Tuesday, 8 April 2014

[PC Game Review] Titanfall

Platform: PC (Origin)
Released: 2014
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: EA
Buy on Origin

Titanfall is without a doubt one of the most anticipated games in a while. Not only is it made by the people who made some of the most renowned Call of Duty games, it's also seemingly a truly unique shooter that brings the genre forward and away from the Call of Duty style we've seen so far. Is it truly a game changer or is this a titanic fall?

Already having played the beta, I could tell Titanfall would be a pretty unique shooter that firmly establishes itself within the multiplayer shooter genre. The thing I looked forward to was to see how the full version would handle the story mode and how it would integrate the story into the multiplayer and how this would work out. The answer is that it simply doesn't. Rather quickly the story takes second stage to the action and the only story we get are brief map introductions and some radio chatter that is quite easily drowned out by battle noise and you're often too immersed in the action to pay attention to the paper thin story. Honestly, if you are looking for a game with a good story, look elsewhere. Titanfall in a way feels rather oldschool in how it handles it story mode and brings to mind such classic multiplayer shooters as Unreal Tournament and how its campaign similarly were just a series of multiplayer maps you played in succession. In Titanfall you can play these maps twice as both sides to unlock new Titans for the multiplayer mode and that is pretty much your only reason to play the story mode.

One good thing about titans, they explode. :P
However the multiplayer itself is definitely where Titanfall shines. I can wholeheartedly say I have never played any game like this and in an era of copycat Call of Duty inspired shooters, that's a tough claim to make. What sets Titanfall apart from its competition as far as gameplay goes is how seamless it blends mech combat and fast-paced on-foot sections. While other games like Blackout Retribution and Hawken have tried focusing on mech combat for a while and doing it well, Titanfall more or less perfects the transition between pilot and mech.

As a pilot you have much more freedom of movement and agility than ever before, and you're basically a special type of elite soldier on the field who can use your jetpack to get to higher places on the map as well as run on walls Mirror's Edge style. This freedom of movement frees you from being locked to the ground like in most other FPS's of today and makes the game feel almost oldschool in its movement style. It brings to mind classics like Quake and Unreal Tournament with their more vertical gameplay. While most shooters today have become almost entirely horizontal and locked to the ground, especially Call of Duty where vertical gameplay has been restricted to running into a building and finding a sniper spot, Titanfall is almost entirely vertical and the levels are designed to accommodate this.

The freedom of movement of course becomes restricted once you enter your titan which you can call in during a match after a certain cooldown period. Entering the titan is dead simple and thankfully, your mech is YOURS and nobody else can like come and snag it or anything as it has a protective shield. This makes you feel a lot more connected to your titan. When you're out of the titan, the AI takes over and you can use it like a partner on the field that helps you take out enemies, or you can enter it and control it yourself which also is a ton of fun. The controls for the titan are identical to your pilot controls in most ways and the titan feels deliciously agile as well. I was fearing it would feel clunky and kind of disorienting but Respawn has done a perfect job here making it feel like your pilot is ONE with the machine. On the battlefield you also have AI opponents known as grunts and spectres. While these pose little to no actual harm to you as they are mere fodder for your guns and don't really support you all that much, they add flair to the battle and make for good target practice for new players and makes it easier for them to get into the game.

The multiplayer features several game modes. You have regular Team Deathmatch (Attrition) where the goal is to get the most kills over the enemy team in the allotted time. Once the time runs out you get a special ending mode where the losing team has to reach an evacuation shuttle before the enemy team wipes them out completely. This is easily the most fun thing about Titanfall and adds a unique flair to the battles. The feeling when you successfully manage to evacuate a battle is amazing. I recommend most people to start out with Attrition if you have never played Titanfall before as it offers a very good introduction in a familiar and dead simple game mode. You also have Last Titan Standing which is a mode where you spawn in a Titan and the goal is to eliminate all Titans on the enemy team. Pretty simple and with no respawns, it is still a pretty fun mode to play. Hardpoint is pretty straightforward. Capture and hold 3 hardpoints on a map. The more hardpoints held, the faster your team wins. Capture the Flag is what it says on the tin. Go into the enemy base, get their flag and take it back to yours. Pilot Hunter is all about eliminating the enemy team pilots to reach the score limit. And finally Variety Pack is a mosh pit of all the different game modes, perfect if you want to play for a while and want some variety.

Pilots can still be pretty dangerous to titans. Especially if they have satchel charges.
As a pilot, in addition to the standard loadouts you start out with, you can customize your own Pilot and Titan loadouts after a while as you level up, giving you full reign over how you want to play since the more you unlock, the more freedom you have. I also love that you can choose which gender to make your pilot, something I've wanted in multiplayer shooters for a while. Another addition are Burn Cards. These are basically like the perks in Call of Duty except they are only good for one use and you can choose up to 3 cards to have for each match. They add a bit of extra to the gameplay and as you play you earn more of them so you never run out. They modify your abilities and weapons in various ways, some giving you unlimited cloaking, some giving you more powerful weapon variants, and it's always random which ones you get, making it a lot of fun to play just to see which cards you'll get. You get tactical abilities such as cloaking (making you somewhat invisible to other pilots and titans) and stims (enhancing your running speed), and a good variety of weapons, ranging from Assault Rifles, SMGs, Snipers and Shotguns to the very fun and unique smart pistol that automatically targets your enemies. You also have special anti-titan weapons specifically designed to make your pilot a real force to be reckoned with. The titan weapons range from Chainguns to rocket launchers and they also have tactical abilities like deflector shields and electric smoke.

Worth noting is how the game deals with hackers and cheaters. If you are caught cheating you can technically continue playing the game, however you are restricted to lobbies with other cheaters only in what the developers describe as the "Wimbledon of aimbots". In my opinion this is a really cool way of dealing with cheaters.

The graphics are really good and high res, and I actually went ahead and upgraded my PC graphics card just for this game since they require a bit of a strong gaming rig to fully experience the game how it's meant to be played. They have a bit of a Call of Duty style to them except a bit more futuristic and sci-fi. The sounds are also pretty good though the music is mostly forgetable and I usually have it muted.

The epilogue is often the most intense part of the battle as the losing team has to reach a dropship in time to evacuate while being hunted by the winning team.
All in all, Titanfall is a really good multiplayer shooter, in fact it's one of the best I've played in a long time. There was no problems with it on launch, the servers have always worked fine for me and the game is always fun to pick up and play and in a lot of ways I prefer it over Call of Duty. However, the downside is, well, this is all you get. There is little to no story and it takes a clear backseat to the gameplay, there's no DLC to speak of yet and so for a full price I find it hard to recommend this game due to the small amount of content you get. You get a variety of game modes and several good maps to play on sure, but that's all you get. If you can find it at around 20-30$ I would say definitely pick it up. Do I regret paying full price for it though? No, not really. The game is rock solid and a ton of fun and I don't mind paying full price for it at all, but I can see some people on a limited budget not wanting to pay full price for a kind of stripped down experience.

STORY: 4/10
SOUND: 5/10