Titanfall is the debut release of Respawn, comprised of former members of Infinity Ward. The game released on March 11th of this year, with a short beta test a few weeks prior to that. I participated in the beta, and decided to review the final release to see if anything significant changed.
Mankind has reached beyond the stars, and has now spread to The Frontier in a never ending search for freedom, or the never ceasing exploitation of resources. Corporate avarice and unchecked expansion has created the IMC, a conglomerate that seeks to dominate The Frontier in the name of profit; battling for both their freedom and often, survival, Frontier Colonists have created the Militia, a mismatched band of fighters pulled from various mercenaries, bandits and smugglers. While the grunts and robotic Spectres battle it out among the colonies and IMC martial law zones, elite pilots on both sides control the huge war machines known as Titans, or take to the ground themselves in free running battles with their opposites. The story behind Titanfall is good, but unfortunately it is only an afterthought. There is so much potential here for a new franchise, and it is my hope that Respawn and EA recognize that. Titanfall is multiplayer only, there is no campaign in the traditional since. Bits of the story are gleaned from the introduction when you first load up the game, and your first playthroughs in the campaign matches in the form of a few brief cutscenes or voice overs.
Respawn did a nice job with Titanfall’s graphics, the interface is crisp and there are very few issues with clipping or anything else. Every now and again you may see something minor, but you have to really look for it. The movement of the characters seems natural, fluid and put together quite well. While not the eye popping level of graphics that would make me give it a five star rating, there is really nothing to complain about here; I found the game to perform rather well under a variety of graphics settings, from the onboard graphics of an APU rig, to dedicated cards ranging among an R7 250, HD 7870 to the R9 280X; there was very little variation in performance which tells the game is put together quite well. Crossfire support is not enabled as of yet, although I do have a reasonable suspicion that an upcoming graphics driver update will address this. It has to be noted however, that Crossfire support is not necessarily the responsibility of the developers of the game, so I can’t ding them for that one. Widescreen Eyefinity, however, makes this game shine. One of the issues reported by some is the 60 FPS cap. Apparently this is a bug in the game’s build itself and is related to VSync and mouse issues. I have not noticed it to affect my game at all, but those with a higher refresh rate on their monitors have reported to me that it is annoying. From watching the dialogue between various folks at Respawn and those that have brought it up, I can gather that the issue is being addressed. For now, there are a few workarounds out there, you just have to dig a little using your awesome search engine skills.
The voice over acting is superb; whether you are in the campaign mode or classic multiplayer matches, everything sounds as it should. It’s kind of hard to say what a carbine will sound like in the future, but to me the effects for the weapons nice. Background noises, interactions among the AI ground forces, the sounds of Titan combat and the background music all work together to immerse you in the game. You load the game up, and before you know it several hours have passed as you go for “just one last round.”
As mentioned, Titanfall is multiplayer only. While this would not be so bad by itself, there is an unnecessary requirement to play the Campaign in order to unlock all of the available Titans not only once, but twice. Depending on which side you are thrown in on, you may unlock either the Ogre or the Stryder Titans. What makes this a rather ridiculous requirement is that the Campaign maps are the same as the Classic Multiplayer maps, but with a little extra sound effects during the match, and maybe a beginning cutscene. Campaign matches are a mix of Attrition (Team Deathmatch) and Hardpoint (think Conquest or Domination) modes and are either win or lose. In both Campaign and Classic matches if you win you have to try and wipe out the surviving forces before the clock runs out, or make it to the Drop Ship before it leaves if you are defeated. Both wiping out enemy forces and evacuating give you bonus points and occasional in game temporary perks you can spend later. The storyline follows a plot, so it does not matter which side you are on, or whether your team sucks or not; at the story will have the same ending geared towards your side. During all games, as a pilot you start out on foot with a series of weapons. Your primary can be either the Smart Pistol, which auto locks on targets, or a variety of carbines, SMGs, sniper rifles, a light machine gun or a shotgun. You also have a side arm which consists of one of three possible types, and an anti Titan weapon, for taking down the big boys. The weapons list progresses through a series of unlocks, and by completing challenges or ranking up you can unlock new weapons, or a variety of modifications to your current. After a two minute delay, shortened by scoring kills, your Titan is ready to call and drops from orbit crushing anything it lands on (including enemies); a force field surrounds it for a short time while you hop in and then you are ready to spread a little hate and discontent. Just as personal weapons go through a progression, so do your Titans. As you rank up, you unlock different weapons, modifications, abilities and custom slots for both your character and the Titan you pilot. The action is fast, and unless you find a nice little spot where no one can see you with your sniper rifle, you need to keep moving. The blazingly fast parkour movement, wall running and jetpack assisted jumps guarantee that you will not get bored at all. You can hack enemy turrets, take control of robotic Spectres, or run around and snap necks of grunts and enemy pilots. Probably one of the best features I have seen so far is the ability to place your Titan in auto mode. If you find a nice comfy spot, you can set it to guard an area, or to follow you. One decent tactic during Hardpoint is to call down Titanfall, and then the players direct several Titans to surround a hardpoint, facing out. You can also set the Titan to follow you and act as your (rather large) battle buddy. If it gets destroyed, you will probably have an opportunity to call another. Finally, the last thing to talk about is Burn Cards. Burn Cards are sort of one time perks that you can gain after a certain level, and bank up to use anytime after your pilot dies. In between matches, you select up to three cards you wish to use and are then able to pick which ones to boost your combat effectiveness when you respawn. Some allow for faster movement, or give you a buffed weapon, others allow you to call down a Titan sooner, or even start the match in one. There are many others; once those three cards are gone though, you get no more during the match. Complaints about the number of active enemy players has not changed; the game is still capped at 6 versus 6. While scoring kills on grunts and Spectres, even maintenance and search drones, will earn you points and unlock challenges, though they are considerably lower than that earned from human player kills. The AI forces lull you into a false sense of security, and while you are busy bouncing around the walls trying to score the easy kills, your opponent is busy chasing you down to snap your neck, so be careful. I honestly do not have an issue with the number of players; the map size and pace of the game fit nicely and if I were to guess, I would say that the stability is due to the fact that you don’t have over 30 people running around on any given time.
After unlocking everything, and reaching a certain level you could get bored rather easily. You can reset your rank for a special dog tag viewable only when you are in between matches, or work towards checking off the considerable list of challenges during the matches, but sooner or later you will probably move on. With the release of Titanfall came the Digital Deluxe Edition, which includes a season pass for future DLC that Respawn has yet to give details. Ultimately Titanfall is like any other title out there, there is an expected shelf life that is supplemented by some future releases during its life cycle, whether that will be new weapons, character types, Titans, or maps remains to be seen. For the time being, I find it a fresh take on some familiar concepts, and it has kept me coming back almost nightly as I try to get that next unlock. I haven’t yet found a way to join in on any of my friends you also play Titanfall, although from the interface it looks like that may be a possibility that I am either misunderstanding, or will be available in the future. For now, and possibly forever, there are no dedicated servers; you are pretty much stuck with randoms no matter where you go. This is great if you are high ranking and everyone else is lower, but sucks if you are on the other end as a Level 5 fighting some guy at Level 50, who probably has a toilet installed in his chair so he never has to leave.
Basic Titanfall will run you about 60 USD, while the Deluxe Edition will push that up closer to 80. Buying the DLC, or the Season Pass separately will push that up a bit more. Of course if you want to have all the goodies, like a statuette of a Titan and some other things, you can expect to spend significantly more money. I bought the Deluxe Edition, mainly because my participation in the beta showed me that I would enjoy this game; while still a bit pricey, I would have to say that it is a decent price given the state of the games market today.
Titanfall is a wonderful title for Respawn’s debut work. Most of the things I have mentioned as critique are relatively minor and in no way overshadow how much I do enjoy it; I just have to be honest and say that no matter how much I like something, there is always room to improve. Titanfall has tremendous potential, I hope to see this grow into a franchise with releases in the future, and hope that something of a Single Player Campaign comes with one of them. I also wouldn’t mind playing as a grunt, controlling Spectres, or even jumping in one of the static vehicles you see on the map. Titanfall is not Call of Duty or Battlefield, it’s something entirely different that should satisfy fans of both.