Thrilling, accessible, and with more focus on responsive movement and agility than straightforward shooting, Titanfall is a shot in the arm for what was threatening to become a stale genre. Let’s just hope its over-dependence on paid DLC doesn’t lay it low.
Despite looking from afar like a design-by-committee attempt to seize as much of Call of Duty’s territory as possible, the much-hyped multiplayer shooter Titanfall (from the one-time creators of the aforementioned COD) turns out to be big on smarts and charm. It’s accessible without being dumbed down, and dramatic where other shooters are shallow.
Here’s the setup: humanity’s at war with itself, using building-sized robo-suits known as Titans to wage their collosal battles. There is a backstory and even an attempt at a plot in a rather misjudged ‘mission’ structure to play through before you’re given the keys to the whole castle, but whatever the good intentions there whenever that stuff arises it feels like a dull distraction from the order of the day. That order is pitched, high-speed battle between infantry and walking tanks.
The great surprise of Titanfall is that being on foot, ‘just’ a human with a gun’, turns out to be far more exhilarating than being inside a Titan, with its armoured hull and devastating weaponry. This is because Titanfall gets the importance of movement to shooters in a way that few others do – being on foot, you have an agility and freedom that the otherwise impressive Titans do not.
Being in a Titan tends to last longer and your kill count may be higher, but somehow it doesn’t have the same drama of being a mere soldier scampering around the feet of warring giants. A spot of wall-running here, double-jumping there, leaping across rooftops here or onto the back of an unsuspecting Titan there…
All told, it’s a world away from the standard sprinting and ladder-climbing which typifies the genre, and means the focus of the quick, tense battles is much more on positioning than it is on who can move a targeting reticule over the guy’s face first. There’s far more use of vertical space than in other shooters, and as a result getting shot in the back while running along the ground is a relative rarity.
Added to that are a couple of other factors which lower barriers to entry and thus allow less experienced players to achieve something and gain in ability, rather than face defeat after miserable defeat until they understandably don’t want to return. There’s a pistol which automatically locks on after a few seconds (and boy do veteran multiplayer shooter players loathe its existence), there are AI- controlled grunts to farm for practice and experience points, and there is a chance at the end of a battle your team has lost to get to the chopper and escape in a photo finish.
Glory even in defeat – and that, really, is where Titanfall most excels. No matter how well or how poorly the scoreboards might say you’ve performed, in the heat of the moment it always feels like you’re doing something incredible, something of worth.
Where it all threatens to fall apart is that the base game quickly feels rather small. Titanfall makes no bones about the fact that a long course of paid downloadable content is planned, but even so it feels uncomfortably like just the start starter course.
As thrilling and slick as the first ten or so hours with the game are, ‘is this it?’ syndrome does kick in all too quickly, as there aren’t many maps on offer and the unlockable weapons and gear feels for the most part perfunctory. The only real cure is a £20 ‘season pass’ for future map packs, weapons and Titan variants – which means that, all-too-quickly, the game’s community will be split into the haves and have nots.
Time will tell if corporate greed has harmed Titanfall, but right now there’s just enough to make it worth the purchase price (do shop around though, it can be found for much less than RRP). While it’s built from familiar parts, is do feel like a slick and ambitious, much-needed step forward for multiplayer shooters, which have for so long been defined by the Call of Duty run’n’gun’snipe style.
- Available on Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC. PC system requirements: OS: 64-bit Windows 7, 8, 8.1 CPU: AMD Athlon X2 2.8GHz or Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz Memory: 4GB RAM GPU: 512MB VRAM, Radeon HD 4770 or GeForce 8800GT