Respawn's promise of seamless titan vs pilot combat is an appealing one. Find out if Titanfall's concept matches the reality in our Titanfall review.
Published on Mar 10, 2014
With all the hype around Titanfall, it’s very easy to get carried away when setting your expectations.
On the one hand, you might have become convinced that Titanfall is the most revolutionary game that has ever been created, a game that will not only change the landscape of the industry, but our very perception of the universe and the nature of human existence.
Conversely, the marketing bluster may have pushed you in the opposite direction, to take the position that Titanfall is just a tired riff on the same old first-person multiplayer shooter formula, the inclusion of mechs an instance of hand-waving to distract you from the fact that you’re playing the same game you’ve played a thousand times before.
Titanfall is neither of those things. What Titanfall is, though, is fun. A lot of fun.
Titanfall Review - Titanfall's Borrowed Ideas
Titanfall borrows a number of ideas that we’ve seen before in other games - the freerunning mechanics pioneered by Mirror’s Edge, mech-on-mech combat from the likes of Hawken, weak AI 'creeps' from MOBAs - and, as such, it would be fair to argue that it’s not as original a title as it might initially appear.
What’s so impressive about Titanfall, however, is the way that these borrowed ideas work so well together. Everything that’s in Titanfall feels like it’s been carefully thought about and has been included for a good reason.
That care of thought is apparent in the way that each element of Titanfall has been executed from a technical perspective too and, as a result, what Respawn has created is an exciting and well-balanced shooter that makes you want to keep coming back for more.
When on foot, Titanfall is incredibly fast paced, its appeal predicated on ease of movement, the effortless way in which the player can bound in and out of windows, run across walls and boost between rooftops as they hunt down enemy targets or hurtle towards objectives.
Once that freerunning system clicks it’s an incredibly satisfying way of traversing Titanfall’s maps.
Titanfall Review - How Titans Change The Game
You can also get about the map relatively quickly once you’ve got yourself into one of the game’s giant mechs (or titans) too, though the game does take on a decidedly different feel in that instance.
Because titans take a lot more punishment than a pilot, titan combat takes on a surprisingly strategic bent. You must alternately attack and retreat in order to manage your shields, time your missile salves smartly and even use special abilities to control the space around you.
Strategic variety is also offered by the fact that you can jump out of your titan at any time, setting the AI to either follow you or guard a particular area.
This means that you can, for example, have your titan engage another while you use it as a distraction to jump on top of the enemy titan – referred to in-game as 'rodeoing' – and do severe damage to the titan’s weak spot.
Or, you could set your titan to guard an objective in Hardpoint Domination, helping you hold on to it while you set off on foot to capture another.
That’s not to say that Titanfall is the most tactical multiplayer experience out there, because it’s certainly not. Nevertheless, it does always feel like you’ve got plenty of options as to how to approach a combat encounter and that helps to keep Titanfall interesting.
Titanfall Review - How Pilots & Titans Work Together
When it comes to switching between titan and pilot combat and exploring the ways in which the two can fight against eachother, it’s important to note that Titanfall’s maps feel perfectly balanced.
While there are a few maps that are a little visually indistinct from eachother, the important thing is that they work well, regardless of whether you’re on foot or in a titan, one never feeling overpowered in relation to the other.
While titan’s can easily kill a pilot, it is possible to make use of your speed to move around swiftly and fire shots from rooftops and windows before moving on quickly, while the aforementioned rodeo also remains an option.
As well as effectively balancing combat between pilots and titans, Respawn deserves credit for the way that they have made Titanfall accessible without compromising the enjoyment of more competent players.
Taking a page from the MOBA book and including AI grunts that can easily be wiped out by the most inexperienced of players is a masterful way of allowing those players to make a small contribution to the cause and get a little ego boost in the process.
The same goes for the fact that every player will get access to a titan in every game - nobody gets locked out of the fun of stomping around in one of the hulking metallic structures - but better players will still be rewarded for their play by having their titan build time reduced significantly as they rack up kills.
Titanfall Review - Why Campaign Multiplayer Doesn't Work
Titanfall has made the sensible decision of jettisoning the single-player campaign that so many primarily multiplayer shooters apparently feel obliged to include. However, its replacement – a storyline driven campaign multiplayer mode – is the game’s weakest element.
Narrative snippets are imparted before the beginning of each match and while the match is taking place. You might manage to follow what’s going on before the match, but the background chatter that takes place while you’re playing is almost impossible to follow, with your attention fully focussed on the action that’s taking place around you.
Whether the fact that we were so confused about what exactly was going on in the conflict between The IMC and The Militia, and who the characters that we were evidently meant to care about actually were, is a result of the story being a bit rubbish (we suspect it is) or solely a result of the less than ideal way in which it is imparted, we’re not sure.
What is clear though, is that while Titanfall’s multiplayer campaign doesn’t damage the game in any significant way, it certainly fails to add anything to the experience.
One slight concern is that the relative paucity of game modes, weapons and attachments that are available in Titanfall, in comparison to other multiplayer shooters, could be an issue when it comes to longevity.
However, we would suggest that there is enough variety in the way that games play out, as well as the range of options that you can use to take down enemy titans and players, to ensure that Titanfall remains engaging over time.
Is Titanfall revolutionary? No. Are all of its ideas original? No. Is it the most tactically demanding and cerebral multiplayer experience available? No.
None of that changes the fact that Titanfall is a meticulously well-made and thrilling shooter that’s successfully delivered on the concept of mixing human and mech combat.
The best thing we can say about Titanfall, though, is that it's lots of fun. When it comes down to it, that’s all that matters.
However, one thing that you do need to remember, is Battlefield 4. All the praise we’ve given Titanfall won’t matter one jot if Titanfall suffers the same difficulties as that game once it goes live.
For that reason, we’d advise you wait until Titanfall is actually out and the proof that it can cope with a worldwide audience is evident.
If all goes smoothly at launch and Titanfall does prove to be a stable online shooter, then jump right in, because Titanfall is bloody good.
Version Tested: Xbox One
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Titanfall is an accessible, well-balanced and intensely enjoyable multiplayer first-person shooter that successfully delivers on the concept of blending human and mech combat.