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‘Titanfall’ is intensely fun but could have used some polishing

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Titanfall (Xbox One)

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This Examiner didn't receive a review copy of Titanfall for the Xbox One until the game launched. That was actually for the best though considering this is the console’s biggest title to date and a multiplayer only one to boot. This provided ample time to take the game on a full ride which proved exhilarating but not without some bumps in the road.

Wait, there’s a campaign?

Respawn attempted to integrate a campaign with Titanfall’s multiplayer that takes a look at both sides of the fight. Players that choose the campaign mode will start as either IMC or Militia to begin with and then drive through nine missions before doing it all again as the either side.

The reality is that while the idea of fusing multiplayer modes together with a plot driven campaign is a good one, Titanfall’s execution is hard to follow. The plot is carried out both between missions and during matches as well. The problem is that playing the game requires some fairly intense focus to wall run, jump, jet pack, beat down other Titans and shoot at enemies. Even in between missions you zero in on what has been unlocked, what challenges need to be completed and what loadout to choose for your Pilot.

This doesn't leave much to pay attention to who said what about some important plot point going on somewhere else. It is easy to lose track of what is going in the story and ultimately not care unless you are watching someone else play the game. The result is that the only reason to even play the campaign is to unlock the Ogre and Stryder Titans.

But that parkour…

Fortunately, the actual gameplay of Titanfall far and away makes up for the campaign’s shortcomings by falling somewhere in between a mixture of the Tribes, Quake and Unreal gameplay with the trappings of Call of Duty’s leveling system. The weapons are surprisingly well-balanced and players are given the best all-around weapon to start off with in the R-101C Carbine. The rest of the pilot weapons fall into different roles such as close quarters combat, sniping and the quirky Auto-Pistol. This weapon locks in on enemies and guarantees a head shot. It takes longer to lock in on opposing Pilots though in order to provide some semblance of balance.

It’s the combo of free running plus jet pack double jumps and dropping in Titans that makes for some truly exciting moments though. You can go from running and jumping along walls and rooftops to sneak up on an enemy or two and take them out to calling down a mech and hopping in the cockpit before going thundering through maps causing all kinds of mayhem.

The traversal and momentum skill involved with Titanfall is perhaps best exhibited in the Capture the Flag mode where expert use of wall running can have you quickly across the map with, at times, jaw dropping fluidity. It is reminiscent of Tribes’ “skiing” mechanic in a way as wall running from one wall to the next is faster than travelling along the ground.

Speaking of modes

Titanfall comes with five different multiplayer game types – Attrition, Hardpoint Domination, Last Titan Standing, Capture the Flag and Pilot Hunter. All feature the inclusion of AI controlled Grunts and Spectres that serve as fodder for the game. They make sense in Attrition where their deaths lead to victory and Hardpoint Domination where they give the sense of a larger battle despite their sometimes brain dead antics. They make less sense in the other three modes though as they don’t add or take away anything from victory and defeat.

What these AI controlled characters do add though is mostly the inability to hideout in some corner of the map and camp all game long as they will force you to giveaway your position in some way unless you manage to make it to a high point they can’t reach. It would have been nice to see the difficulty of the Grunts and Spectres upped a little though as they generally wander around the map waiting for someone to shoot them. Meanwhile, when you hop out of your Titan and tell it to follow, the AI does a solid job of holding its own against enemies, especially if assisted by you or others.

Here be problems

The lackluster AI for Grunts and Spectres is part of a larger problem with Titanfall and that is that it could have used a little more baking time before being released. It’s nowhere near the dreadful state that Battlefield 4 was released in but there are constant little niggles throughout that includes the game engine needing to be optimized to run at a constant 60 frames per second and to prevent the occasional ugly screen tearing issue.

The matchmaking also does not appear to take skill or level into account at first glance which results in some incredibly unbalanced matches. It’s inexplicable that a match between a team made entirely of players in the single digit level range and another team with players in the 30s, 40s and upper Generations should even occur. Yet, that’s what happened when this Examiner let his son try the game out and witnessed an incredibly lopsided two matches in a row.

Additionally, the inability to rename custom loadouts, which was a staple of the Call of Duty franchise, is a head scratcher. How that was overlooked along with an odd glitch that somehow resulted in this Examiner’s character trapped in an opposing character’s body speaks to the development team pushing some items aside to get the game out the door on time.

However, there's been many a multiplayer game launch where the developers only wished the number of issues with their game were limited to what Titanfall is experiencing.

Still, the fun…

In reality, the problems experienced with thus far measure up like a mole hill against a mountain. There’s enough new here (such as the Burn Card mechanic) combined with familiar mechanics that it is easy to get caught up playing for hours. The shooter genre has gotten into a rut lately and Respawn Entertainment has provided an intensely fun experience in Titanfall that will leave you whooping at your screen as you crush your opponents in new and unexpected ways.

Pros

  • Dramatically satisfying movement and free running.
  • Weapons and Titans start out incredibly well-balanced.
  • Solid multiplayer package that provides exhilarating moments.

Cons

  • Hard to keep up or care about the multiplayer campaign story and characters.
  • Could have used a little more polish.

Title: Titanfall
Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Price: $59.99
Release Date: March 11, 2014

A review copy for the Xbox One was provided by Electronic Arts for the purposes of this review.

You can follow Scott via Facebook, Twitter, RSS feed or email alerts for all the latest game news and deals as well as the weekly Furious Fourcast podcast/videocast. All game news on Examiner can be followed at the Game On Facebook page and Twitter feed.

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