It was a long time coming, but Titanfall has finally lumbered onto the Xbox One (and PC, lest we forget). Meant to be an obvious system-seller, it took some time to arrive, but now that it’s found a sufficient docking station in Microsoft’s latest venture, it’s firmly implanted in the minds and hearts of the gamers who found themselves waiting for it for so long. While you can opt for the Xbox 360 version now if you so choose, this next-gen Call of Duty meets mech adventure is one that’s certainly best experienced with the kind of equipment that can make it shine.
But then, with all that said, is it truly “shining” if the underlying product is still kind of dull?
Titanfall is the offspring of developer Respawn Entertainment, or the company born from the ashes of Infinity Ward, and it is, quite simply, Call of Duty with mechs. In fact, the two franchises handle quite similarly, with silky smooth movement and delectable accuracy with the Xbox One controller. It’s as tight as you would expect, and combat even when in the enormous Titans fits like a glove. But then, we knew this would be the case. It’s not as if Call of Duty is mechanically inferior or it doesn’t feel like an excellent game – it just, like Titanfall, feels devoid of other elements that make other games memorable or enjoyable experiences.
It’s probably obvious by now, but the meat of the game takes place inside your robot exoskeleton, and when you’re forced outward, as a Pilot, the game slows down considerably. The eponymous Titans are equipped with formidable weaponry such as a lightning gun, and hopping into one makes you feel like a veritable beast. You don’t feel as though you’re lumbering around in an enormous steel encasing as far as controls go, but when you head into battle it can be difficult to gauge how much damage you can take or how well you’re going to fit in the logistics of each instance of combat. You’re nowhere near as invincible as you think you are, either, and your Titan is more susceptible to hits than you might initially assume. Playing with giant robots is fun, but not without its own set of challenges that seems to force some players to stick to Pilots instead.
Pilots have anti-Titan weaponry, parkour moves, and their small size on their side, but they just can’t match the firepower of a Titan. What they can do, however, is get out of tight situations in a hurry. I found myself opting for Pilots in multiplayer matches simply because it allowed me to take players out from a distance while everyone else stomped about in Titans. And in a game where multiplayer is king, you do what you can to get ahead.
Perhaps what frustrated me the most about Titanfall was its lauding “campaign multiplayer” as something that would be game-changing or important in any way, shape, or form, when the campaign multiplayer showcased here is basically a few seconds of a cut scene shown before missions with radio chatter to accompany it – voila! It’s now a “campaign.” It feels so painfully generic and tacked-on it’s easy to see why so many have passed on Titanfall as an option for their Xbox One “killer app.” If you’re not into online play at all, you’ll be completely uninterested in strapping into a Titan. It doesn’t help that the narrative feels completely throwaway as well, with two sides warring and the end of the game culminating in little more than sequel bait. Typical.
What I can say about Titanfall is that it looks pretty – graphically, not aesthetically. All fifteen maps are largely uninspired sci-fi mishmash, with little to indicate how much work went into creating this new universe. I reviewed the art book, which had more personality than the actual game – disappointing, to be sure. It does move quite flawlessly, and it feels fantastic, demonstrating the Xbox One’s full potential, but there never feels as though there’s any real dire need for any of this, and that’s when you start feeling as though this mammoth project is more than a little hollow.
If you’re looking for your next multiplayer fix and Call of Duty or Battlefield just aren’t hitting the spot, Titanfall is a decent alternative, considering that’s what it’s built for. It looks and feels great, but there just isn’t much content here to be able to recommend it otherwise. Its super slick exterior belies a very mediocre inside – but the actual game is very firmly planted in familiar territory, and as long as gamers buy these things up, it’s likely nothing is going to change.