The hype train has been beating this drum for sometime now, and Microsoft appear to have bet the house on it. Created by the greatest minds of Infinity Ward, led by the same people who brought us Call of Duty Modern Warfare and backed by the money of Electronic Arts, it was either going to be the system seller the Xbox One badly needed or a complete flop. Luckily for those of us who chose to buy the more expensive (comes with Kinect though, woo hoo) console last November, Titanfall is an absolute delight for both hardcore and more casual gamers alike.
Titanfall is a multiplayer only game, don’t even purchase the game if you don’t have an internet connection, the main menu won’t even load and you will be wasting your money. Pitched as Call of Duty with giant mechs in a sci-fi universe with jet packs, beefy weaponry and a ton of AI troops to fight alongside you the core game is a series of multiplayer modes - we shall ignore the training as it’s child’s play and move on to discuss the campaign later.
From first boot there is a series of differing match types; Attrition is deathmatch, Hardpoint is domination, Capture The Flag is...um...capturing a flag, Last Titan Standing sees everyone start in a Titan with no respawns and Pilot Hunter only awards points for killing the other pilots - pilots being the other human characters. Each match takes the form of a 6v6 match up, each side accompanied by a raft of AI controlled soldiers. These soldiers themselves take a few forms, for example grunts and spectres. The AI guys are pretty much cannon fodder, demonstrating absolutely no skill or ability at all during the course of a match but as their opponent you have a timer ticking down, when that timer reaches zero you get to drop a giant Titan into the mix - shoot these poor excuses for soldiers and time gets knocked off that timer, bringing your twenty foot death machine into the action that little bit sooner. Yes, the AI is poor but during the course of a match it becomes clear that it’s intentionally so - sprinting past them is easy enough but blow five of them up and your Titan will be with you in fifteen seconds, and by jove those Titans can be a game changer.
The minute to minute gameplay is absolutely always kinetic but not in the old school Call of Duty twitch kind of way, in Titanfall thinking is rewarded not just reflexes. The weapons pack a real punch and the parkour elements are easy to get to grips with and almost always completely forgiving. To add to this each map has a very vertical feel to it and of course each individual pilot is aided by the double jumping rocket booster, the ability to wall run and a series of unlockable perks e.g. cloak. Deaths aren’t one hit kills as a rule also therefore as a package you just feel like you have a more of a fighting chance than in your standard Call of Duty match, seemingly mixing the best of Halo with the best of Call of Duty. Feel like you are getting your behind handed to you on foot, drop in a Titan early through killing grunts and almost instantly change the course of a match.
In time there is no doubt that there will be Titanfall “Pros” much like there are in other online shooters, it’s simply that the barrier to entry for Titanfall seems to hit a much sweeter spot than any of the other current offerings. It’s pretty simple to get into, quite straightforward to become proficient but will take time to completely master - which is fantastic when put up against some of the aforementioned titles. They often make you feel like such a complete noob that the only sensible thing is to play something else, Titanfallnever seems to make you feel this way and even in defeat it is for the most part enjoyable.
As you rank up you unlock new weapons and perks for both your pilot and your Titan, allowing you to experiment with up to five customisable loadouts. Burn cards are the random factor thrown into the mix and up to three can be equipped by each pilot before each match. These cards are accrued through in-game actions and are single use only, plus there is the added spice in that once used during a match their effects last your single life and do not respawn with you - use a burn card and die instantly, you’ve wasted it. Burn cards can have an influential effect on proceedings as they can do such things as reduce Titan build time, show all enemies nearby and the always entertaining overpowering of certain weapons. For want of a better phrase the burn cards are throwaway and often forgotten in the heat of battle but if you remember to use them, they add another nice game changing layer on to a solid multiplayer formula.
Sadly it’s not all plain sailing as there are a few issues which aren’t isolated, hell they are at the core of the game. The Campaign just flat out doesn’t work - attempting to be multiple things at once but missing the mark for the most part. It tries to be an introduction to the universe, to the conflict, as well as introducing you to the game’s core multiplayer setup along with the game’s core mechanics (on top of the simple training seen in the beta). As a purely online multiplayer game the introduction to the match setups and the way in which the game handles is welcome but sadly the campaign’s story is a wasted opportunity. Effectively simple 6v6 multiplayer matches bookended by some really poorly voiced in-engine scenes, they are (as mentioned) meant to give you some idea of the sci-fi heavy universe in which Titanfall takes place, detailing the conflict between the IMC and the Militia. What motivates them? Why are they fighting? What are they fighting for? Interspersed throughout each match comes narrative over the comms channels, adding further story to the chaos but herein lies the problem...it is chaos. The core gameplay is fast, heart pumping and at times a sensory blitzkrieg of awesomeness, there is often barely enough time to shout “Xbox record that” let alone listen to some guy seemingly putting on a dreadful South African accent, spouting off about resources and other crap you don’t care about.
The campaign is indeed an odd one, undone by the game being the way it is minute to minute - a valiant effort to shoehorn in some sort of background story and continual narrative but ultimately once you’ve got the achievements associated with it, you will likely fall back to class multiplayer and find a home in your favourite mode.
The other, much bigger problem is the screen tearing. One would hope that at some point the game would receive a patch but on the Xbox One, ignoring the random resolution discussion, the screen tearing can at times be a little excessive. We’d gotten used to it on the older consoles and believed the “next gen” to be the holy grail, eradicating such nonsense from our high definition expensive 42”+ TVs but no, it lives and it is an annoyance. Not in a game breaking sort of way but makes you want to say the most annoying phrase of all time “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”.
Titanfall isn’t a stunning technical achievement, it isn’t a master class in storytelling however it is arguably the best evolution of online multiplayer in some time. A godsend to those Call of Duty players who aren’t “hardcore” and have grown very tired of getting shot in the back with no idea how it happened. Familiar and different at the same time, simply a must for any Xbox One owner and a very convincing argument for an Xbox One.