GamesBeat

Titanfall: Worthy of the good — and bad — hype (review)

Titanfall

Above: EA's Titanfall is a recent bright spot for the company.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

Check out our Reviews Vault for past game reviews.

I’ll make this easy: Everything that anyone’s ever said and speculated on Titanfall is correct.

“It’s going to be great!” say the Xbox fanboys. True.

“It’s multiplayer only, so it can’t be that great!” claim the naysayers. Also true.

Publisher Electronic Arts and developer Respawn Entertainment release the ultrahyped Titanfall this week for the Xbox One and PC (and later this month for the Xbox 360). The military-style first-person shooter is similar in mechanics and tone to the Call of Duty games — which shouldn’t surprise anyone given that a lot of the same people who worked on that series formed Respawn.

While Titanfall will be instantly familiar and comfortable to Call of Duty players, it distinguishes itself with its highly nimble soldiers (called “pilots”) and the giant mechanized, walking tanks (called “Titans”)┬áthat they climb into and command. It’s almost difficult to go back to COD at this point, with its grounded, slow-by-comparison characters who don’t get to skip around using mini-jetpacks or drive four-story-tall death-dealing mechs. But Titanfall doesn’t necessarily give enough reasons to hang around for the long-term, either.

What you’ll like

Besides giant mechs, you mean?

While Titanfall’s cover models are its monstrous Titans of course, you can’t dismiss its people-sized pilots, who are quite fun to play on their own. Counterintuitively, you may even purposely avoid playing as a Titan to run around in the flesh.

In almost all of Titanfall’s fairly standard modes (kill everyone, hold a point, capture the flag, etc.), you start each match as a pilot armed with a fairly normal primary weapon (assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, etc.). You’re also equipped with a sidearm, an anti-Titan weapon (heavier weapons like shoulder-mounted rocket launchers designed to take down the big guys), and some additional gear or abilities that include grenades, radar enhancements, cloaking abilities, and more. (Yes, character customization — down to the type of scope you put on your guns — is very similar to what you’ve seen in Call of Duty without the more superficial options like the ability to swap out your sight’s red dot with a purple smiley face.)

But every pilot has their personal jump kit as well, and these — perhaps more so than the Titans themselves — are really what give the game its own identity. Once you’ve had a taste of double-jumping, wall-running, and parkour-like agility that the kits provide, it makes comparable military shooters like COD or Battlefield feel, well, less comparable.

It helps that all of the levels are vast enough to accommodate multiple Titans battling it out yet contain plenty of indoor areas and smart vertical design to make running around as a pilot feel just as empowering (giving up raw strength for cat-like maneuverability). The tradeoff, however, is that the overall speed may be a bit too much for less experienced gamers, negating some of Titanfall’s newbie friendliness (more on that below).

And with heavy-duty anti-Titan weaponry — plus the ability to climb on top of enemy mechs to bypass shields and rip out key components to expose more delicate innards that don’t hold up well against regular ol’ bullets — you’ll never feel shortchanged on the not-so-tall side of the pilot-Titan dynamic.

But what about those giant mechs?

As you scamper about as a pilot, picking up a kill here and there, you start building up anticipation for the big prize: “Titanfall.” An onscreen timer backed by audio cues from your in-game dispatcher (“Your Titan will be ready in 30 seconds”) counts down to when you can summon your tower of doom. As you eliminate enemies, the time to Titanfall lessens, speeding up the arrival of your new ride.