Titanfall Review - Mechs and the City

Jim Sterling | 11 Mar 2014 02:40
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During the course of the game, players can also earn Burn Cards - one-use items that grant one special perk for the duration of a spawn. These can be anything from "Amped" weapons that deal extra damage, to prosthetic legs that make pilots extra speedy. Tons of cards, with varying rarities, can be unlocked, though their limited usage makes each one a valuable asset.

There's a tremendous sense of speed that Respawn has deftly evolved from its Call of Duty heritage. Running, jumping, and parkouring around the field of war is swift, as is returning to battle after getting shot in the face. Visual information assaults the player's eyes at a rapid pace, almost becoming overwhelming, while choke points and hot zones shift around the map with fluidity. It's a game that demands attention, but is often so busy that it's sometimes difficult to stay focused.

The titular falling Titans of Titanfall are, as one might expect, the stars of the show, and they're not just reserved for the best players. Everybody has access to their own personal walking death machine, which can be called down from the skies at timed intervals. Like the player's human avatars, these Titans can all be customized, with three unique chassis frames and a variety of weapons - from chainguns to rockets to railguns - with which to deal all manner of pain. The switch from ground (or rooftop) level personal combat to stomping metallic anarchy feels shockingly natural, not least because you can hop out at any time, let the Titan automatically romp around, and jump back in whenever you want - provided it's not been blown to pieces by the opposing force.

As well as piloting a Titan, allied players can hitch a ride by clinging to one's shoulder. Enemy players can do the same, able to rip a section of the mech's armor off and blast away at a weak spot. In those rarest of occasions, a Titan may even be called down upon a foe's Titan, utterly destroying it. I've been a victim of this. I have not done it. I probably never will.

At heart, Titanfall really doesn't do anything that other shooters haven't at least attempted. Where it stands out is how sensibly it's all tied together. Whether you're hacking enemy Specters to build your own little robot squad, or jumpkicking opposing pilots in the face, you get to experience dozens of little touches that make a big difference overall. No, this game is far from the "revolution" that excited critics have eagerly claimed it to be, but it is a wonderful little example of how fresh a standard shooter can feel when you pour all sorts of extra garnish over a solid foundation.

Graphically, this is a very pretty little game, though the Xbox One version suffers from some unfortunate screen tearing that really wasn't doing my eyes any favors. Animations of story-based characters are a little stiff and wonky, but the animation in all other regards - especially when it comes to interaction between pilots and Titans - is impressive.

If Titanfall excels at one thing, it's map design. Each map is intricately designed to take advantage of the navigational tools at the player's disposal. Walls and windows were made to run across and jump through, rooftops add a verticality to combat, and there are lots of open spaces for Titans to roam. Each arena is large, but not so huge that one will be stuck wandering for long. A massive amount of thought went into these environments, and it shows.

As far as online stability goes, my time with the pre-release public servers has been fairly good. I've experienced very minor connection issues, and I had one complete crash after the game's audio completely cut out. This is an Electronic Arts game, but Microsoft's servers are taking the strain of the launch. With Xbox Live able to handle the game's ginormous beta weekend, one can expect this won't go the way EA's other online games have gone lately. Fingers crossed!

Whether you pick it up now or wait for the launch to die down, you're almost guaranteed to have a great time. I blasted through almost thirty matches in a straight row during a marathon session and really didn't get tired of it. The accessibility keeps investment light, while the ever-changing sway of battle keeps one hooked. Oh, and muting fellow players is incredibly quick and easy, which is terrific, because it's full of racists, idiots, and dudebros already.

Bottom Line: No game can live up to the level of hype foisted on Titanfall, but few games can be this hyped and still satisfy the end user. Respawn Entertainment most certainly satisfies, providing a solid shooter with a laudable amount of unique extras draped over a durable and familiar framework.

Recommendation: Does punching a robot with your robot sound like a good time? Prepare for Titanfall.

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