliath that is CoD, the futuristic shooter that implements parkour and enormous mechanized robots is more than a simple pebble.
After seeing advertisements on television and plastered on websites that have very little to do with gaming, it’s clear who EA and Microsoft are advertising to: everybody. And with good reason. With a new console out in the Xbox One, Titanfall has been hailed as the “system seller,” and has been applauded universally at every trade show that it was featured at. Granted, by this point you’ve undoubtedly seen countless reviews and editorials about the game, but what makes it so well received?
First, FPS titles genuinely hinge on a few simple factors. Controls, level design, and balance are key to making the game enjoyable. In Titanfall, the controls feel precise to where it’s hard to blame anybody but yourself when you end up face down in a bloody heap, your opponent standing over you victorious. It’s extremely fast-paced, but not to detriment. Even at high sensitivity, movements are smooth and accurate with any weapon you use.
This is also important because of the movement in the game. The implementation of parkour — running up and along walls — takes the players view away from the general horizontal plane and moves it vertically. Because enemies will be on walls and rooftops (and sometimes hundreds of feet in the sky), having accuracy on both the X and Y axis makes you lethal. Thank the controls for that.
What’s strange though is that the controls, while silky smooth on the ground, endure a sort of “stiffness” when you finally earn your Titan. As you begin controlling the metallic monstrosity, you’ll feel it jerk one way and the other as you target enemies. Movements, while still comfortable, lose a bit of fluidity and instead make you feel like a lumbering giant. In your Titan you’re powerful, you’re deadly, but you’re not necessarily agile, even when controlling the fast-moving Stryder, the most agile of the three available. Pilots are smooth and agile, Titans are hulking, powerful machines.
Both are deadly when used correctly.
The difficulty of creating levels that work with squishy little Pilots and the iron giants must have been a headache, but somehow the folks at Respawn Entertainment did it. Where there are wide alleyways for the Titans to maneuver through, there are also tunnels and hallways for players to duck inside to protect themselves. After all, nobody wants to end up as flesh-colored paste on the bottom of a Titan’s foot. Because one step can end a Pilot’s life, levels include many ways for Pilots to take up hit-and-run tactics against the Titans. Additionally, if you get cocky and a Titan catches you in the open, you’re toast.
That said, when multiple Titans meet up it can create some of the most intense firefights you’ve seen in any shooter. Oftentimes it’s those moments that Pilots take to join the fights with their own heavy weapons. Be careful though, because if you’re on the second story of a building, windows are designed to be eye-level with a Titan. Another magnificent design choice that needs to be mentioned.
Finally players should take note of perhaps the most important and most difficult aspect of FPS games, the balance. Different weapons and traits apply to both Pilots and Titans in order to complement your particular playstyle. It’s nearly impossible for a game to get the balance of each individual gun perfect prior to launch. One of the drawbacks of the game, the limited number of assault weapons you can use, helps ensure that the balance stays level throughout playing. There are only a few options for assault rifle, SMG and sniper rifle, and only one for shotgun and LMG. Compared to CoD’s arsenal this is embarrassing, frankly. The same goes for Titan loadouts: there are very few options.
While it certainly helps with the overall balance of the game, it also introduces boredom, something that FPS players will develop quickly. Without the variety of options we’re used to — and yes, there are varying attachments for each weapon — the game turns into a grind. Particularly with the campaign being such a throwaway and really only a barrier to accessing different Titan chassis, it devolves into “just an online shooter”.
Granted, that shooter controls well, has magnificent level design, and is balanced masterfully. One has to wonder though, is Titanfall primed for DLC content, or is this just a teaser for the inevitable sequel? Either way, it will sell.
Overall Score: 9 out of 10