Yeah, I caved. With Electronic Arts ignoring – possibly with extreme prejudice – my request for a review copy of Titanfall, I contented myself to a discount code, secured through the largess of the few industry people I know, and loaded up the game that everybody wouldn’t shut up about. That is to say, I looked at the 50GB download size, went to bed, then woke up and played the damn thing.
Seriously, 50 GB for a installation download, what the hell?
One of the reasons I hesitated on Titanfall was the abundance of reviews, both professional and amateur, that got stuck on the idea of Titanfall as a fun experience, full stop. Fun is fun, but I want to know why something is fun. In fact, the more a person tells me, “It’s fun, but it’s hard to describe why it’s fun” the more I suspect that they’ve been brain hacked through the same sort of Skinner Box voodoo that gets people playing Farmville. Be that as it may, once I got into Titanfall I too found myself having a lot of fun parkouring off walls – in a way that reminded me of Mirror’s Edge – and stomping about in a big stompy robot. So let’s talk about why this game is fun, and why, after ten hours, I still want to play Titanfall.
It’s fast. From dropship to dropship, the average game of Titanfall lasts about ten minutes. Beyond that, everything about the maps and general game design elements are geared toward speed. Speed boosters and parkour kits make moving around the map an enjoyable and effortless affair. It’s not quite full 3D first person combat, but it certainly makes great use of the Z-axis without falling back on the Battlefield stand-by of aircraft – which almost always end up as the exclusive dominion of kamakaze newbs or elite experts.
It has an easy learning curve. The transition time from meat shield to useful member of the team is about two, maybe three, hours at the most. During that time a new player might not be making a lot of kills against other players, but they can still contribute by targeting the opposing team’s AI players. These bots aren’t the best tacticians, and their aim rivals that of a COBRA recruit, but they serve their purpose of easing a person into the game. The bots also provide a cunning sort of psychological benchmark for success. When playing in “Attrition” mode (aka team deathmatch) a player kill is worth four points and a bot kill is worth one point. This means that as long as a newbie takes out four bots before dying, a feat easily accomplished, they are holding their own for the team.
It’s not a game of shotguns. Nothing ruins a FPS faster than a critical mass of douche canoes with shotguns. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people trying to be the king shotgun runner of all frontier space, but the game is designed well enough as to not reward this kind of point grubbing. For the most part, shotguns are only one hit kills at make-out range. Barring a back attack, even the game’s semi-automatic rifle is fast enough to take out a foe intent on closing for a lazy kill.
It makes revenge robot powered. Titans fall from on high as a matter of course in Titanfall. Each titan is locked to its player, and even if a player does nothing but absorb bullets during a match, they will likely get to call in two or three titans. This is when the fun begins. I have stomped upon, shot, and electrocuted players with ten times my experience because I caught them in the open while inside my titan. Sure, titan versus man is a mismatch, but so is making me fight people who are better than me in an even contest, so it all comes out in the wash.
Sufficed to say, Titanfall has a lot going for it. That said, there are still a few areas where it falls short.
Derpy Matchmaking. There are some moments when it seems like Titanfall’s matchmaking system is just pulling players at random and sticking them in a match. For a game that is 100% multi-player, I would expect that the matchmaking would be flawless from the outset. While I can’t speak for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 experience, Titanfall’s PC matchmaking falls well short of the gold standard set by Halo Reach.
Single Player. I know a lot of people have taken to complaining about how Titanfall’s single-player is actually just multi-player with a plot and voice acting. I was particularly sceptical about paying full price for “half” a game. And even as I write these words, I still feel a bit cheated in terms of Titanfall’s single player, but only because it teases out such a potentially interesting story. The IMC are inter-stellar corporate assholes. The Militia are opposed to the IMC, seemingly because the former are inter-stellar corporate assholes. In between these polemics there are attempts to develop characters, a sense of place, and an honest narrative for both sides of the IMC/Militia war. Granted the absence of new stories in recent games makes me long for the good old days, but I still find myself more interested in Titanfall’s story than I would have expected.
My Bottom Line After 10 Hours
Though I had my doubts, Titanfall has proven to be a worthwhile investment. Sure, I’m a bit sore that I couldn’t get a ten-hour single-player campaign to accompany the solid multi-player experience, but I have every confidence that I’ll get my money’s worth out of the latter. The fast paced matches and unique freedom of movement might not be revolutionary, but they’re a pleasant iteration in a genre that is often content with pushing out more of the same. My only concern now is that the promised DLC prove to be something more than shameless cash grabs, as DLC are wont to be. Only time will tell on that count, but I am cautiously optimistic.