Titanfall Review: A Master Class in Mechanics

by Reads (1,747)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Gameplay
      • 10
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Graphics
      • 10
      • Audio
      • 10
      • Value/Replayability
      • 10
      • Fun Factor
      • 10
      • Total Score:
      • 9.83
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Sharp, responsive controls
    • Fast, fluid movement system
    • Intricate map design
    • Seamless animations
  • Cons

    • Limited game modes
    • Narrative gets buried under frantic gameplay

Quick Take

With its fluid frenetic pace and tight controls, Titanfall is a dynamic shooter that continues to produce unique and engaging experiences time and time again.  

Titanfall EjectA loud crack rings out as a 40mm shell crashes into the left side of my hull.  Red lights flash and flicker as the automated warning system alerts me of my impending doom. I frantically input my mech’s failsafe sequence, ejecting just in time to escape the flaming wreck as it explodes below.

Ascending hundreds of feet above the action, my eye catches a heavily-plated Ogre Titan, the culprit responsible for my near-death experience. Feeling secure in his mechanical behemoth, my adversary sets his sights on my AI-controlled brethren, mowing them down with impunity.

With his gaze adverted, I decide to go on the counter-offensive.  A delicate boost of my jetpack places me on the perfect trajectory, as I free-fall towards this looming giant. Plummeting towards the earth, my hands reach out as I grab onto the Ogre’s frame and in one quick sequence remove its protective cover to expose a vulnerable battery core. After emptying a clip into its weak spot, I jettison away to happily watch my foe befall the same fate as I.

This is Titanfall.

Amongst the saturated First-Person Shooter (FPS) market it’s easy to write off Titanfall as another mindless reiteration. In fact, without the game’s giant mechanized robots, it can appear to be just that.

Titanfall 01You’ll equip a familiar selection of weapons spanning from rifles to rocket launchers. You’ll compete in well-known game modes defending points, capturing flags, and defeating as many enemies as possible. You’ll navigate broad cityscapes and barren deserts as you earn experience all while leveling up to unlock new weapons and abilities.

However, you need only to spend a few minutes with Titanfall to see that it’s a far cry from the ordinary. Immediately its focus on fast fluid movements takes center stage. You may think that the hulking mechanical giants are the star of Titanfall, but it’s the game’s kinetic movement system that will keep you coming back for more.

It all starts with the Pilots, the highly agile foot soldiers of Titanfall.  With the ability to scale and run across walls, double jump, vault and hang over ledges and even use a jetpack you can string together impressive aerial feats to traverse entire maps within a few seconds. Chaining wall-runs together in succession will cause you to pick up momentum and clear even greater distances.

All of this is amplified by the game’s intelligent map design.  What at first appears to be a random sequence of angles and ledges quickly unfolds to offer a multitude of mobility options. Well after 25 hours into Titanfall I’m still finding different routes as I experiment with various combinations of wall-runs and double jumps. As you continue to improve, you’ll get faster and more precise in your movements opening up new options that you didn’t even think were possible.

TF_AngelCity_Pilot_0While mastering Titanfall’s movement system can be difficult, learning its basics is actually quite accessible. All of these moves can be completed with a few simple controls: run at the wall from an angle to start a wall-run, hit the jump button twice to double jump or hold the jump button to activate your jetpack. Titanfall’s movement system may be drastically different from other shooters, but it’s so intuitive that you can begin experimenting with the more nuanced mechanics right from the get go.

What can be more difficult to grasp is the mentality that’s needed to keep up with the game’s incredibly fast pace. With the ability to scale buildings within seconds, the threat of death is everywhere and you’re forced to take the whole map into account. Unlike other shooters there are no strategic choke points in Titanfall. Enemies could be perched on a ledge overhead, running across that wall behind you, or simply charging head-on in the pilot seat of 30-foot tall robot.

We can’t forget about these magnificent tech marvels. Standing several stories high and packing enough fire power to bring down Fort Knox, Titans will quickly the draw the attention of other players and often their ire as well. But fear not, there is one constant in Titanfall — everyone gets a Titan.

You’ll start matches in control of a Pilot, but in the background a countdown is always ticking away to your next Titan drop. Completing objectives and killing enemies will help expedite your Titan’s deployment. Do well and you’ll be able to call in your Titan before your opponent, giving you and your team a small edge.

Titanfall Titan FgihtOne of the most alluring aspects of Titanfall is the interplay between Pilots and Titans. You’d think that these large destruction machines would be slow, but they’re not. Everything in Titanfall is deadly and mobile. But whereas Pilots find themselves in constant motion, the mechs are more methodical, moving in short burst with their boosters and dealing out damage just as fast. It’s a different kind of speed.

A fight between two Titans is like a game of chess. Both of you hold all of the pieces needed to defeat the other, but whoever makes the precise move at the right time will walk away the victor. In the clash between Titans, patience is a virtue.  Waiting to deploying your shield to catch an incoming missile barrage, or saving a boost to charge the enemy while they’re reloading can make all the difference. It’s a welcomed departure from the standard twitch-based ground combat, which prioritizes sound mechanics and reaction time above all else.

More intriguing is when a Pilot’s David battles a Titan’s Goliath. Titans may pack a heavier punch, but these foot soldiers can prove just as lethal. It’s like a cobra fighting a mongoose. The Titan often sits poised waiting to strike a fatal blow, if it’s able to connect. But the Pilot can just as easily disorient his opponent with his constant agility. With the ability to attack from far away with anti-Titan explosives or climb directly on-board and directly dismantle these robots by hand, David always has a fighting chance. There’s a balance.

The ability to be successful as either a Pilot or Titan is as much a product of Titanfall’s excellent weapon balance as its fast paced gameplay. On its most basic level Titanfall feels like a complex game of rock, paper, scissors.  Opting for the SMG on a Pilot or the Triple Threat grenade launcher on a Titan will provide you with excellent burst damage for short-range encounters, for instance, but you’ll struggle to make an impact in long-range skirmishes.

TF_Fracture_Battle_0With each choice there’s a clear trade-off. There is no one-size fits all best option, which leaves you free to experiment and find the solutions that best fit your play style or particular need at any given moment. Looking to defend a point down in the trenches? Grab a shotgun. Want to be a highly mobile assassin? Use the auto-lock smart pistol, which allows you to fire easily on the move. For every tactic there’s a corresponding weapon. Titanfall may not offer the same expansive weapon set as Call of Duty, but there are no clones here. Each addition serves a purpose and brings something different to the table.

If you already didn’t feel enough pressure from encroaching enemy Pilots and Titans, you’ll also have to contend with hoards of AI controlled grunts. Taking a page out of the League of Legends playbook, Titanfall systematically deploys waves of AI-controlled soldiers to traverse the battlefield.

Similar to most online battle arena games, these adversaries aren’t imposing. A singular grunt is hardly life-threating and it doesn’t offer much of reward. However, killing multiple waves of grunts provides a noticeable point boost (in attrition) and reduces your overall Titan drop timer.

They’re a resource to be farmed and managed. It’s Titanfall’s way of incentivizing you to be an active participant, instead of sitting idly in the far recesses of the map with the hopes of obtaining a few easy kills. Those that move around intelligently to gain map control will find themselves at a noticeable advantage.

Titanfall_Titan GrabOne of the reasons that Titanfall feels so well-formulated is that it’s a multiplayer game first and foremost.  The developers didn’t have to attempt to shoehorn the game’s mechanics around a single player campaign. There are no concessions — this is a title designed from the ground up to offer the best multiplayer experience possible.

However, just because Titanfall doesn’t offer a conventional solo experience doesn’t mean it’s bereft of a story. Instead, Titanfall features a multiplayer Campaign mode, which essentially runs players through a series of matches as both the IMC and the Militia.

In concept, Titanfall’s Campaign mode is an ambitious undertaking. It uses a similar storytelling structure to that of the Starcraft series. Each match is introduced by a leading exposition explaining the goal and objective of the upcoming fight, while characters converse throughout the match filling in details.

The most pressing issue here is that most of this narration falls on deaf ears. When a character makes a speech in Starcraft the game pauses. Multiplayer games don’t afford that luxury and the chaotic non-stop pace of Titanfall makes it difficult to pay attention to what anyone is saying. However, just as problematic is the fact that characters usually don’t have anything worthwhile to say.

Titanfall Titan DropDespite the lack of a traditional single-player campaign, Titanfall still suffers from the same pitfalls that plague most big budget shooters. Characters are introduced far too quickly and when they’re finally given the chance to speak, they dribble the same rehearsed platitudes revolving around sacrifice and honor.

It’s still too early to definitely judge Titanfall; as the true test of any multiplayer game is time. But at the moment, Titanfall concocts a brilliant blend of tried and true formulas to create an experience unlike anything else out there. Its tight controls, fast paced free-form movement and fluid match progression constantly keep you on your toes. It pushes you to strive for the objective at hand while remaining ever vigilant of nearby threats. It can be intense, but it continually produces unique and rewarding experiences. I can’t say whether or not it’ll be the “genre-defining” title, as some have pegged it, but it’s certainly a battle worth fighting.

Titanfall was reviewed with a post-release copy purchased by NotebookReview. It is currently available on PC, Xbox One and Xbox 360. 



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