This review is based on six hours with the final retail download available in the Xbox Games Store. That download was paid for by enConnected.
Titanfall is the best game you can play on the Xbox One now. No, how about Titanfall is the best multiplayer experience that can be had on any console?
Neither that question nor that statement sounded truthful as I sat down to put my ideas about Titanfall, one of this year’s most hotly anticipated titles, on digital paper. A few months ago the multiplayer game from Respawn Entertainment was all that people could talk about. Back then I listened intensely as video game journalists with better credentials than I could hope to put on my résumé in the near future debated about the game’s jetpacks, giant fighting robots, and whether the game was worth $60.
So hot was the talk of Titanfall that we here at enConnected decided it would be a better idea to not throw out a review that would get left at the bottom of a pile of other reviews. Instead, we gathered that it’d be a better idea to wait and examine how well the game holds the attention span. We also wanted to contemplate the core changes actually mean for real gamers and casual players.[divider] A Game all Their Own [/divider] [one_half] [/one_half] [one_half_last]
A Game All Their Own
Today, roughly two months after I picked up an Xbox One controller in my living room and opened a digital download of Titanfall I find myself still playing the game’s multiplayer with random members of Xbox Live.
To be clear, that’s because there’s no story mode here. Well, technically there is, but it feels about as real as visiting a theme park whose market is supposed to magically transport you to France but has employees wearing polo shirts and standing in a building that has air conditioning.
Only a few times has Titanfall left me wondering what the next button press was.
Players are automatically placed on two sides of a military conflict: The IMC or the Militia. We don’t really learn a lot about the conflict in the story mode that’s there. That makes sense as Titanfall’s developers combined the multiplayer experience with a single player campaign so that they wouldn’t have to divide their resources.
Really, the story is background noise as players are dropped into giant war zones that have been ravaged by bombs and what have you for years. Houses have been decimated, entire buildings have been reduced to mere levels for the player to traverse. Regardless of what team the user is on, the intent is clear: The other team has loads of weapons, human players and drones at their disposal and it’s your job to kill all of those things and giant robots, called Titans, while not getting killed too many times yourself. You also have long jumping and the ability to run on walls to get you out of a firefight in a safe manner.
These are simple ideas, ideas that sound terrible for those who like single player campaigns and not playing against more skilled users who dominate online games more than the law should allow. It’s actually pretty fun though and that’s mostly because Respawn sprinkled little trinkets for novice players to take advantage of and get a few kills. First, there’s the Smart Pistol, a weapon that’ll automatically lock on to targets so that amateurs can get in a few kills. Each Titan also includes an auto-piloting system so that players can walk around and have their Titans do all the work. Every player also starts out with an invisibility power-up for themselves and a shield that captures and then refires things thrown at their Titan. The game’s artificial soldiers also act as easy prey even for the most unpracticed of players. These elements make Titanfall approachable, so approachable that I still find myself playing in the middle of the day.
The raw ingredients and the fact that it borrows heavily from the Call of Duty games gives the impression that it’s a sandbox built for the very top echelon of online gamers. You know, the guys that are all about dropping an entire weekend on a single multiplayer game.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Titanfall feels like a game for everyone, regardless of whether you have the skills to max out your character or not. Really, it’s an arena battle game with new power-ups that we haven’t seen anywhere else and that’s not a bad thing.
Only a few times has Titanfall left me wondering what the next button to press was or how to do the cool thing that everyone else is doing. Mostly, that’s because the game features a very in-depth tutorial that explains how every single play mechanic works.[/one_half_last] [divider] Missed Opportunites [/divider]
At least, being an arena battle game wouldn’t be that bad if it didn’t seem like Respawn had been reaching to be something more. The way Titanfall handles that story containing the IMC and the Militia is downright awful. After dropping five hours into the game I know nothing I didn’t know before about that conflict and have no desire to seek out any more knowledge on the subject either. Turning the campaign into what really amounts to cutscenes in between multiplayer matches is a double-edged sword. Undoubtly, that decision is why the multiplayer player feels so complete, but those whose normal motivation for buying a game has roots in waiting to experience a story should definitely keep browsing past Titanfall’s Xbox Game Store purchase page.
What bothered and continues to bother me the most about this decision is that while the combat feels very polished for this type of multiplayer game, it feels like there is so much missing.
About the only character customization going on here is the ability to set different default loadouts for your Titan and your pilot, and those customizations are only earned through leveling up in the game. You aren’t invested in your pilot or your Titan because they’re expendable. The character models look and feel like they’re exist because a character model was needed. After my time with the game I felt about as personally invested in my pilot and Ogre Titan as I am in NBC’s Matt Lauer.[/one_half] [one_half_last]
That character customization is this limited in what’s supposed to be a multiplayer only game is just strange.
Because weapons and loadouts are only earned as players level up, you spend an awful lot of time in the first 20 levels getting your rear end handed to you by human players who have weapons you can’t dream of yet. That’s not a problem as much today as it was early on. Respawn patched Titanfall so that it would weigh users skills more than connection speed. That has put the kibosh on most of the level 50 players being lumped on teams and absolutely massacring their opponents with ease. I get it, fancy weapons and burn cards, one-time use upgrades that can give you extra speed or faster healing, are something that has to be earned, but if you’re in the wrong match-up getting killed by all of these trinkets you won’t have access to for a while is cruel.
Also, users don’t inflict damage on their surroundings besides breaking windows. I don’t know why that bothers me but it does.
While the combat feels very polished for this type of multiplayer game, it feels like there is so much missing.[/one_half_last] [divider] The Verdict [/divider] [one_half]
If you’re okay with no story, limited customization and staying close to an internet connection, this is the game to have now.[/one_half] [one_half_last]
I’m not old, but I’ve been playing multiplayer games without the necessary skill set since before the Spotify music service was a thing. In that time I’ve come to fear multiplayer titles. I’m no good at them and to act like I am would be disingenuous.
Today, I enjoy Titanfall just as much as I did on launch day and it’s because the game prioritizes being approachable and acting as a fun sandbox instead of being a hardcore shooter. Piloting a Titan and ripping another player from their mechanized beast is just as fun as ejecting from my Titan and having it go nuclear and destroy everything in sight. Running and gunning down human and online generated players above while my Titan takes on things below me is awesome. Jumping on someone else’s Titan and destroying its systems while riding is the most fun you’ll have outside of poking fun at PlayStation 4 users for not being able to get the title.
I think those users who like multiplayer games are definitely in for a treat. So too are those Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners like me who absolutely stink at these kinds of games. Titanfall manages to comfortably cater to an audience who demands fast paced hardcore play and guys who have to rely on computer generated enemies to propel them to the top of each match’s leaderboard. That’s something Halo has never really managed to do.
Still, the story mode and the lack of any offline play force me to add caveats to this review. I should also add that there’s no split-screen play happening here either. Playing with a friend or family member in the same house will require two Xbox Ones. If you’re okay with no story, limited customization and staying close to an internet connection, this is the game to have now.
Buy Titanfall because you’re hungry for lightning fast kills and robot-fueled thrills. Don’t buy it you’re eager for story-driven, offline chills.[/one_half_last]