Few games are near enough crowned Game Of The Year a whole year before they’ve even been released, but Titanfall is set to drop here in the UK on March 14th with one hand already on the title after winning more than 80 awards since it was first glimpsed at E3 2013.
Two of the creators of the machine that is Call of Duty, Jason West and Vince Zampella have brought the reigning FPS’s precision and grit to this new franchise and added titanic mech suits, oh, and parkour!
Now under the guise of Respawn Entertainment, West and Zampella have developed what feels like CoD Modern Warfare on amphetamines. This online only shooter is paced like a space shuttle re-entering the earth’s atmosphere, with bullets and rockets whizzing around you pretty much at all times.
Taking on computerised “grunts” and AI support, as well as other humans requires a mix of skills that have never been combined in a single game – mechwarrior suits, free-running, flying kicks and of course modern firearms and perks. Aside from running and gunning or camping, as you would in typical shooters, running can take place along walls and thanks to some ingenious mapping and boosted soldier mobility, there’s a significant 3D element to a player’s movement. Escaping heavy fire and certain death is a matter of scaling an entire building from the outside and jumping through the window of its neighbour to buy yourself enough time and cover to regenerate your health.
Taking on enemies is a dynamic affair with the ability to rain bullets on them whilst you’re running horizontally along a wall, and double jumping from roof top to roof top. Then there’s the titans, gigantic mechwarrior suits that you can call in periodically throughout a match. You can either set your Titan to autonomously follow you or hold its ground, or you can jump inside the suit and take control of the heavy weaponry at its disposal.
Respawn have done an excellent job of balancing the strengths of using Titans alongside human soldiers, it’s possible to torment the giants with anti-titan weapons, or if you’re feeling hardcore you can use surrounding buildings to gain the upper ground and then jump onto them rodeo style, firing into the mech’s grey matter with whatever you have to hand until they explode. It’s particularly satisfying if you can pull of the latter. Movement as a pilot is frenetic and shit-storm-like, whilst life inside the Titan is more like being in an oversized juggernaut suit (with homing rocket’s and rail guns).
The battle chaos is wonderfully relentless and because there are large numbers of AI enemies and many ways to get out of trouble, even beginners can sink their teeth in, get some kills and escape the infuriatingly swift death/respawn cycle associated with EA’s more realistic Battlefield 4. On top of that, from the first game, every player can control a Titan as its a core part of every soldier’s loadout. Which is great because some players who may not be such great soldiers – or “pilots” as they’re referred to in this game – may actually find their strength lies inside a Titan as it requires a very different approach given the stark contrast in mobility and weaponry.
As this game is online multiplayer only you’d be expecting some extensive and creative match options, sadly Respawn Entertainment have kept it pretty basic, and it’s in this regard that my only real criticism of Titanfall arises.
So much energy and ingenuity has gone into creating a ferociously fresh platform and battle system that little thought seems to have gone into the game modes. A similar flaw in the Call of Duty series. Campaign mode, feels like an extended tutorial with a storyline of sorts – better described as a series of loosely connected scenarios – but the matches you find yourself in don’t have any impact or influence on the outcome, which completely removes their significance.
…sadly Respawn Entertainment have kept it pretty basic, and it’s in this regard that my only real criticism of Titanfall arises.”
It’s only worth playing the campaign so that you can rack up experience and unlock two Titan model loadouts, the Stryder and Ogre. Then there’s also the option of playing a team deathmatch-style mode “Attrition”, capture the flag, Hard point (domination), Pilot Hunter and finally – the only remotely original option – Last Titan Standing. All modes do what they say on the tin, but they’re nothing to fire your auto-locking smart pistol into the ceiling about.
Speaking of weapons, there’s a decent selection of options, including shotguns, assault rifles and sniper options, but aside from challenges on each weapon, there’s not quite enough options to keep you versatile. It’s likely you’ll quickly settle on one of three weapons and never change. I’m hoping Respawn are planning to add to the current lineup because I was bored of the ones available within a week.
But with all of that said, this game overall is in no way boring, in fact it’s riotously entertaining, even more so if you’re playing with friends, deploying a range of coordinated tactics. Being able to free-run under, over and across epic set pieces, and mix attacking and defence with Titans, makes this game one of the most testing, rewarding and original first person shooter titles of all time.
Respawn Entertainment has laid down a new marker for what players can expect from their FPS titles, hopefully its ambition is reinforced with some genuine depth through DLC and the sequel that we’ll undoubtedly see teased within the next 12-18 months. Titanfall is superb for the most part, and rival developers had better raise their game if they want to compete in the new landscape created by its release.
Titanfall is out for XBOX One, Xbox 360 and PC from the second half of March.