Every new console always has that one huge title that everyone looks forward to – the system-seller, as it’s called. Everything is lining up for inFAMOUS: Second Son to be that game for the PlayStation 4, for the next Super Smash Bros. to be that (late) game for the Wii U and for Titanfall to be that game on the Xbox One. Granted, Titanfall is releasing on PC as well, but that’s irrelevant to the “console wars” and decisions about whether you should buy an XB1 or PS4.
Luckily, lots of people got the chance to check out the multiplayer-only first-person shooter, Titanfall, in an ongoing round of beta testing. While I played the game on PC, it’s the same experience (albeit non-crossplatform play) on both platforms. Before reading my thoughts down below, make sure to check out our archived gameplay stream of the Xbox One version of the game by The Koalition’s own Edward V down below.
The first thing that is immediately apparent, as soon as you drop down into a match from your airship, is that TItanfall is a very fast game. Your standard running speed is comparable to the sprint in Call of Duty or Battlefield and your sprinting is both unlimited and extremely fast. However, running on the ground is only the bare minimum of mobility in Titanfall – the true fun happens once your feet leave the earth.
I often felt like I was playing Brink or Mirror’s Edge while traversing environments. By jumping towards a wall I could run alongside the surface, or leap off of it to do a Ninja Gaiden-style wall jump. With the right timing, I could use a burst from my jet pack to reach ledges and hop across rooftops. While you only get one short burst per jump, levels are designed in such a way that this is often all that you need. The aerial mobility, freedom of movement, and sheer speed, all combine to make for a highly exhilarating experience on a moment-to-moment basis.
Obviously the biggest stand-outs in Titanfall are the titular titans that fall from the sky. Every player is a pilot of their own personal mech (titan) that can be called once their timer reaches zero - you can expedite the timer by racking up kills. Once you set the waypoint and watch your titan fall (hopefully on an enemy, because squishing things is very rewarding) you can hop inside the cockpit and take her for a spin. Each titan, like your pilots, can be customized with different weapon sets, accessories, and abilities. Unlike most mech combat games however, Titans are fast and fluid just like the pilots on the ground. They may not be able to wallrun, but they can dash very quickly. There are few things as satisfying as ripping an opponent out of their titan and flinging their body like a ragdoll across the map. Don't get too comfortable though, as titans are far from invincible and have a vulnerable backside for pilots to climb aboard and exploit.
The other truly unique thing about Titanfall is that matches max out at only 6 vs. 6 battles. It's a bit underwhelming. However, each team is padded with lots of NPC soldiers called Grunts. These Grunts look and act like players, for the most part, minus the wall-running and jetpacks. They are far less deadly and have much lower health, but provide an adequate simulation of a larger-scale battle. Their inclusion is smart, as it allows even the most casual players to pick up the game and make a difference on the battlefield, but it also feels like a missed opportunity. Obviously, 16 vs. 16 battles with 32 titans roaming the field would have been a bit difficult to accommodate (although awesome) plenty of other solutions should theoretically exist. Why not implement different classes, some with titans, some without? Why not have game modes with no titans and more people? My only guess is that Respawn clearly wants its players to experience the fun of piloting their own personal giant robot, which can be quite intense in its own right.
This is the big question on everyone's mind, especially if you're an Xbox One owner: Does it really "feel" like a next-gen game? I paid upwards of $500 for this console and I want a big, fun, long-lasting exclusive (except for PC) to show off to my friends - is Titanfall that game? The short answer is that I don't know yet. The long answer is a bit more complicated. Clearly, Titanfall does not break new ground in any of its individual mechanics. It's been called Call of Duty with Robots (like the title of this article), or Mirror's Edge + Call of Duty, and several other combo names that make sense on the surface. However, when you dive a bit deeper, there is definitely a lot more to the experience than that. While it may not look unanimously incredible in videos or screenshots, you just have to take the word of people that played the game when they tell you it's just pure fun to play.
At the end of the day, I find myself absolutely satisfied with my experience in the beta, but I fear for the game's longevity. How many new maps will we get, after launch? What about new guns, accessories, classes, titans, or game modes? How much of this stuff will be free and how much will the non-free updates cost? In a lot of ways, Titanfall is to shooters what Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was to shooters back in 2007. It may not be as revolutionary on the surface, but it's looking to shake up the formula all the same. Still though, I can't help but shake the feeling that the game is a lesser version of what it could have been. Why aren't their aerial titans, or other vehicles? Why aren't there destructible environments? Going back to the previous point - why are we limited to only 12 total players? Once again, all of these feel like missed opportunities and while the game is fast, fun, and fierce to play, I don't know if that's enough.
It's also worth noting that despite the marketing of this as the next-gen shooter for Xbox One, it is, in fact, coming to Xbox 360 as well two weeks later. This should serve as a clear indication of just how "next-gen" Titanfall truly is planned to be overall.
If you aren't aware, yes, Titanfall is a multiplayer-only game. What this means is exactly what it sounds like - there is nothing to do in this game other than get online and fight against, or with, other players. There is no campaign mode, no revolutionary fish A.I., no terrorists to track down across the globe, just you and your fellow gamers duking it out. This smartly puts the focus on the most popular aspect of shooters, maximizing their efforts and all that, but it creates an awfully precarious situation in its place.
While most other shooters have a 4-8 hour single player campaign to pad the value, Titanfall is relying solely on your interest in multiplayer. The great thing about this is that it means the developers have been and will be 100% dedicated to creating the best and most fun multiplayer experience possible. The bad thing about this is that's all there is to do. Once you unlock everything and become the best titan pilot you can be, it's easy to get bored if there isn't new content to keep you busy. This hasn't stopped Call of Duty and Battlefield though, as most people buy those games just for the multiplayer already, so time will tell how this affects the longevity of the game as a whole.
With less than a month to go, all questions will soon be answered. Titanfall officially drops (pun intended) on March 11th, 2014 for the Xbox One and PC in the US and March 13th in the EU. Do you plan on picking this one up? Let us know your thoughts on the game down in the comments below!