Titanfall is an online-only, multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS), and is Respawn Entertainment’s first game. As it happens, Respawn was founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella, both of whom also co-founded Infinity Ward and are well known for their work on many Call of Duty titles. In addition, Respawn hired many former Call of Duty developers shortly after the mass exodus from Infinity Ward a few years ago. All of this experience with Call of Duty shows. Titanfall features Call of Duty’s fast-paced gameplay, a similar leveling system, and a “prestige” system to extend the life of the game. Even so, this isn’t “Call of Duty with mechs” as some have taken to calling it. While it may draw upon their former experiences with Call of Duty, the team at Respawn have crafted something wholly unique. Titanfall is different than every other shooter you’ve played. Why? Because of things like:
Despite being an online only title, Titanfall does have a campaign mode. The Campaign consists of nine multiplayer battles played on nine of the game’s fifteen maps (yes fifteen) with human players comprising both sides. I won’t go into details but the story arc itself is a rather forgettable tale of the civil war between the IMC and the Militia. The only good reason to play through it is because you’ll be wanting the unlocks. Fortunately, it only takes about four hours or so to burn through both sides of the campaign. The only memorable thing about the campaign mode is the way it’s setup. Like Brink a few years ago, Titanfall’s story is told primarily through a mission briefing and a short cutscene prior to each battle. It’s not much, but this could feasibly change the way that stories are told in FPS’s that are primarily focused on multiplayer. This might possibly be the end of the four hour mini campaign mode that Call of Duty and Battlefield have grown fond of, a mode that many people openly despise. So, while the story itself is lacking, the way it’s told may just turn some heads.
Character movement is one of Titanfall’s great successes. Again, much like Brink, Titanfall’s Pilots are all adept free-runners. Players can run up vertical surfaces, wall-rull, and even double jump with the help of a handy dandy boost pack (not jetpack). Unlike Brink, Titanfall Pilots are incredibly fast and agile. Movement in Titanfall isn’t simply there because it needs to be, or because it’s expected, it’s a tactical skill. How you move around the map is just as key to the game as how you use your weapons. Moving around the map quickly and efficiently will not only require knowledge of the map, but will also require some quick fingers on the part of the player. Most of the map is easy to get around (movement is hardly a chore), but skilled players can reach certain areas much more quickly or even perch Pilots in some unlikely places.
A cross between a mech and a robot, a Titan can be a very powerful tool in a player’s arsenal. Standing around two stories tall Titans generally don’t have too much trouble with Pilots in open areas. While not particularly nimble, Titans can easily squash or melee a Pilot, and their extra large weapons will make mincemeat of a Pilot pretty quickly. Running off of a countdown timer, Titans can be called into battle once every couple of minutes. Killing things or earning points as the game plays out will tike time off the timer. The better a player does the faster they get their next Titan.
Titans, like Pilots are able to be customized through a loadout. Players can choose which chasses they prefer (light, medium, or heavy) and which weapons and abilities to include in each loadout. Pilots and Titans each get their own separate loadout options, so Pilot loadouts can be mixed and matched with Titan loadouts easily.
The locations of Titanfall are another of it’s great achievements. Putting together multiplayer maps that are balanced and fair to both teams is not easy, yet Respawn has met this challenge admirably. The game ships with 15 unique maps, nearly all of which feel very different from one another. Locations are varied, and many are a downright joy to be in. Respawn has covered their grounds here: corporate office buildings, lagoons, crashed space ships, military bases, and more all make an appearance. Some of the maps are tight, close quarters affairs that make life in a Titan somewhat challenging, while others are wide open outdoor spaces where Titan’s rule the map and Pilots scurry for cover. Best of all, while some of the maps are pretty big, none of them are huge. This means that it doesn’t typically take players long to find the action and it keeps the flow of the games running at a nice pace. Finally, player respawn locations are dynamic, so it’s uncommon to run into any spawn camping issues.
Well, we’ve covered the Story, the Movement system, the Titans, and the Maps. Other games have broken the same ground with many of these things, Brink has a similar story setup and movement system, Hawken is basically Titan vs. Titan combat, and many respected and beloved shooters have solid maps design. However, when you put all of this together, you get something that you can’t really find elsewhere on the market. Playing as a Pilot isn’t as simple as combining Brink with Call of Duty. Playing as a Titan isn’t playing a slightly altered version of Hawken. It’s not Pilot gameplay, and then Titan gameplay separately. Both are interwoven into a single, unique tapestry.
While playing as a Pilot players need to keep an eye out for Titans. Faster than Pilots, Titans are large and plenty dangerous to the unsuspecting player, especially if there aren’t any enemy Titans for them to attack. Likewise, Titans need to keep an eye out for Pilots, especially in the more enclosed levels. In spite of their size and heavy armor, Titans have a weak spot. Players can “rodeo” a Titan (jump onto them), pull off an armor plate and start dealing large amounts of damage to the Titan in question, all while ignoring it’s shields. Titans can loadout with retalitory measures, but it’s an annoyance at best and disastrous at worst.
Matches support between three and six players per team, with a variety of different game types at the players’ disposal. Attrition is the “bread and butter” mode of Titanfall and sees two teams compete to see who can get the most “Attrition Points” first. Capture the Flag is the standard CTF fair with the Titanfall twist (free-running and Titans). Hardpoint is basically just Titanfall’s version of the classic Territories game type, players must capture and hold certain areas on the map to score points. Pilot Hunter is roughly a Team Death Match varient and only gives teams credit for Pilot kills. The final mode, Last Titan Standing, is an all out brawl between two teams of Titans. Only Titan kills count here. Each round, both teams face off and have at each other until only one team has working Titans. Teams must win 4 rounds to win a “game” of Last Titan Standing. Each one of the above game types comes with their own matchmaking lobby. However, there’s also a Variety Pack lobby if you prefer to swap between different game modes from match to match.
Finally, let’s talk about Burn Cards. Burn Cards are single use boosts that players earn through gameplay. Each player can carry a maximum of three Burn Cards into battle with them. Each Card is good for one life. These boosts can be simple things like “Earn extra EXP for any hits/kills on enemy Pilots (Titans/Grunts/etc.)”, or they can be pretty major boosts such as giving the player unlimited grenades for one life. The beauty of Burn Cards is that they can be extremely powerful tools when used at the right time, but the three card-per-match maximum means that no one player can “boost” their way through the whole match. Burn Cards can be activated either right before the match starts, or while players wait to respawn.
Every game has it’s issues, and Titanfall is no different. For starters, it’s online-only. This means that you can’t look at your loadouts, you can’t fiddle with your Burn Cards, and you can’t even play the “Training Sim” (tutorial) without being connected to the internet (a problem that’s only aggrivated by the network congestion that Respawn and EA are still working through).
Another major issue with the game is the matchmaking. First, there’s no balancing going on behind the scenes. Teams are frequently mismatched, occasionally to almost unbelievable levels. Second, going hand in hand with the mismatch issue, the game doesn’t keep teams evenly distributed. So, if there are nine players in the lobby, it wouldn’t be out of the question for there to be six players on one team and only three on the other. Other players will often join mid-match, but even playing a minute or two of 3 vs. 6 is enough to lose the game before it’s hardly started.
As far as objectionable content goes, Titanfall really isn’t different than most shooters. There is some strong language, it’s not frequent, but it’s there. There is also a lot of violence and gore. In-game characters are shot, blown-up, smashed, squished, thrown, and more. As the game is a “shooter” by definition, if you have issues with human characters being shot then you should avoid Titanfall. On the up side for Christians, there is no magic. Everything is based in technology. The game is rated M for Mature audiences (17 and older) and it’s definitely aimed at older teens and adults. If you are and older teen or adult and don’t have a problem with the Battlefield or Call of Duty series, I’d say you aren’t likely to take issue with Titanfall.
Titanfall is an excellent first offering from Respawn. The gameplay is outstanding, the mechanics are well thought out, and the maps are varied and detailed. Yes there are some issues with matchmaking and auto-balance, but those aren’t much more than a minor annoyance in a generally excellent title.