TECH

Titanfall Review: Parkour With Guns

13/03/2014 13:50 GMT | Updated 17/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Titanfall is released for Xbox One and PC on 14 March 2014. An Xbox 360 version is coming on 28 March.

Key Features:

  • Four hour multiplayer 'campaign'
  • Five 6 vs 6 multiplayer modes
  • Customisable titan mechs and player loadouts
  • New types of movement and tactics
  • 'Grunts' to kill as well as players

The Pitch:

"The visionaries at Respawn have drawn inspiration from their proven experience in first-person action gaming, and are building on that pedigree by taking a new approach to game design and creating an all-new universe with Titanfall. The advanced combat techniques of Titanfall give you the freedom to fight your way as both elite assault Pilot and fast, heavily armoured Titan."

titanfall

Verdict:

Titanfall is a first-person shooter. But it feels like a racing game.

Not only because it's fast, and beautiful, and contained within strict boundaries. Not just because its narrative setting -- technically a war across an alien Frontier between the 'IMC' masters and the rebel 'militia' -- is as thinly drawn as the rivalry between Player 1 (Corvette) and Player 2 (Ferrari). And not just because much of the time you are actually piloting massive, surprisingly agile machines.

No, it feels like a racing game because while each of the severely chaotic battles you'll play inside its sandbox are as adrenaline-fuelled and focused as a race around Yas Marina in Forza 5, they also share another quality: they feel a bit… staged.

Which is not to say the game isn't just as fun and intense as it was the first time we played it back at Gamescom in 2013. It is. And what's more impressive is how balanced and thoughtful the game has become since then. The combat between the Pilots - your default (human) form, sort of like a soldier in Call of Duty but with a rocket jump pack - and Titans (the massive mech soldiers you can call in after set periods and either pilot yourself or have follow you around like a loyal, deadly lapdog) is nuanced and clever.

As a pilot you're manoeuvrable, quick, light and can run anywhere. You can jump on top of Titans and rip their brains apart too, which is enormous fun. As a Titan you have access to devastating weaponry, and in a one-on-one with a Pilot you'll enjoy hilarious superiority in arms. But you're also slower (to turn if not to actually move), vulnerable to attack from afar and frustratingly mortal after just a few seconds of aggressive pounding by another Titan. In the moment, you'll prefer playing as whichever one you're currently playing as - which is a great credit to the game.

titanfall

This central conflict, alongside many other innovations, means the game as a whole feels far more inventive and fresh than any of the recent Call of Battlefield games. It's inherently and genuinely different to play, and holds its interest even after the initial novelty wears off.

That said, the game also retains the majority of the game's traditions and constraints, which is a shame. The game modes - mostly variations on deathmatch and capture-the-point - are nothing new. The range of guns and mods are largely familiar. Melee kills, frag grenades, reloading times, 'friendly fire' immunity, regenerating health -- everything is pretty much as you'll remember it from any FPS in recent history, despite its few core innovations.

There's also no single-player campaign, which means online play is a requirement. While there are two, two-hour campaigns here they're essentially the same as the core multiplayer battles, just with a bit of story added in. They take place from both sides of the same conflict, and the story plays out the same no matter the result of your battles, or your performance. It's an interesting addition, but it's thin.

The other problem, as I mentioned, is that the game does feel a bit staged from time to time. Whether because its single-press wall running mechanics look too cool for the effort it takes to pull then off, or just because the combat is a bit too chaotic and intense, something just feels a bit... fake. Like it's trying to impress you too much, without letting the true 'flow' of a classic FPS really emerge. Whatever it is, it's a slight downer.

All that aside, however, Titanfall is still by far the most fun next-gen game so far released on any platform. It's involving, addictive, brutal and funny, and if it forces the established FPS franchises to raise their game we'll all be far better for it. Me, I'm just looking forward to Titanfall 2. This is a brilliant opening salvo, but what comes next could take over the world.

5starstechdarkblue