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The 2¢ Review: Titanfall

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Hype can be a double-edged sword in the video game industry. While some is obviously needed to generate excitement for an upcoming title, too much hype may lead to unrealistic expectations. During E3 2013, one such game featuring mechs versus free-running humans generated so much hype that by the end if the show it was widely considered to be the next evolutionary step in the first-person shooter (FPS) genre. That game was Titanfall, and it quickly found itself on a hype train that would continue to build steam until it was released on March 11, 2014. Once released, one question was on every gamer's mind: “Does Titanfall live up to the hype?”

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Simply put, absolutely.

The developers over at Respawn Entertainment have managed to create a fast and frenetic game that plays smooth and feels amazingly balanced. Given the dramatic differences between the two avatars you control - the Pilots and the Titans – that’s no small task. Titans are slow, lumbering giants that stomp about the battlefield armed with massive weapons capable of delivering loads of destruction.

Pilots, on the other hand, are obviously smaller and frailer but are much faster and more agile opponents that rely on darting in and out of buildings and wall-running to reach vantage points high above Titans. From there, Pilots can use specialized Anti-Titan weapons to deliver devastating amounts of damage. Or, if a Pilot can get close enough, they can jump on the back of a Titan and destroy it by shooting at exposed wiring, which can create some impressive “David versus Goliath” moments. But it’s not just this balancing act alone that makes Titanfall such a blast to play.

Respawn takes many of the familiar features of modern FPS and tweak them in ways that makes Titanfall accessible to players of variable skill levels, the biggest being that only the best players should be rewarded. Titanfall instead rewards players for simply playing the game, whether it’s killing other players, AI opponents, or simply parkouring around the map. And instead of coming in the form of map dominating weapons, rewards come in the form of Burn Cards (temporary perks) or time shaved off your next Titan Drop.

Furthermore, if you find yourself having little luck with one-on-one confrontations with other players, there are plenty of AI opponents scattered throughout the battlefield for you to pick off as well as a few micro objectives (such as capturing a stationary gun) to complete, which allows you to still contribute to your team’s overall score.

It’s these minor revisions to the basic FPS formula that makes Titanfall so refreshing and fun to play in a genre that has begun to grow stagnant. Yet while Respawn managed to balance and refine nearly every aspect of gameplay to create this sublime experience, it’s that very same narrow focus that inspired Respawn to overlook or even omit key features that without hampers the overall experience of Titanfall.

The developer wasn't shy to point out that Titanfall was going to be a multiplayer-only experience. Though given the ashes from which Respawn Entertainment was founded on, at the time it may have seemed like a safe bet for the young studio. But after spending some time in the universe of Titanfall, you may find yourself wanting more background story as each map bears the potential to tell a rich history. Unfortunately Titanfall’s so-called campaign is strictly multiplayer as well, which means any story to be told is presented in brief intros and dialogue delivered over radio-chatter during matches. And amidst all the chaos, it can be very easy miss.

The other noticeable shortcoming of Titanfall is the lack of variety of game modes. At launch, Titanfall only has five game types to choose from: Attrition (team deathmatch), Hardpoint (domination), Pilot Hunter (Attrition except only Pilot kills count), Last Titan Standing, and Capture the Flag. Given the multiplayer only presentation, Titanfall’s very short list of gameplay modes to choose from may lead some gamers to experience premature “ho-hums”. Fortunately this is likely to be only a temporary issue as Respawn has stated additional game modes are in the works as well as several other updates and additions. Hopefully none of them will be mere rehashes of current modes.

So, dropped from high orbit, my 2¢:

Titanfall is a fantastically fun, frantic, and fast-paced game filled with some of the best moments one can experience in a shooter. So far however, that’s what Titanfall consists mostly of – moments. With its multiplayer-only delivery and few game modes, Titanfall can begin to feel like a bit of a grind when playing without friends at your side. Yet despite this, you’ll immediately notice how well balanced Titanfall plays and feels compared to other modern shooters, lending credence to the claim that Titanfall is the evolutionary step the genre needed. Hopefully Titanfall 2 will address the few but noticeable shortcomings of Respawn’s first outing, producing what may very well be the best first-person shooter we’ve seen in a long time.


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