“Titanfall” review

Shooters come and go in this world, falling short in the blinding light of franchises like “Call of Duty” and “Halo.” For those who aspire to make something a little different, there’s a daunting task ahead of them to shine brighter than those giants.

Respawn Entertainment has given it their best shot with “Titanfall.” While in no way a “CoD-Killer,” “Titanfall” provides an experience that is both fast-paced and refreshing to this current market of recycled ideas and overdone games.

Arguably the first big release on the Xbox One, “Titanfall” has had an interesting image to the public. Many have been wary that it won’t live up to expectations or hype, while the flip side have been eagerly awaiting it with baited breath.

In my mind, this is the first real test of the always-online mentality that the Xbox One has been championing for so long. But is the game all that good? Is it worth the money for something that has been done before? Let’s take a look.

The first thing that should be said is that his game really shines in the multiplayer because of the gameplay itself. The player’s ability to ruin conventional level design and traverse the map in a variety of methods really does open the game up internally and mentally. No longer will there be wall hugging and corner hiding, though certainly that helps in situations, but the emphasis in three-dimensional thinking is really a plus.

While in a hard fight, players may find themselves thinking of ways to one-up an enemy rather than face them head on, trying to out-think rather than out-shoot, and that is what I find so fun about it.

The weapons, however, could use some tinkering. Each weapon is customizable after getting the different parts from challenges and rewards. There is your standard shooter array (shotguns, rifles, pistols, etc.), but honestly there does seem to be a weapon that can be so broken it’s almost not fair to use.

Flanking a titan in the streets is almost necessary to survive fights.

The Smart Pistol, while silly in name, is quite possibly the most deadly gun in the game. Modified appropriately, it could be a match changer. The pistol locks on to targets in its field of vision and when the player pulls the trigger, the targets that have been locked are instantly shot in that one trigger pull. Of course, opponent players in the 6 v 6 matches take longer to lock on to, some two or three seconds, but that could be all you need to take out an enemy pilot and move on.

I think the problem is that the map can get so hectic and so frenzied, that if a player is not in a titan, then they’re easy pickings for this weapon in such a way that they may not know they’re dead until they see the kill screen. The pistol renders all other weapons obsolete if you’re just using it until you get into your next titan.

There are even sniper rifles in the game, but for the life of me I can’t really recall any time but one when someone used it in the game. The weapon feels more like a grunt-slayer than anything else.

Now that I’ve mentioned the grunts I can talk about the matches themselves. There are the obvious multiplayer game types, team-deathmatches, point-capture and the like, but it’s not what the game type is so much as how the map is filled.

Since these are only 6 v 6 matches, the game fills out with non-player grunts for both sides to make the players feel that the battlefield is alive. The grunts will use tactics on each other, pull wounded into cover, fight hand to hand in small quarters and chatter to each other and to you as you pass. They really do give the sense of being a living field of war. However, being a pilot and able to call a titan down, you do feel like somewhat of a god when you clear out a small squad with your smart pistol, call a titan and wreck another squad simply by stepping on them.

Now, we come to it. The titans. Calling them down takes a few seconds and you can customize their loadouts just as you would your own, but really that’s not what everyone wants to know.

Are they fun?

Yes and no. Since calling in a titan can be shortened by players’ effects on the field of battle, sometimes the best players can get their titans almost immediately at the beginning of a match, drastically increasing the difficulty for the other side. That being said, when the map becomes a 6 on 6 match of titans while the grunts mill about and scream as they’re trampled on, the game devolves into a kind of who-can-shoot-more-missiles-at-each-other contest.

Of course, there are tactics that can come in to play. Vortex shields help, but not so much when you’re outnumbered. Concentrating your fire will also work to whittle away an enemy’s shields so that the team can converge for the kill. As a pilot you even spawn with a weapon specifically made for damaging titans, which of course you can swap for a variety of others in your loadout to fit your playstyle.

I will say that nothing you can do in a titan feels as satisfying as two things you can do outside of them:

1. Rodeoing an enemy titan and shooting it’s controls until it explodes and kills the pilot inside makes you feel like the ultimate badass. “What? Ride in a titan? Please, I’ll just kill it with my pistol!” Of course, the trade-off is worrying about the pilot ejecting and shooting you in the face, then getting back in their titan and going back to their killing spree.

2. Getting out of your own titan and telling it to follow you around the battlefield and using it as a decoy to draw out pilots and kill them while they try to destroy your own titan. This works great until someone kills you, or a grunt does, and your titan is left defenseless, using its own AI to survive and being unprotected from enemy pilots rodeoing.

Also, pulling an enemy out of their titan to chuck them across the map is AWESOME.

So, what’s the verdict? Honestly, “Titanfall” is a great, fast-paced game that offers a new way to think about the shooter genre that we haven’t had in a while, emphasizing player skill and creativity in combat more than anything. Adding the z-axis to tactical thinking was a great idea, and the parkour jumping feels so natural that it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before. Of course, it can be frustrating at times, and the first-person perspective gets a little disorienting when you go someplace you don’t want to with a jump, but it just takes getting used to.

Here’s the rub: I got this for the PC. I can honestly say that this game is not worth paying for an Xbox One just to play it. Get the PC version, if you can, and play it that way. The caveat there is that it’s a 43 GB install. That’s a lot of memory for a game that is fun and entertaining but may or may not last beyond the initial buzz of enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, I like the game and it’s fun, but if you’re also like me and shooters aren’t your first choice of games when it comes to PC or console, this game will last a little bit longer than normal due to its novelty and freshness. Beyond that, I have no idea.

[Ed. note] A copy of this game was purchased for the purposes of this review by our staff.