Posted on March 21, 2014
There are a lot of games coming out that have so much hype behind them that you start to wonder if they can actually live up to all of it. Titanfall is one of those games. I was lucky enough to be in the beta prior to it’s release and I really enjoyed myself. It felt like a breath of fresh air in a genre that has been releasing the same cloned game year after year. Titanfall offers an evolution of the competitive first-person shooter (fps) genre but there are a few aspects of the genre that have not changed that probably should have.
Titanfall’s core gameplay focuses mostly on mid-range gun fights but with a twist; actually, I would say there are two twists. The obvious twist being the Titans and the not so obvious being the parkour. Running around, or sliding, in a Titan and shooting at everything that moves has a great feel to it. The Titans don’t feel entirely heavy or clunky and you get a nice tight feeling with movement and gun play. Lets face it, running around shooting things in a big ass robot is a dream come true for many gamers and geeks around the world, myself included.
The parkour gameplay opens up a whole new sense of literal depth and height within the maps. Scattered throughout the maps are surfaces you can “wall run” off of. This new mobility isn’t just a gimmick and is a welcome change to fps games. A lot of the times running on a wall or jet packing up to a higher level saves your ass from imminent death. For me, it was more of a game changer than the Titans. Don’t get me wrong, and as I’ve said earlier, running around in a giant robot is incredible satisfying but nothing is more satisfying than bouncing around the map and taking down titans on foot or picking off pilots as they do the same. It all feels natural and intuitive especially for what it is. Not many fps games offer this kind of mobility but I hope they start to.
The devs at Respawn really balanced out the gameplay regardless of the situation you find yourself in. When you’re on foot, you have special anti-titan weapons that pack a punch. There are two anti-titan weapons to start but more are unlocked as your progress. These unlocked weapons range from grenade launchers to arch cannons. There are also explosive options like arch-grenades and explosive satchels that stick to surfaces and can be remotely detonated. All these anti-titan weapons aside there is one other option that works the best if you can time it right. This of course is mounting an enemy titan, tearing off it’s protective hatch, then unloading several clips into it’s brains. This option is the fastest way to kill a titan but also the most dangerous for obvious proximity reasons but for the less obvious, the enemy pilot can leave his hi-jacked titan and shoot you in the ass to get you off. This happens a lot so you need to time these attacks right or it’s certain doom for your k/d (kill/death ratio). It all works incredibly well considering you have a 2 story robot trying to crush you like a bug. And I think this is probably what I like most about Titanfall; these compartmentalized battles in close spaces will make your heart race, a feeling that I haven’t had in this genre in a long time.
Another interesting aspect of Titanfall’s gameplay is the burn card perk system. Once unlocked, burn cards are single use perks that can be loaded during a load out. The name says it all, once you die the burn card dies with you. This adds an element of spontaneity or strategy as you choose them for different scenarios. The perks each card offers range from being cloaked longer to lowering the amount of time your titan takes to fall. My hat is off to Respawn for not making these microtransactions. Too often these days, games rely on microtransactions to squeeze more money out of their players. It’s fine for $5 cellphone games but keep that shit out of my $60 console and PC games, thaaaaanks.
What really hurts Titanfall are technical issues and “fps-isms” that probably should have been tweaked or changed altogether. I talked about an evolution of the genre with the mobility and depth of gameplay but on the flipside, Titanfall keeps the single hit melee, over powering of leveled up players, and exploitability of certain weapons – I’m looking at your auto-gun or as I like to call it “the noob pistol”. I also think Sniper rifles have zero place here. Often when I’m sniped it takes me out of the fun I’m having while battling a titan on foot. Think about it this way, you are already out powered by a titan when you’re on foot, now add in getting snipped at in a mid-range world. It just doesn’t make sense and feels like Respawn added them at the last minute.
Another major issue I had, which wasn’t apparent during the beta, is how powerful melee attacks are. You can send several bullets into a pilot but if he or she manages to melee you before killing them, you die in one miserable, game breaking, fun destroying, shot. I see more boots flying at my face than bullets in Titanfall. And I get it, CoD has the knife and Halo has the elbow to the face but the Titanfall “kick” almost seems like it auto-aims. There is nothing worse than shooting someone countless times only to be meleed to death in a single kick. This, for me, drops Titanfall an entire half point in scoring.
Probably the biggest downfall of Titanfall are the AI Grunts. More often than not I’m killing grunts because they look very similar to Pilots until you get in close. This wouldn’t bother me so much if the Grunts were a challenge but in reality, they just stand around or shoot around you on purpose. In fact, the only time I think Grunts are effective is when you’re in a titan and they’re dropping your shield leaving you wondering who the hell is shooting you. I’ve also found that some players like to mix into AI Grunts using them as shields as they line up shots and take you out. This is incredibly frustrating. Respawn obviously had some technical issues with Titanfall otherwise we’d see less grunts and more real life players. Wait a minute… wait… Before you say,”HEYYY, WTF – 6 on 6 is perfect for mid-range boards”. I will agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly when it comes to having only 12 titans live at any given moment. But why can’t we have more players on foot who are in a queue for their titan? I really think it has something to do with the performance issues Titanfall has, at least on the Xbox One.
If Titanfall isn’t screen tearing it’s dropping frames, missing it’s target of 60 fps. Console gamers are, sadly, used to this downside of gaming since we don’t have a $1200+ rig running our games. This doesn’t change the fact that these issue are there and in a game that doesn’t really look great to begin with. The color pallette is very gray and washed out, the textures feel over sharpened, the animations are stiff, and it’s obviously running at a lower resolution than it probably should be. All of this would be forgiven if the frame rate wasn’t such a mess. A lot of people say,”Gameplay > Graphics” or something toolish like that. I say toolish because most of the time people say that to justify bad graphics. But graphics DO matter, especially in fps games. The higher the frame rate, the easier it is to manage a headshot or to hit your target at all. So I will agree with the statement of Gameplay > Graphics if, and only if, the graphics don’t hinder gameplay. In addition to these technical issues, JFlex has issues connecting to the Titanfall servers every single time we sit down to play this game together. He has the digital download version while I have the disc version which might be the issue. It usually takes us around 20-30 minutes to finally get into a match and that’s after several reboots. This might be an Xbox Live or Xbox One issue but I’ve never seen it on any of the other Xbox One game prior to Titanfall.
Technical issues aside, the last and final issue I have with Titanfall is a biggy – the lack of content for my $60. For your hard earned $60, you will get a few game types, three titans, several guns that mostly feel the same and well, that’s about it. There is no true story driven campaign mode. Respawn has stated that single player campaigns split dev teams up and reduce focus on both ends. Fine. I get that but then why not make a story driven campaign co-operative similar to Halo 4’s Spartan ops? I think this is a major issue with the industry today and this genre is at the center of it. I understand people wanting to just jump into a live match and shoot someone in the face. I’ve been there and I do enjoy that but when we remove the story driven element from games, the proverbial “meat and potatoes, or co-operative story driven elements, than is $60 the right price tag to slap on these kinds of games? In my opinion, Titanfall should have been no higher than $40 for the amount of content that was provided and I think that’s being generous.
Titanfall does a lot of things right to help evolve a very stagnant genre into something more fun and exciting than your average first-person shooter. Though, I can’t help but feel like this is a half baked game at best, especially for the price. Between the lack of content, performance issues, and annoyances it’s a hard pill to swallow for $60. Then again, it’s an incredibly fun fps when everything clicks. There are moments in this game that I’ve had where my jaw is on the floor. I can’t think of many games, or any at the moment, where you can drop a big ass robot on top of another big ass robot and crush it like a soda can. And I love the “David and Goliath” moments when you’re on foot, taking down a titan. It’s something that just puts a smile on your face every single time.