REVIEW: Respawn’s ‘Titanfall’ Is Evolutionary, But Has Room For Improvement

Movies & TV

| March 12, 2014 - 4:58 pm

Respawn and EA’s Titanfall is a competitively challenging game that creates a fun experience for FPS fans. But will the game help the Xbox One console to fly off the shelves?!

Titles such as Call of Duty and Halo have seemingly exhausted first-person shooter fans for years, leaving Respawn’s new bit of multiplayer mayhem to add new life to the genre. Titanfall has been lauded by pundits and critics for its next step in the evolution of FPS, and its potential as an Xbox One franchise player. For those unfamiliar with the game, players step front-and-center as a pilot who fights on a war-torn planet utilizing mech-style Titans in online multiplayer-only matches. Early on, Respawn described the game as “bringing scale, verticality, and story” to the first-person shooter multiplayer genre, which some would argue has been missing from the competitive FPS world since the days of Quake and Doom.

As a pilot, you’re able to use speed and mobility to engage in unique firefights. Respawn has placed an emphasis on unlimited sprinting, a jetpack for double jumps, edge grabbing and wall running to create a parkour feel. These abilities allow players to comb through every map landmark on foot, while keeping gameplay completely enveloped around the player. After playing the game for six hours prior to launch, we were happy with the level design, the smooth and fluid controls, and the excitement delivered by the enormous Titans dropping from the sky made Titanfall an exceptionally arresting FPS. The originality comes from Vince Zampella and Jason West, two ex-communicated Infinity Ward head honchos, who wanted to give “new life” to the critically acclaimed arena-based combat they implemented in the development of Call of Duty. The result of their handiwork is a title that increases the gameplay speed in a six-against-six competition that is powered by Microsoft cloud-based servers.

There’s the understanding that a lot of pressure is on the staff for this title to succeed. As the Xbox One’s first big game release since its launch last November, Titanfall is pegged as the game to ramp up console sales to catch up to (and surpass) frontrunner PlayStation 4 in worldwide gross. As an “online only” title, Titanfall improves on the concepts set by its predecessors, making it one of the most refined multiplayer experiences ever, but it also comes up short in the mythology / story department. The characters featured throughout the campaign mode basically serve as brief introducers of cutscenes that set the stage for the matches with no compelling lore. This leaves the two playable factions — the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IFC) and the Frontier Militia — lacking an iconic hero / villain archetype to get behind, use and control throughout the game.

And in the game, you’re always the pilot. In the kill-or-be-killed world of Titanfall, players must be certified through a training program that serves as a tutorial, but the jury is still out on whether or not the learning curve is drastically different than previous FPS iterations. The game’s beautiful level designs allows players to turn nearly every surface into a potential route of attack or retreat. Each map’s battleground serves as a parkour fiend’s dream, and it is purely exhilarating to run-jump-wallrun-and-leap onto the shoulder of a Titan. The balance of the game is so tight that players never feel like they’re at a disadvantage, even when confronting the behemoth Titans on foot. The hacking ability allows players to target the giant-mechs and pounce like a big-game hunter. Equally impressive is the ability to send your Titan out into the world on its own, while players stealthily traverse the map to flank enemies, use their Titan as a decoy, or ambush someone else’s Titan.

The diverse selection of weapons, attachments and other items are also a plus, as they allow players to customize their pilots and Titans to their unique style of play. Being able to carry more explosives, run faster than normal or even use a cloaking device to turn invisible make creating tactics a plus and the game should be rewarded for such feats. With no single-player campaign (or story mode) in Titanfall, each match creates a loose framework that is pieced together in a sequential order. Matches such as Attrition finds players not only battling enemies controlled by other players, but NPC-controlled “Grunts” and “Spectres”. Other match types include Last Titan Standing (round-based with no respawns), Pilot Hunter (team with most kills wins), Hardpoint (capture and hold points on a map), and the traditional Capture The Flag mode.

Titanfall is not yet a Call Of Duty killer and players should not expect it to be so. This is a no-frills type of game, where you essentially are playing through eight multiplayer matches with minute-long cutscenes added in. The characters like Graves, Bish or MacAllan aren’t wholly instrumental to the plot, as the story is already predetermined no matter which side — the IMC or the Militia — wins. This is a huge disappointment for gamers, but the foundation of Titanfall should allow Respawn to add new mechs, new weapons and maps later on. The ability to create a narrative once the hype of the six-against-six online matches dissipate is something we also hope comes to fruition sooner than later.

Overall, Respawn and EA have created an engaging game where players will forego the lack of story, in favor of being able to run-and-gun with the big dogs. Despite the latter’s history with online games, Titanfall’s precursor to launch ran well with little-to-no lag time at all. With the advent of Twitch, players are able to livestream their gameplay, but from our experience this is an issue that concludes with the game crashing while streaming. Respawn pulls off the difficult feat of finally giving Xbox One fans a game to play that feels as unique as the console they’re hoping to propel into blockbuster status.

This is an evolutionary step for all parties involved, our hope is that Respawn adds more elements to increase the replay value of the game.

Don’t believe us? Well, take a look at the trailer below:

Titanfall is available exclusively for the Xbox One and is in stores now.