I thought I was done with multiplayer shooters. I was really into games like Call of Duty and Left 4 Dead, but at a certain point they stopped being fun for me. I thought I’d never find a game that could give me that same rush again. Well, Titanfall is the most fun I’ve had in a multiplayer shooter in quite a long time. It is entirely fresh and exciting. It’s a fast-paced game full of adrenaline-pumping action. The more I talk about Titanfall, the more I type about Titanfall, the more it sounds like I’m running a PR campaign on the game, with the amount of glowing things I have to say about it that just so happen to sync up with specific bullet points Respawn has been hitting since the game was announced. I can’t help it. Titanfall is a little rough around the edges, but it’s great fun.
The comparisons of Call of Duty and Titanfall begin and end with the shooting. Left trigger, right trigger; aim down the sights, fire. At this point it’s standard operating procedure and it works. But Titanfall is a faster game than its spiritual predecessor. It’s more open and vertical. Titanfall also seriously shakes up how matches work with additions like wall-running, the jetpack that allows your Pilot a double jump, and, of course, the titular Titans. It’s not just another Call of Duty clone, and it’s not just Call of Duty with mechs. Titanfall is just slightly more than that, going so far as being the next step forward for multiplayer shooters.
Where Titanfall falters most is in its campaign. Packaged as multiplayer matches with a little bit of bad story flavor attached, both faction campaigns feel completely under-developed and unnecessary. There is absolutely no difference in playing a campaign mission and a regular multiplayer match, save for some dialogue that runs throughout the missions — and even that is entirely background noise when you’re focused on defeating the other team. You can play the campaign as either the military group called the IMC, or the group of renegade revolutionaries known as the Militia. All this really determines is who talks at you throughout the mission and what side of the map you spawn on.
A few campaign specific moments will happen like your ship crashing instead of landing safely, but really it’s just a dash of something different. The most egregious part of the lackluster campaign is how the only multiplayer modes utilized are the Attrition and Hardpoint Domination modes, which feels weird because so much of the campaign seems to serve as flavor text for when you jump into the real multiplayer matches. Not utilizing all the multiplayer modes for the game kind of limits and dulls the already unimaginative story attached.
However, Titanfall is a multiplayer-only game, so seeing the campaign falter isn’t that big of a deal. But it does impact the game’s value, and a $60 price tag might seem a little much compared to other FPS offerings that include a full single-player campaign (which usually aren’t very good anyway). That doesn’t bother me too much, though, because I have played hours upon hours of Titanfall and not ever gotten bored. I’m able to create a much more dynamic and fruitful story through each match, because Titanfall is full of moments.
You know, those awesome set piece moments from single-player games where something blows up really well or you’ve got to run away from something charging at you? Every multiplayer match I’ve played in Titanfall has had something similar to those moments, or something else entirely unexpected happening. Like the time when I was wall-running between buildings and flew off a corner, popping my second jump just in time to attach to an enemy Titan. I blow it up and rocket up into the sky, having a firefight with the aforementioned Titan’s pilot. We both land on a rooftop, both out of ammo and I know there’s no time to reload. He pulls out his sidearm, but I rush up to him and jump kick him off the building. It’s these crazy cinematic moments that continue to reward players time and again.
Playing Titanfall puts you on a very simple and very satisfying feedback loop. You will generally spawn as a Pilot, running and gunning your way through enemy soldiers. As a Pilot you have more verticality, thanks to the small jetpack that gives you an extra jump while in the air, and more maneuverability with the Pilot’s wall-running and vaulting abilities. The more objectives you complete or the more enemies you kill will take varying amounts of time off your Titan’s build time and the sooner you can spawn a Titan. You can choose to jump inside your hulking metal giant, or put it in autopilot and let it follow you around.
But don’t expect just because you’re in a Titan that you own the battlefield: one capable Pilot can easily destroy a Titan, and if you become outnumbered by other Titans you might be better off retreating. For as powerful and awesome as the Titans are in battle, they aren’t enough to break the balance of the game. And if your Titan explodes, hey, that’s alright, another one will be ready for you to spawn soon enough.
Of course, you’ll have plenty of unlockable abilities and equipment for both your Pilot and Titan. Pilots are all equipped with an anti-Titan weapon so you’ll never be totally defenseless. For main weapons they have your pretty standard fare of rifles, SMGs, shotguns, and pistols, nothing super dramatic or unique. Titans, however, have many different combinations of chassis (light, medium, or heavy) and main weapons that can really change up how you use your Titan in battle. I usually went with the standard assault rifle for my Pilot and chaingun for my Titan because I like to keep holding down on the right trigger until things blow up — it’s fun.
Titanfall has 15 multiplayer maps, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. But unlike Call of Duty or other multiplayer shooters of the same ilk, Titanfall almost refuses to play by normal rules. These are no “three lanes of combat with various outcoves” type maps. They’re more open and engaging. There is a real verticality to the environments, allowing Pilots large vantage points to pick off Titans. All over the maps are places for Pilots to wall-run, or double jump, or do some crazy combination of the two to get where ever they need to go very quickly. The maps are well-sized for the player count, never feeling too big or too small. You always spawn within spitting distance of the action, but never in an unfair position where someone can immediately kill you.
All of the standard modes of play are here as well: Attrition (Team Deathmatch), Hardpoint (a hold-the-point style mode), and Capture the Flag. Last Titan Standing is a new mode where everyone spawns in a Titan and, as the title says, the team with the last Titan standing gets a point. Each mode has relatively different goals, but I seriously enjoyed my time with all of them. There’s something about the combination of Pilot and Titan that brings some fresh air into what has been a pretty stagnant genre the last few years.
I like Titanfall a great deal. It’s incredibly fun and totally fresh. I wasn’t very impressed with their campaign half-measures and had a few framerate hitches, but that didn’t do much to dampen the immense joy I got out of creating moments I want to tell people about. Like how I hopped on a friendly Titan and we tag-teamed multiple enemy Titans, or how I ejected from my Titan to escape from the match, or how I stood my ground against two Titans and somehow destroyed both. There are so many memorable moments in Titanfall and I can’t wait to make more. It’s not the biggest innovation in the world, but it brings a new life to a type of game I thought I was totally done with. Titanfall is awesome and I don’t want to stop playing it anytime soon.